Chasing Elvis

From the June 2013 issue of Tuskers Magazine - by Marty White

Every hunter has their own proverbial “one that got away” story that they share with anyone they can find that will stand still long enough to listen. That ONE hog that always seems to elude them by luck or skill or freak happenstance. I have heard a countless number of these tales sitting around camp fires or walking through hardwood bottoms with my hunting buddies. None of them however can compare to the story that I grew listening to from my Dad. A natural storyteller, my dad filled my childhood with stories of how men staked their name on a good blood line of stock dogs and a limber rope. Free range ranching was a way of life and the feral hog was a staple; Driven in large herds like cattle. His favorite story to tell was one he referred to as “Chasing Elvis”. He would look off as if traveling back in time and then begin….
“Elvis ,that was his name, a large Russian boar wise with age and experience from countless near misses and escapes. He was a fighter and came armed with ivory knives. On one side his Cutter’s curled back nearly into his head. Every hog hunter worth his salt had bayed him and the only thing they took home with them from the experience was a good story to tell and occasionally a dog with some fresh scars as proof. Tommy and I went riding one weekend checking on cattle, our favorite way to waste a Sunday. About mid-day the lead dogs nosed down on a hot track and high-tailed for a tall growth of switch cane. Moments later the first dog struck up and the rest of them tuned in right along with him…the kinda harmony that every hog hunter loves to hear. Ropes in hand we pushed in through the switch cane with as much stealth as two old cowboys clad with shotgun chaps could muster to check out the hog ,hoping that we had a good’n…boy were we surprised! There he was, standing his ground, surrounded by every dog Tommy and I had with us , head lowered, mouth slightly opened, occasionally popping his jaws together as if to say “come on boys let’s see what ya got” . It was Elvis, not a second’s doubt about that, those legendary cutters instantly chased away any question of who he was and what he was capable of. A rush of excitement and anticipation ran through me as Tommy and I exchanged quick glances. Suddenly my rope felt heavy and awkward in my hand as I offered a single silent head nod in his direction and I disappeared into the switch cane. The battle raged on as I maneuvered around for a better position. Elvis, who only a moment earlier was more interested in flinging the dogs through the air, now had his sights dead set on the awkward cowboy trying unsuccessfully to sneak up on him. Knowing this old boy had no bluff in I squared off with him face to snout waiting, rope in hand, for the inevitable. Then it came, like a train leaving dogs and switch cane in his wake, straight at me.

When he was inches from me in one swift move I stepped to the side and placed my loop perfectly in his path. Now By perfectly I mean it landed just perfectly for him to flick away like a fly that landed on his nose, smile up at me with a wink and head straight for the river. Then the chase was on. Elvis hurdling to the river with every dog we had in hot pursuit on his heels. Tommy and I mounted up again and joined the fray which was obviously by now on the other side of the river. Let me add a little side note that some may not know about horses, not all horses can swim. One example would be My ole horse Cowboy. Cowboy was what you would call a do-it-all horse. You could rope off him, shoot off of him, you could cut cows with him like one of them fellas you see on tv, but get Cowboy in water and he couldn’t swim a lick. Of course you would never be able to tell it by the way he acted, He would charge into water like he could swim the English Channel. Me and ole Cowboy were two peas in a pod and our confidence, or should I say overconfidence, was our downfall on multiple occasions…this being the granddad of em all. True to character we hit the water full speed and we was doing well till about mid way across which, I
am assuming, is about the time that Cowboys feet couldn’t find river bottom. With a massive leap to get his head above water we parted ways, he in one direction and me the other. Flaying like a fish I barely made it back to the bank were Tommy sat quite amused by my aquatic fiasco. Cowboy however was staring at me completely bewildered from the opposite side of the river. I began to take off my chaps, then my shirt and about the time I got to the button on my britches tommy asked ” What ya doing, Marty?”. “I’m going to get my Horse”. There was a short silence “Naked?” “Yep” was my reply as my britches hit my ankles. With a splash I hit the water again. I guess great minds must think alike because about half way across as I was dog paddling my way to Cowboy he decides to give it one more go and heads back across the river. So once again, there we sat on opposite sides of the river looking at each other. This time Tommy was just about to laugh his self right out of his saddle. I opened my mouth to unleash a line of profanity at him that would make a sailor blush when it was snapped shut by the sound of the dogs baying. It was close! Very Close! “They’re bayed up Tommy! C’mon hurry up” His eyes wildly shot from the rolling river to his nice dry clothes before finally looking at me, standing stark naked waving him to come on. “Strip down, Tommy and leave your clothes on that side if ya don’t wanna get em all waterlogged. Ima need your help to get him. Bring ya rope”. Reluctantly Tommy complied. We were a sight hotfooting it through the brush naked as jaybirds. What had seemed like only a hundred yards or so by ear turned out to be about three times that distance but we finally made it to where the dogs were bayed. This time Elvis was backed up against and ole overhanging tree. “I gotta ya now buddy” I thought to myself as I shimmied up the tree and began to inch worm my way out onto a limb that was hanging out over the top of him. I stretched out across the limb and got me a loop ready to try my luck once more. Then I heard it, the sound no man wants to hear when he’s suspended mere feet above a big boar on an old dead limb…. “Crack!” Down I went, right on top of him. Now apparently Elvis, who I am sure had his fair share of run-ins with hunters, had never had a naked cowboy just drop out of a tree onto his back like a suicidal monkey because he let outta there like a scalded ape. I just laid there dazed on my backside looking up at the tree where I had just sat so confidently. The next image I saw was Tommy’s worried face peering down at me “Whew! I’m glad you’re alive! I doubt I could drag ya out. I think I’m turned around. You know where we are?” Trying to shake sense back into my head I said what every self respecting man would say “Well heck yeah I know where we’re at!” That’s the story I stuck with too. However, after about two miles of walking, it became apparent I had no earthly idea where we were and it was starting to get dark. We hadn’t heard a peep from the dogs or seen any sign of Elvis since my tree diving stunt. I could tell that walking around naked after dark in the woods with me wasn’t real high up there on Tommy’s bucket list. He was just about ready to blow his top when, for the first time that day, luck was with us. The trees opened up to a big hay pasture and layed across the top wire was a couple of ole Valley Feed mill sacks. I snatched one up and cut me two holes in the bottom. The old rough feed sack slipped on like a new pair of britches, it was nice to have all my cows back in the barn or so to speak. Tommy grabbed the other one and pulled his on too. With renewed energy we cleared the fence and began the long walk across the field towards what appeared to be house lights in the distance. If you know many country folk then you know that they love visitors…that is of course unless the visitors are complete strangers and just show up unexpected at their doorstep half naked. With every step closer to those porch lights I’m running it through my head exactly what I’m gonna say to these people to explain what I’m doing there in such strange attire. I was figuring, that no matter what this wasn’t gonna be an easy sell. To further complicate things the fact that I stutter wasn’t
gonna help my chances of getting the whole story out before they emptied a round of buckshot at me. When we got to the house we could see the flicker of the tv in the front room. “Good news, I guess somebody is still up” I laughed as we approached the porch. I knocked on the door and glanced over my shoulder to find that Tommy was nowhere to be found. Still a little distracted by the fact that I had just been abandoned by my fairweather hunting buddy, I turned back to the door to see a middle aged lady gawking at me wide eyed and mouthed open from the doorway. “H-H-H-H-ello” I finally stuttered out about the time she runs back inside screaming “John, they’re back!”. Back? How many people show up at this place with nothing on but cowboy hats and feed sacks? My confusion was replaced with concern as John appeared in the door with his gun barrel leveled at my chest. “H-H-H-H-ello” I began to stutter my rehearsed story again. “Don’t move fella, I done told ya’ll I didn’t wanna see ya on my….” Johns words just kinda trailed off as his eyes settled on the feed sack I was wearing and the rope I was still carrying in my hand. Unbeknownst to me John and his wife had came in just a few nights earlier to find a young couple “parking” up the road from their house and the sight of half naked people on their doorstep had his wife inclined to react first and ask questions later. “I been chasing Elvis for the last three hours, I lost my clothes and my horse!” I quickly blurted out without so much as a single stutter. Immediately I realized just how crazy I had sounded and was about to try to clear things up when John chuckled “that ole boar still giving you boys the slip huh? Come on in son I can’t wait to hear this story”.