REGULAR FEATURES

The Outlaw Boar

Clark E. Locke July 1 1917
REGULAR FEATURES

The Outlaw Boar

Clark E. Locke July 1 1917

The Outlaw Boar

Clark E. Locke

IT WAS at that hour on a summer afternoon when the oblique rays of the sun strike hottest, and the rocky islets and shores of Georgian Bay, circled by clear water, appeared warped and twisted in the heat haze like great convolutions of black India rubber. The sky was brazen ; the water lay, a vitreous sheet of pale green glass, and the stunted pine trees on the shore drooped as if even their hardy weatherwise forms were about to shrivel into flames at a moment’s notice.

In a little bottle-necked inlet a quarter of a mile in diameter, the humidity was intensified. It was as if some gigantic unseen hand were holding up a huge lens to concentrate the burning rays in this particular quarter. The whole place palpitated and shimmered with the heat of the tropics. There was no sound at this hour of,the day. The last vagrant gull had followed the creek channel far inland, and the querulous notes of the earlier hours were hushed. A pile of drying clamshells on a muddy shoal showed where an industrious muskrat had given

over his task until a cooler season, and the chorus of the frogs in a reedbed had waned into a bronchial murmur. But to one creature at least was the day welltempered, and the heat pleasing.

A slight crackling occurred in a mass of dried branches, and with a faint rasping of scaly armor along the rocks, a large female rattlesnake of the diamond-back variety, lengthened down from boulder to boulder, and made for the water’s edge. The creature was gorged and unwieldy, and plainly travelling through new territory, but even so, wormed along cracks and crevices with marvellous ease. Coming upon a flat table formation, the height of three inches above the brink, she coiled in an attitude of wariness. From side to side the flat, evil-looking head swaye,d slowly, and the steady, unwinking bead eyes studied the slightest movement in the neighborhood. Apparently satisfied, thé head was lowered and immediately the place was peopled with a do/en new’

inhabitants. The monstrous jaws opened as if w’ith a spring, a faint, sibilant hiss was heard, and forth from the interior issued a mass of tiny, wriggling serpents, gliding vigorously about and exploring a new habitation. Coiled again, and poising motionless as the limb of a deadfall, maternity watched for -the slightest flicker of danger from sea or land. Gradually her caution relaxed as minutes passed, and, coil falling from cod, the heavy rope-like body straightened out, and the w'hole reptilian family basked in the sunshine.

Five minutes later a scrape was heard on the rocks, followed by the sound of an animal coming to water. In a moment the wriggling midgets had disappeared in the family cupboard, the rattler had coiled into position, and the warning buzzed forth on the quiet air. Around the corner came the intruder, and eyes of mutual distrust crossed on the instant, for surely a stranger pair had not met in the wilderness for years.

It was a huge black boar, maddened with heat and lathered in foam, which

came hastening gingerly across the rocks towards the brink. Sighting the bulk of the coiled adversary in the path, he halted. Suddenly his eyes reddened and his jaws began to champ. Trotting with the peculiar sideswing of the fighting hog he advanced to within a yard’s length, and then lunged. At the same moment the serpent struck. Neither blow drove home however. The side sweep of the boar shot him over the reptile, the fangs of which in turn missed by a hairbreadth. In a moment the snake lashed back on a halfcoil and the fangs struck in the rough bristled mane of the assailant. The advantage was only momentary as the great jaws of the hog champed like a vise about his middle, and in a moment the vertebra had snapped beneath the grind. The finish was a matter of moments. Infuriated at the interruption, the victor mauled and mutilated the crippled prey into the semblance of a bloody rag, and then with head and shoulders spattered in gore, rushed into the mudflat and wallowed in the murk with great gasps and gurgles of relief. When the sun crawled down to the west, an hour later, he clambered out of the bath, shook himself like a dog on the bank, and turning his massive head inland, trotted briskly into the bushes.

WHEN n the spring of 1913, the Twin Sister Islands of the Point Au Baril region of the Georgian Bay was learned to be harboring innumerable rattlesnakes, and when Cyrus J. McShane of Pittsburgh, who had contemplated coming up in July to erect an eight thousand dollar summer bungalow, heard of the fact, there were many unconventional messages transmitted along wires through sleepy little Canadian towns. Yawning, redhaired operators straightened up with a grin as the contents buzzed into their ears for transmission. When these contents reached their destined party, one Tom Barton, trapper, fisherman, summer janitor and general factotum, there was excitement in fhe village. The fact was that few people had any idea as to means of getting rid of the plague, and those who did have their own opinions did not believe in them strongly enough to put them to the test. Had there not always been snakes in the district? Moreover, the rattlers in question had never been proved deadly. Naturalists had pretty well agreed that the further north the habitat of a poisonous biter the less dangerous the venom really was. But no one was willing to experiment; one couldn’t tell what would happen. In the meantime the wires continued, each one increasing if possible the abusive asperity of the last.

It was an old woman who finally gave a workable suggestion. “I have heard,” she said cautiously, “that hawgs will kill snakes. In fact some folks says as it was hawgs, and no saint, that cleaned up Ireland, and killed and ate every blessed varmint in the place.”

“Shall I try hogs?” telegraphed Barton in desperation to Pittsburgh.

“Try anything on earth. Buy a carload if necessary,” came the choleric reply.

Thus it came about that fifteen illnourished grunters, gathered up at popular prices from neighboring farmers, found a habitation for the summer on the Twin Sisters. Thereupon the rattlers disappeared with marvellous rapidity. No man saw the process of extermination, but it was none the less thorough. When Mc-

Shane ran up in the fall to see the drove gdthered in, not a trace of a serpent was fouiid on the place, and the porkers had waxed fat. In the last count, however, one was missing. A promising young boar, remarked upon for his size and strength, could not be foqnd, and the party returned, believing that the animal had come to an end in some way in the woods.

BUT this was by no means the case. As a matter of fact he had made a burst for liberty, and had attained it, unknown to his pursuers. Whence drivers had landed on the island and the drove had rushed headlong through the narrows to the pen the taste of liberty which the black pig had enjoyed, spurred him to escape to the distant shores. He. had plunged in, and his black, glistening shape, ploughing through the half mile of water, had been missed in the skirmish of the last exciting round-up. .

There are days of emancipation in the lives of animals as in those of human beings. The escape of a Barb steed into an American wilderness, or of a circustrained leopard into a strip of country woodland, is as much an unshackling of elemental forces as the plunge of the old time courier-du-boift into the aboriginal freedom of the back woods. So it was with the black boar of the Sister Islands. F rom the day of the round-up he was one with the creatures of the wild. He was, moreover, a wanderer and a pariah. For him there was no more guzzling at a trough of man-made swilly provender ; no more swinish sprawling in mucky barnyards. But there were acorns to be found and berries in abundance. Even an occasional snake could be snapped up if one were but quick enough. Greatest of all, however, was freedom.

It is a strange reflection on animal nature,-as on human nature, that successive generations show the cropping out of ne’er-do-wells. By this time it has become well recognized that the race seems bound to produce wild, restless spirits at intervals,—men who chafe at the bonds of conventionality, whose blood is filled with wanderlust, and whose hunger for adventure and freedom from restraint, fills the hearts of mayhap kindly Christian folk with vague alarm and apprehension. Whether these persons represent a sort of harking back to the earlier days of civilization, or whether they are merely born as “freaks,” rebelling at their sociological outfit, there may be drawn a strange parallel with the animal kingdom.

Sometimes a horse is born, bigger and more finely developed than his fellows. Great promise is expected at first, but there develops a wild moodiness of temper that nullifies a burst of speed or turn of strength, and he becomes at once the pride and despair of his trainers. Should 1]£ escape to the wilds, such a life expands into a chapter of wonderful and inspiring adventure. Harnessed and confined, his services are disappointing and his life is shortened. Such a creature was this black boar of the north. From the midst of a litter of shoats he had developed into an amazing specimen. Even in the pen, his hide had held a gloss that none others could show. His head and shoulders broadened into a symbol of mighty strength, and such tusks had not been seen in a generation. His temper, too, had always been dangerous; no one dared

set foot inside the palings. ]iow the day of independence had dawn«

AS the pig clambered up in the shore that day and shook his flinks, his one thought was to put as much] distance as possible between himself and the distant shouts and thwackings; so he broke for the interior. Scrambling up noclcy defiles he blundered along for a couple of miles, struck into a berry patch, anjl paused to grub around. In a moment, became aware of another p the blueberries. A large blac ing stolidly about, had noti sion and halted to watch. Ca of him, the boár, with a fla ground his fangs and lunged bear, taken unawares by the . the unfamiliar apparition, bo the slope m a panic. With anger and, a feeling of the u. faction with himself, the new jcomer returned to his feast For an hobr he guzzled amid the luxurious growth] and then, in the densest part of the patch] sprawled asleep.

The experience was a critical life of the adventurer. For on established a wonderful self an unwarranted appreciate strength and fighting ability, the BOST from a creature flieing the thraldom of man into a lord coi ling into his own country. Henceforth lie feared nothing. When the most th eatening black creature would bolt from lis presence, surely the wild could hold n o terrors for him. Moreover, it establish« d an unwise contempt for the bear, a ontempt that would some day oe modified. Had he but guessed the crushing strength of those hairy arms, or the fearful cot strictive power of his hug, his eyes would have twinkled with more of cunning ind perhaps less of triumph.

F or three days the berry •fca ch held out, and then hunger demanded w fields. Trotting across the rocky slopes the -pig discovered himself possessed of a strange, facility, little guessed before. ] lis feet did not slip dangerously on the n oIt was now four months since the di »ve had been set at large, and, like the gripping caulks of the mountain deer, so - caulks of his hoofs were becoming adapted, and it was with safety, mounting inio ease, that he ran up and down declivit es.

His frame, too, had taken on a great strength. Born with head and shoulders of unusual power, these had devel >ped in warrings of the herd until they po isessed not only a formidable aspect, but constituted a mighty engine of combat Great slashing fangs protruded from hi a jaws and an abundance of coarse-graine 1 mane on his muscle-matted forequarte -s, defied any minor attacks. Only an enemy big enough to break the neck at a »weeping blow, or wary enough to avoid the shock of that battle-scarred sh wider, could hope to escape a mauling fr >m his tusks. And, now, with his lean razo r-back frame pulsating with hunger and, grunting angrily at intervals, the hog o >ursed along the bay shore on the searci for food.

SOMETHING flashed up in his The lithe, slender form of a m leaped straight as a die at his throa teeth met in a mighty grip on the bristling hide. In a spasm of impa^i the hog turned aside and, kneeling, ed the little adversary to the rock;

same time raking him head to toe with hit mandibles. He then tore the carcase to pieces and devoured it. This action marked another milestone in the life of th^ freebooter. From that day he became kid with the flesh-eaters of the woods. A new exultance thrilled his frame and, as he coursed along with hunger somewhat dulled, the last remaining shreds of his old life fell from him, and he became literally a beast primeval. Coming upon another blueberry patch, he fell to devouring with avidity, grinding down the pulpy fruit with great masses of foliage ; but somehow, it lacked the former satisfaction. The blood lust had set its grip upon him.

One still noon hour he stood quietly in the shade of a bush on the shore line, gazing stolidly out across the water. He had risen from an hour’s nap, following a morning’s foraging. Suddenly a ripple started, and the round head of a mink appeared, bearing in its jaws a large pike. Straight to the shore the fisher came, and laid his prey for a moment on the flat rock, while he shook himself. In that moment Hie boar sprang from the covert with! a grunt, and shot down upon him. The nimble weasel, with a cat-like turn, somersaulted into the water, leaving his catch to be crunched by the assailant. This ¡incident was typical of his life. He was a tyrant and a freebooter. Every creatjure was an enemy, and if not too large, legitimate prey to roll and feed uponj .

*

/^VCjTOBER had lengthened into NoVJ vember, and the north country was growing bleak and bare. Berries had given1 out; even the cranberry marshes were becoming denuded, and food was becoming scarcer with the frost of every night. The ragged lines of emigrating geese and ducks were growing smaller every evening and, with the approach of the great white season, the little people of thei wild developed unusual wariness. Nothing was to be snapped up now save an occasional water snake, gathered in a rush through the cold marsh water. With 'winter fast coming on, the plight of the boar was growing serious. His frame became léaner and more attenuated, but continued mbscular and powerful. Never had his agility been so remarkable nor his endurance power so great, but the pinch of hunger was becoming too frequent; and, when the snow came, the problem of life promised to take on an aspect of desperation. Already the frost had begun to whiten nightly about the rushes, and the nights themselves were so bitter that even burrowing deep into beds of pine needles did not keep out the cold. It was at this time that the pig wandering far afield in his rounds, came in contact once more with civilization, and the occasion spelt for him a great adventure.

Late one evening as he topped a rise, the pungent smell of woodsmoke filled his nostrils^and the sounds of an axe floated up. He froze into an attitude of watchfulness, even as porkers in a barnyard are observeq to do. Below in a little valley, stood a shack. Tom Barton, out for his winter’s trapping, was setting things in order for the season. His partner, a halfbreed, lounged by the door, peeling potatoes for (the evening meal. Suddenly the dog, a nondescript mongrel, set up a shrill yapping, and the man looked up.

“What in Heaven’s name is that, Tom?” he cried, in affrighted tones, as he glimps-

ed the huge, misshapen figure on the crest of the hilL

“That,” said the woodsman, dropping his axe in astonishment. “Why, that’s a wild hog, as I live. Wait a minute.” And like a rabbit, he dived into the house after a gun. In a moment he appeared, jambing cartridges in his rifle. Two shots rang out; but they were hasty and the animal was on the move. Turning with a snort of terror, the boar had galloped away in the gloom. But hasty as the shots were, one had touched him, and a red weal was scored along his flank. With more pain and terror .than he had known since freedom, he raced along the skyline, and vanished up a ravine.

“That’s the boar from the Twin Sisters,” said Barton, with conviction to his comrade that evening. “And, my, what a beauty. There’s enough meat on him to feed a garrison.”

IN the morning they hunted for miles around, but the dog could not catch the scent on the rocks. The terror of man had come once more to the vagrant and he was plunging straight into the wilderness in reckless flight.

It was in this madi'hasty trek that the boar came into second contact with a bear, and the encounter which followed, piled on the ocasion of his flight from the cabin, chastened his adventurous spirit He was trotting slowly across one of the little table-lands which frequently occur along the north shore,,, when a strong animal odor reached his nostrils. He paused, wagged his great head from side to side, and then, advancing around the jutting rock in quick jerky fashion, came to a sudden stop. A lean she-bear, busied in the exploration of an old stump, had not heard his approach. A grunt, however, and she wheeled about But this time there was no bolting up the hill in a panic. Instead, red passion flamed into her eyes, and she dropped to attack. The hog at once drove at her, half-rearing after the manner of his kind, and slashing out with his fangs. The bear, however, even under the disadvantage of being taken on the turn, was an old experienced fighter. Sidestepping as lighHy as a boxer, she evaded the rush, and delivered a tremendous smash of her forepaw. The blow, glancing slightly, landed on the shoulder of the hog and tore open the mane and hide. Only the marvellous strength of his shoulder withstood the cracking of his bones like pipestems. In a twinkling he was on his feet, and in an excess of fury» launched unexpectedly at her, and dodging another sweep, ripped a flaring gash down her side.

The stump in which the bear had been rooting stood on the edge of a gully with a twelve-foot drop, and the contest was now waging near the edge. The last act was partly accidental but none the less final in its conclusion of the fray. Raging with the pain of her wound, the bear dropped again to all fours and attempted to seize the assailant in a strangling hug. In doing so, however, she was perilously near the brink. Had she once got her grip on the boar, his size and strength would have availed little; but, as it was, the impact of his last charge, sweeping down like a thunderbolt, drove her to the summit of the cliff. Slipping steadily with her claws scoring the rocks, her feet gave way and she thundered down the declivity. A last parting blow, however, spun the boar backwards like a top

and he bowled over and over, coming up with a bang against a boulder. This ended the fight. The combatants, one from the foot of the cliff and one on the plain above, lumbered off sullenly in opposite directions.

AFTER a few days’ chase the hunters had given up the pursuit. Since the evening in question not a sign had been seen of the animal, not even a spoor to follow, and it became a jest between the two men as to the trick their imagination had played them. A pig in this district! The thing was absurd. At the same time a solemn'contract was entered between them that nothing should be said of the adventure, on arriving back in the village. They were not going to be laughed out of countenance as two superstitious old women.

Nevertheless, a month later, their excitement was stirred threefold. Standing one day on the shore of a marshy bay where he had been setting muskrat traps. Barton foûnd peculiar tracks in the sand. “It can’t be deer,” he argued. “No deer ever had such splay hoofs. Besides it ain’t the way a deer walks. By Gum,” he ejaculated, glancing hastily around. “It’s that pesky hog again. We’ll sure get him this time.” And bursting with the news he hastened back to camp.

BACK two miles from the trapper’s shack, lay a lumber camp. Twenty men had already arrived, and cutting operations were about to begin. Early in the dark hours of the second morning, Sandy, the cook, was aroused by the sound of grunting and rummaging in the garbage pile at the rear. Shortly, too, Caesar, an old hound in the men’s quarters, set up a baying. Throwing up his window the cook peered out, and in the faint grey light, detected a large peculiarshaped creature lumbering off through the clearing. The boar, driven to desperate straits, had come down to forage for garbage.

“Holy saints in Heaven, what was that?” ejaculated the cook, straining his eyes in the dim light. “Looks like a small buffalo or a new kind of bear.” It was too cold, however, to do much speculating in the night air, so at the breakfast tables the chopping gang heard highly embellished details of the occurrence, and with the scepticism of the backwoodsman, laughed at Sandy’s story as a hugh joke specially prepared for their delectation.

Now, Cyrus J. McShane, of Pittsburgh, cheated of his summer’s outing on the Twin Sisters, and mightily peeved at the circumstances, had determined in lieu of it, to take a few weeks of northern winter, following out an old ambition of securing some wolf pelts. Acting on the advice of Barton he arranged to put in three weeks at the lumber camp, and was bringing with him two Russian wolfhounds of celebrated pedigree. It happens that he, with a whole outfit of baggage and a small armory of weapons, arrived in camp ç>n the very day of Sandy’s story. He was a full-faced man with a keen~love of outdoor life and a keen ear for a good story.

“That sounds good to me,” he declared, laughing heartily at the excitement of the cook, as he told again his oft-repeated tale of the nocturnal visitor. “Tige and Nero are the very boys for such a job. Just the thing to key them up for a good wolf chase. We’ll have a run in the morning.”

Continued on page 90

The Outlaw Boar

Continued from paffe 50

AT TEN o’clock the party issued forth. It was a fine late fall day. The air was crisp and bracing. The rocks rang like metal to the footsteps, and a film of frost had spread over all the evergreen boles and foliage. Barton had come over early to see if the American had arrived and little persuasion was required to press him into the hunt.

Not ten minutes after leaving the shanties did the old hound, leading the pack, break into a deep-voiced bay and dash off through the underbrush. In the desire to make the hunt as interesting as possible, every dog in camp had been requisitioned. and a nondescript pack issued forth. Old Cæsar was brought along because of his excellent trailing propensities, and in addition to the wolfhounds. Smart, a snappy bull-terrier, and Jo, mongrel collie, were now trailing out in the chase.

“Well never catch them,” panted McShane as he labored along. “Those dogs will run for miles.” Suddenly, however, a distant clamor was heard, and the noise grew stronger. The chase, whatever it was, had turned, and was coming nearer.

“There they are. My God, what’s that they’re chasing?” burst out McShane, pointing to an elevation a quarter mile away. Along the plateau, racing at top speed, was the boar, and stretching out far behind, him came, the wolfhounds, hound, and collie in order.

“They’ll corner him in three minutes," shouted Barton. “Come over this way and we’ll see the finish.” And, cutting across diagonally, the men joined the pursuit.

SURE enough, the prey was cornered in a few moments. In a small pocket ! gully, the black boar wheeled to face his foes, and when the hunters rushed up,

; the fight was on in terrible earnest

The clamor at first had been tremend! ous, the wolfhounds opening out their I deep voices at the sight of the creature I at bay. This, however, soon died in the stress of a fearful combat. It was a verI itable vortex of animals which the men ¡ witnessed from the top of a neighboring ! boulder. When the hounds, roaring ! around the corner in full tongue, had ! come suddenly upon the great black beast, ■ standing chop-chopping in the shadow of I the rock, they had piled on him even as I a wave piles on a half-submerged reef.

The sheer weight of attack would have ! seemed to overwhelm him. But in a mo! ment the charge was scattered. As the ! dogs were hurled off, a fearsome gash ran red on the flanks of one. The collie, leaping fearlessly to the attack, as such I dogs do in the first flush of valor, cannoned off the battle-scarred shoulder, unharmed, escaping by the merest inch a sweep of razor-edged fangs.

Again the pursuers rushed like an ! avalanche, and once again were shaken i off. The big hounds could not gain a grip on the coarse, heavy throat, and again and again the huge powerful head, weaving back and forth with uncanny rapidity, hurled them aside, bleeding and torn.

There was something devilish in the last stand of the big outlaw. Crouching, with head lowered and slaver streaming from j his chopping jaws, he met every rush of his foes with a vicious nimbleness of

movement that was amazing. His little red eyes, gleaming from the bloody, scarred face, seemed fixed in a straight gaze, but the great head was faced to meet every attack.

THE battle was going hard with the hounds. The big pedigreed brutes, fagged with the chase on the rocks and baffled by the fearful sidelong sweeps and nimble drives of the boar, were sobbing in their throats, as they launched themselves again and again at the foot of the rock. The collie with two great body gashes was nearly out of it, and the foxhound, never a fighter, was stepping cautiously about in the background, seeking an opening.

But the day of the outcast had come. The fight had gone even harder with him. The muscles of a foreleg had been stripped in a chance grip of the collie, and his head and shoulders were a mass of bleeding wounds. Then, too, the appearance of the men in the background filled his soul once more with thnt ^ vague dread which had always been with him since the shot in the dusk had seared his

shoulder. .

It was strategy, however, which hastened the end of the combat; the cunning of lesser assailants pitted against the stronger, and backed up with a last tremendous avalanche of energy. Like a white streak, the terrier, thirty pounds of daredevil recklessness, hurled himself at the throat of the boar. At the same moment the old fox-hound, longused to harrying deer, stole from the rear and snapped the tendons of his quarters. With a roar the two big dop» leaped in, and even the mangled collie dragged in for the finish. For the first time the prey was down, but the fight waged none the less furiously for the time. But the last few moments were destined to be brief. Above the din of the scrimmage, the sharp, clear crack of a rifle rang out In a minute all action was stilled. The body of the boar relaxed, and the assailants drew off. Tom Barton, from the crest of the rock, lifted his smoking rifle, and scrambled down to join the rest of the hunters. The hounds were whimpering and comforting their sores, and the American was solicitously examining them for serious injuries. But Barton stood gazing at the frame stretched out and stiffened in death.

“Poor old divil,” he said, looking down at the rffássive head and shoulders. “So I was right after all. Couldn't make the grade, could you, old chap? ¡But you’re the gamest fighter of them all.” And he took off his hat in respect.

WHENEVER Georgian Bay is mentioned in the home of Cyrus McShane, of Pittsburgh, he has a story to tell, and, grasping the visitor gently by the arm, he will propel him into his den, where, on the walls hangs a remarkable boar’s head. Somehow the expression of the eyes is that of a captured outlaw, bold, hard, defiant, and yet with something of a wistful straining after freedom. McShane relates his story very well; the trapper in the north country could tell it even better; but to the keen observer, the eyes on the wall read out their version, which is more graphic than them all.