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Jack Ryan - by Monica Wheelus

From the February 2016 issue of Tuskers Magazine

I recently found out from Ryan Weatherston that his grandfather was retiring from hog hunting at the young age of ninety. I had met him at a hog dog competition that they won in Pleasanton, Tx a few years ago. I told Ryan I would love to talk to his grandfather sometime and write an article for Tuskers. Two weeks later I am sitting at Mr. Ryan's kitchen table looking at photographs of anything and everything that can be bayed by a good dog, but let me start from the beginning.

I called Mr. Ryan on Dec 29th and asked if he would be interested in sitting down with me for a talk about his years hunting. He immediately asked how much time I had. To call him a character would be an understatement, they just don't make men like Jack Ryan anymore. So, I made a date to see him the day after New Years. It was a cold and rainy Saturday and I tried calling to make sure our date was still on. He didn't answer and I got concerned enough that I contacted Ryan. He assured me his grandpa was just out to lunch. So after getting directions I headed out and called Mr. Ryan on my way. He apologized, gave me directions again and told me to be careful. As I walked up to his door I asked if I had found Jack Ryan and he said "If you got lost, you could have asked anyone that would poke their head out in this weather where I lived." So, that is how my visit got started.

We took a seat at his kitchen table and he started off by handing me stacks of photos and talking about his remarkable life. He grew up on a farm near Fashing, TX and left school before the 7th grade. Mr. Ryan has called Charlotte, TX home since he was about 17yrs old. That is the town he returned home to after serving in WWII, where he was wounded in Okinawa, Japan. He has raised a family, ranched and was even the Texas Finals Rodeo Champion in 1974. He has hunted on some of the biggest and best ranches in south Texas, including an open invitation to hunt the famed King Ranch. Jack Ryan has long associated with famous, and maybe a few infamous, folks throughout his life. He need not worry, I promised to not disclose their names.
(This is a condensed transcript of just part of 3 hours worth of audio I recorded. Some of Mr. Ryan’s stories will be compiled for another article in the next issue that I am going to call “Well, let me tell you that story...”)

Tuskers Magazine: “How long have you been hunting with dogs?”
“Oh, most all my life. You’re going to laugh but the first thing I hunted was long tailed wood rats. Had a little rat terrier dog named Trixie. My grand-daddy brought her by train from Louisiana. He worked on the railroad. I guess I was about 10 years old.
I did have a scare when I was about 10 or 12. Old Pete would do just about anything I would want to hunt. He got after something and was digging up roots going down in a hole. Well, I got down there and had a big old skunk spray right across my eyes. I was a ways off and there was no one at the house. I thought I was blinded. Then after about 10 minutes I opened my eyes and everything was ok”
Tuskers Magazine: “What else did you hunt with dogs?
“Oh, I had some trashy dogs. I hunted coons some. I had some trashy dogs. Look at this picture of what my dogs found. (with a big smile he hands me picture of mountain lion on the tailgate of a pick up) I hunted a lot of things on hog hunts. A few bobcats got in the way. I guess I hunted anything a good dog would bay”
Tuskers Magazine: “Did you have a favorite dog?”
“A few, quite a few. Popcorn was number 1. She was a running walker cat dog, She was a pretty dog. Really liked my Pardner (Parker?) cur dogs. There has been a lot of good dogs”
Tuskers Magazine: “How long have you hunted hogs with dogs?”
“Since I saw my first hog up here. That was about 1972. They weren’t thick up here like now. It was about 1950s when I saw my first wild hog. That was near Fowlerton (TX)”
Tuskers Magazine: “What kind of dogs did you run on hogs?”
“Cowdogs mostly. Leopard dogs, red Blackmouths, Pardners and some lacys. I liked to start them in a pen. If a dog doesn’t like it in the pen, he probably won’t like it on the outside”
So you used cowdogs for hogs?
“I never used my hog dogs on cows. First thing people would want to say is that my dogs were running the cows. That is why I never used cowdogs on hogs”
What did you look for in a dog?
“Oh, nothing too shy or gutsy. I liked one that would go find a hog to bay. I wanted something pretty. I always had pretty dogs.
Pretty?
“If I am going to have to feed something 365 days a year, I want to like to look at it. It is also easier to get rid of a pretty dog if you need to” (another big grin)
Tuskers Magazine: “Do you like to cut and release hogs?”
“Sometimes. It makes them taste better when you catch them again. If you can catch them again. Most of the time we’d just shoot them with a rifle. The dogs better have it bayed and not moving though”
Tuskers Magazine: “Did you always use a gun?”
“Most of the time I used a rifle. Roy carried a pistol. I would rather he shoot one with a pistol instead of some people with a rifle.”
Tuskers Magazine: “What is your closest call on a hog hunt?”
(Chuckles) “Closest call? The most dangerous, I guess you would call them.There are 2 of those. I had a rattlesnake strike and get hung up in my jeans. The boy hunting with me started to holler that I was bit. I got him killed and pulled up my pants. There was fang marks in top of my boot and venom running down it. Another time the dogs split and bayed 2 hogs. I went with my dogs and they had a little sow. I was carrying a new rifle and when she charged at me it just went “CLACK”. I loaded another shell and “CLACK”! She came right at me and I just put that rifle down to push her away. *wham* She knocked me backwards and fell dead at my feet. I couldn’t believe it, but that rifle barrel had just sank into her old skull. I had to call everyone else over to see it. That new rifle had a safety bolt that I'd never used before. I took it home and fixed that.”
Tuskers Magazine: “What was the heaviest hog you ever caught?”
“460 lbs and that was confirmed. He was a cut hog though”
Tuskers Magazine: “What do you think is biggest change you've seen in hog hunting?”
“Collars to track and jackets. We used to listen for a dog to bark every once in awhile to locate them. Then hear the bay and go to it. I lost some good dogs before all this”
Tuskers Magazine: “Do you have any advice for young hunters?”
“Get to know your neighbors. You can stop a lot of trouble if you do that and give a folks a pig once in awhile. It’s hard to keep dogs from baying a hog on 12 acres when there is hundreds of open acres around it.”
There simply isn’t enough room in the magazine for all the stories we shared that day. Mr. Ryan has a wealth of knowledge about hunting, but more importantly about a life lived well. When I realized the amount of time that had passed I reluctantly stood to leave the kitchen, but not before I got a quick tour of the house. The house and the man were a match for each other. Both were sturdy and strong reminders of a time many never will understand. Both were modest, but warm and inviting to a stranger. The pictures on the wall showed good times with family, friends and pretty dogs. I gave Mr. Ryan a hug, because as a woman that is appropriate and promised to visit with him again soon.