It was mid-November 1967, or maybe 1968, well, to tell the truth, it might have been 1969, I’m not sure, but I do remember it was mid-November. Howard Rathwaite, whose family had a farm near Albany, Georgia came in and told us there was going to be a controlled hunt for Russian boar on a 13,090 acre plantation near his home. The rules were that hunting by permit would be allowed from sunrise to sunset for three days only. The only permissible weapons were twenty-two rifles or handguns. I got excited since a .38-caliber Taurus long barrel pistol was my weapon of choice. I could shoot the center of a target at 50 yards again and again without ever a miss.
I have to take a minute and tell you about “Walleye”. That guy had a wandering eye. We were never quite certain which eye was the wandering one. When “Walleye” looked straight in your face, one eye would wander for a few seconds and then it would stop and the other would take over. If you weren’t extremely careful, “Walleye” would literally make you dizzy. In spite of his wandering eye, he saw perfectly and had a hilarious sense of humor. When he told a joke or pulled a prank, you could bet that his eyes would play a role.
The four of us, Howard, AJ, Walleye and I, agreed that a wild boar hunt was exactly the adventure we needed next. We had already had an experience together in the swamps of Southwest Georgia trying to catch an alligator.
We got our stuff together and on Thursday before the hunt began on Friday we headed to Howard’s house, a six-hour drive from Atlanta. AJ was getting over a G.I illness and every hour or so, he would fill the car with the darnedest stink imaginable. In spite of the cold we kept the front windows partially open.
It had to have been 1969 since we were driving my 1968 Chevrolet Malibu Station Wagon. Man, that was some car. In 1984, I gave it to a man who had just gotten out of prison and a year later, he tore it in half trying to pull a shrimp boat out of the water. That car had over 300,000 miles on it and had actually been driven to the top of Stone Mountain, but that’s a story for another day.
We got to Howard’s house mid-afternoon on Thursday and went for supplies since there were no groceries at his parents’ house. We bought beer, sardines, beer, Vienna sausages, beer, potted meat, beer, saltines, pork-n-beans, beer and some beer. Yeah, there was a bottle of bourbon or two. Since the house was vacant, the electricity was turned off so we took our sleeping bags, a camp stove, and a couple of lanterns. I have no earthly idea when we got to bed, but the next day we got up far too late to hunt. All of the bourbon was gone and about half the beer. We all had intense headaches and AJ was fouling the air every fifteen minutes or so and we knew we could never get close to a boar since they have an acute sense of smell and it was obvious that they would be able to smell AJ several miles away.
The plan was to spend the rest of the day recovering, behave ourselves, get to bed early, and hope AJ’s intestine cleared up over night, then head out bright and early the next day. We left Howard’s house at 4:30 the next morning, AJ’s stomach had settled and we headed to the sign-in at the ranger station. We each got a tag and were assigned an area to hunt and off we went with great expectations.
All day long, I saw all kinds of hog signs, but never saw one of the creatures. A couple of times, I heard one in the distance and even smelled them once or twice. At least I think I smelled hogs since AJ was hunting several miles away.
About 6:00 p.m., I headed back to the ranger station to find Howard and AJ there. We waited and waited but Walleye never showed up. About 8:30 one of the rangers loaded us up in a jeep and we went searching for him. There was a pretty large moon and visibility was good until about 3:30 a.m. when the moon set. We had looked at every square inch of where Walleye was supposed to be. The ranger called off the search and said that we would resume at sunup the next morning. Knowing just how concerned we were about our friend, he let us spend the night at the ranger station and at 5:45 the next morning we set off again.
It was about 10:00 and we had covered miles and miles. Occasionally we would stop and shout to the top of our lungs calling AJ. The rangers had closed the plantation to all hunters until Walleye or some sign of him was found. We all feared the worst since wild boar have been known to kill and eat people. Anyway, about 10:00 we heard weak shouts coming from some distance away. “Help, help, oh, God, please help”. We headed for the shouting at full speed and when we arrived at the spot, we found him.
Walleye was hanging in a tree about the diameter of man’s thigh. There at the base of the tree was a big boar. He appeared to be sleeping, but the noise we made didn’t stir it. After several minutes, the ranger dismounted the jeep and carefully approached the boar with his gun drawn. The thing was quite dead and Walleye’s pistol was lying there on the ground by the boar’s head. It was obvious what had happened.
Walleye shot the boar about sundown and mortally wounded it. The boar got extremely angry and charged our poor buddy. He ran for his life to the nearest tree, jumped up to grab a limb, and, as he was slinging his legs over the limb, his pistol fell from his holster. The boar actually got part of his pant leg, then growled, squealed, chomped its teeth, and ran around the base of the tree uprooting everything in its sight until finally, exhausted, it simply lay down and died. Poor old Walleye wasn’t sure whether the beast was dead or asleep so he was afraid to climb down the tree. When his adrenaline rush was over, he simply held on and went to sleep. We had passed under his perch at least twice the night before but because he was so soundly asleep, he hadn’t heard us. We got him down from the tree and, aside from being sore in every muscle of his body, he was okay. We got the boar in the jeep and returned to the ranger station. By then we had all had all we wanted of boar hunting so we gave it to the rangers to give to a homeless shelter. Actually, we had not planned well enough to take the necessary ice chests to get the thing home.
We spent another wild and reckless night at Howard’s place laughing and creating incredible stories to tell when we got back to Grady on Monday. Sunday, after going to church (I’ll bet you don’t believe that one little bit), we drove home.