Boars, Bullets, Brommers
Howard Hill, North Hollywood, California
Let me say at the outset that this tale is the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as I recall it. The minds of
men sometimes play them tricks, so should I err in this somewhat porcine
story I shall not worry too much, for even Napoleon made a mistake at Waterloo,
Cleopatra and Anthony had to back-track from Alexandria, and of course
we all remember that the Swedes miscalculated when they met Peter the Great.
Speaking of Sweden reminds me of one who long since departed
from the snow-capped peaks of that that far off land for our own California.
If the northern land in which he was born had had such riflemen as he,
maybe Sweden would still be living off Russia, instead of having to work
like the rest of us nations. The gentleman in question is none other than
my friend and colleague, George Brommers.
But perhaps I am ahead of my story. It began like this.
I was silting in my apartment one night several months ago, dreaming of places where animals walk in goodly numbers. My imagination, I admit, visualized Africa, Sumatra, and other distant lands as perhaps no mortal man ever actually saw them.
The insistant ringing of tho telephone brought me out of my reverie and I was pleased to hear the voice of George coming through the receiver. After the usual greetings I waited for whiat news my friend wished to expatiate on. Those who know George will agree that he beats not about the bush, but rather that he chops it down, and if there be chips that fall he leaves them lie. That night was no exception. The conversation over the phone was something like this:
George--Do you want to go wild boar hunting on Santa Cruz Island over the week end?
Without hesitation or even thought, my reply was in the affirmative.
George--Then be at Santa Barbara at six o'clock Friday night.
I--Who's going and what about these hogs? What are they like? And what's the dope on the hunt?
Gcorge--About thirty or forty are sailing from Pier 1 at Santa Barbara at nine o'clock Friday night aboard some sea-going sloop-of-war, and we'll get back some time Sunday night.
Now, about the hogs: it seems there are plenty of them on the Island, and they're mean as hell. They tear down hav sheds, eat sheep when they can catch them and even devour an occasional calf. I hear they aren't so backward where man is concerned, either. Two or three hunters have had their pants cut off by wounded boars, and I'm told the beasts are especially fond of dark, sun-tanned fellows, so, you big Turk, you'd better he careful or they'll surely gnaw on your frame.
(Note--I cannot figure how he takes sixty-three sixty-fourths English and Irish and one sixty-fourth American Indian and gets a Turk out of it but that's George's pet name for yours truly.)
I--The details sound interesting, but who's going to look out for you, as you've long since given up shooting the bow for shooting thc bull?
My sudden offensive attack stopped him momentarily, but not for long. George can come back, even when one feels that he has him behind the eight ball. He fed me this one:
"Don't worry too much about mc. I thought I'd carry a rifle so that I could save any of you lugs that might get cornered by an infuriated porky".
I should have known he was a jump ahead of me, but we'll just skip that.
"I'll be at Santa Barbara, Pier One, promptly at six, primed for the slaughter," I promised:
The sound of a muffled laugh and the click of a receiver told me that Brommers was off the wire.
The enthusiastic preparations for the hunt I will leave to the imagination of those reading this twitter who have, at some time, equipped themselves for a jaunt afield.
Two days later, my friend, Don Carson, who was also embarking on the grunt hunt, and I moved out on the long runway at Pier One, which connects it with the mainland at Santa Barbara, at fifteen minutes till six o'clock.
Scattered here and there in small and sundry groups about the pier were some thirty-odd men armed with the greatest collection of firearms it has ever been my misfortune to behold. Look as I would, not one bow and arrow could I see except Don's and mine. My friend Brommers had not yet graced the gathering with his presence, and as we were not acquainted with the gentlemen present, we sidled over to one corner with our meek and ancient weapons, and waited for the arrival of the august George.
Short as the time was, it was ample for us to grasp a clearer idea as to the exact manner of swine we were about to seek out. From the conversation of the sportsmen gathered about, we gathered that these hogs had a particular dislike for mere man, and that it was their constant desire to kill and devour every manly creature who set foot on the island. Several of those talking had hunted them before, and the tales of their hairbreadth escapes sent cold chills down my spine. Somehow, I had labored under the impression that the hunters would all be archers except George, and that he was to be a sort of a protector, if you get what I mean, but no: these boys scoffed at anything less than a 30-06 bore rifle, and most of them had a sheep leg strapped around their middles for close range shots while the ones who had met the brutes before carried long double-edged hunting knives in their boot tops for close-quarter action.
The longer I listened, the smaller my broadheads looked. The tide of my enthusiasm for the hunt was ebbing swiftly. Feeling rather naked and ungirt for such a dangerous encounter as this was like to prove, and being a stranger among this hardy group, I glanced shoreward hopefully and saw two men hurrying down the walkway. One I recognized at a glance. Fred Woodley, a true toxophilite in every sense of the word, glided toward us with a quiver, bursting with arrows, over his shoulder, a bow in one hand, and a bag of grub in the other.
The second tall, handsome chap carried the largest rifle I ever saw draped over a man's withers. The barrel was slightly shorter than a fishing pole, and the opening in that barrel was about the size of a wood chuck burrow. The two figures were soon closer and under the direct glare of one of the floodlights along the walk I recognized our protector, George Brommers in person.
The thing he called a rifle was the papa of them all. The assembled hunters eyed the newcomer with envy and several spoke right out and said that a weapon the size of George's was the only kind of a gun really to stop a charging hoar with. (It was some relief to hear them admit that these boar could be stopped. But I must get on with my story.)
At four A. M. Saturday we sailed. As we got it, the sailors were having some difficulty in getting the sea going man-of-war ready to depart. As time dragged by, stories of the Santa Cruz boars became more brazen and when an eight foot tug puttered alongside the dock and the captain's call of "All aboard that's coming aboard," rang out, I was of half a mind to skip this boar hunt and head south, but no one likes to be labeled a weakling, and besides, George was there to see that we got an even break.
The fast trip across (to think that we made ten miles in only nine hours!) was uneventful, except that I felt better once when I ate a stolen watermelon which had been doped with croton oil than I did bobbing up and down on this famous inland- water sloop-of-war. However, everything most come to an and, so we docked, and shortly thereafter the hunt was in full swing.
Being afraid of firearms, and feeling that my powerful 22 1-2 pound Pussywillow hunting bow and well-made, tin-tipped flesh cutters might not turn the monstrous tusked beast, I decided to put my trust in Brommers. Hunters in pairs, coveys, and flocks took first one ridge, then an other. Finally, Woodley, Carson, Brommers and I were left walking together. At the next ridge we lost Carson and Woodley. (Brave lads, they, seeking the killers with the long bow, while others hid behind the stocks of rifles.) We moved in a northerly direction, George and I.
The liquid California sunshine dripped off the tip of my arrow, to say nothing of my nose. Overhead the clouds thickened and moved across the hilltops close enough to scratch their middles on the giant crags.
We gained the crest of a little hill and there before my very eyes came a bunch of wary boars. sows, and pigs. I'll be blowed if there weren't a score or more, and bearing down on us in true killer style. Yes, they hesitated here and there to root underneath the scrub oaks, gathering acorns. Now and then they nicked a spiny cactus apple and crushed the juicy morsels in their strong jaws. Nevertheless, they gradually closed in on us.
A quick consultation was held. Brommers laid the barrel of Big Bertha's child between two giant granite boulders, its muzzle pointing toward the oncoming swine. There he took his stand, behind the rock., to do or die.
"Come one, come all. This rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as I," he seemed to be quoting James Fitz-James to himself, judging from the lofty calm of his placid features.
My lot was to sneak forward with my deadly bow and have a shot at the boar. When I drew near enough, using all the cunning which I had gained in years of stalking the Florida muck rabbit, I lumbered forward.
At forty-five yards a piece of bacon hove into sight and I sent a feathered shaft on its way. The arrow struck, the hog squealed, and things started to happen. George was to hold his fire until I was about to he taken, but the squeal of a wounded boar seemed to arouse his killing instinct.
The first thing I recall after shooting the boar and hearing him squeal, was getting a glimpse of red toward the south, then the reverberating of the loud explosion by Big Bertha's offspring deadened my eardrums. I know not how long the bloody siege lasted nor how many shots were fired, nor do I know how near the vicious swine came to cutting me limb from limb, but what I do know is that my protector surely laid down a barrage. Boars, pigs, sows, birds, cactus and pies, my hat, and a dislodged rock that rolled down the side of the hill, all these felt the contact of lead. Bullets zoomed so close to my head that I could smell the scorched tallow on them.
Frankly, I felt like moving, but with hogs darting here and there, drawing the fire of our doughty comrade from behind yon stone, I figured I would stand upon the order of my going and hesitate yet a little while.
Finally Big Bertha Jr. belched out the last shell in her rescrve tank and I skirted for cover with a few of the other hogs that has escaped George's sharp eye. Under cover of a rock ledge I worked my way back to where George was operating behind the granite boulder.
He had laid the smoke wagon to one side where she cooled as he ran nervous fingers in various pockets, seeking to find more foddcr for the old heifer to gobble up when she had cooled a little. Raindrops struck on the hot barrel and zoomed off, crying for mercy.
I was directly behind George before he saw that I was between him and his cannon. I reached down and picked up the still sizzling-hot firing piece, and a quick look of apprehension and anxiety came into George's keen eyes. I once took a live bird from a cat, and the feline looked at me with the same speaking look in his eye as did my friend Brommers when I took the gun and asked him for a shell.
I got no shell, nor did we leave the stronghold until I had returned the weapon. On the field of battle lay one dead boar with a single broadhead through his chest and eight bullet holes scattered here and there about his carcass. Two wounded critters had taken refuge in the huge entanglement of a giant cactus clump nearby.
We sailed at dawn the following day.
What's that? Is Brommers a good shot, did you say? Brother, he can shoot the nits off a gnat's knees at three hundred paces.