Gather round friends, this is a story for the ages. All of the pig adventures we’ve had all rolled into one still couldn’t top what happened last night. This is a story of small odds, hope, denial, living nightmares, disbelief, kindness and small victories that turn into great ones. Truth is truly stranger than fiction, friends. And pigs really do fly. This is the ballad of Boarzilla.
Wednesday morning we loaded up our stud buck, Ridge Runner, into our trailer to take him back to his home at Whistling Acres. It was bittersweet as he was one of the best bucks I had ever met. But he did his job with vigor, prowess and some serious stank. Our does, Judy and Liza, are bred so it was time to take him back home. I sure was gonna miss that little stinker. I stayed at the farm so I could collect maple sap and tap more trees while Dave, John and his lady, Lanette headed off to Whistling Acres.
The plan was to drop off Ridge Runner and pick up a boar for our gilts. We’re beginning our breeding for the spring season but you need two to tango, so we needed a boar. Since we are very hands-on with our pigs ans get in the pasture with them every day, we needed a boar that is pretty docile. There were two options for us: Tupac or Boarzilla. Tupac is a nice boar, you can scratch his head and neck and is very docile. But he’s not as gentle as Boarzilla. Boarzilla is a Iowa Swabian Hall boar that is basically a 400 lb dog. He’s tame, docile and kinda dumb. And very used to people. He was hand raised by Carl Blake from Rustik Rooster on the farm ever since he was a piglet so you can even scratch his belly. He was a perfect starter boar for us! So into the trailer he went.
Dave, John and Lanette took off after dark to head home. About an hour outside of St. Louis, a trucker behind them flashed his lights. John looked out the side windows to see smoke and sparks coming from the trailer. Maybe a tire went out? That would have been a lot better than what actually happened. They pulled the truck over onto the shoulder and checked it out. The trailer was on fire. And Boarzilla was gone. No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. The trailer was on fire and the pig was gone. Gone. GONE! John hopped out of the truck to look along the side of the highway while Dave pulled the truck and trailer into a gas station. Fire department and police arrived to help put out the fire and get some information.
How could this have happened? The best we can guess is that a passing car flicked a cigarette butt out of the window and it just happened to blow into the trailer and the ember from the cigarette plus the wind caused the straw bedding to catch on fire. Or maybe the trailer axle heated up so much that it caused a fire. We’ll never know. But as soon as that happened, Boarzilla acted quickly and jumped out of the trailer while it was going down the highway at 70mph. If you would have told us earlier that morning that maybe we should board up the side windows of the trailer just in case a cigarette blows in and catches the trailer on fire… we all would have laughed. Seriously, what are the odds? Someone please tell me what are the actual odds of that happening. The smoldering fire wasn’t enough for Dave to put out with water. The fire had actually burned a hole through the bottom of the trailer. The fire department had to cut out the bottom of the trailer with a chainsaw to put an end to it.
Dave and John had a general idea of where the boar jumped out. The trucker said it’s probably within a 2 mile stretch of highway between mile markers 190 and 192. With flashlights in tact, John and Dave started looking for signs of Boarzilla. It was during this time that Dave gave me a call at home. When he called me with the news I was in sheer disbelief. My heart felt like it was going to fall out of my butt. I have been having some weird dreams lately, this was probably one of those. Sometimes I can fly in my dreams so I tried to fly through my kitchen. But it didn’t work. This must be real life.
Now, looking for a black boar at nighttime in the woods on the side of the highway is like finding a needle in a haystack.. only harder. Dave and John decided that their efforts would be better put to use in the morning. So they drove home. After Dave got home, we sat there in shock. We were mentally preparing ourselves for all the possible outcomes:
- The boar is mortally wounded and died somewhere in the woods.
- The boar is wounded and we have to put him out of his misery.
- The boar is alive, wandering around the woods and onto someone’s property where they shoot him dead.
- The boar is alive, wanders onto traffic and then next day’s headlines read “400lb boar hits van full of church group Girl Scouts on way to nursing home visit. Newlywed farmers lose life, limb in lawsuit.”
- The boar is alive and we never, ever find him and continues to haunt our dreams.
- Or the most unlikely scenario. we find him and somehow load him onto the trailer and take him home and everything’s fine.
Dave and I took turns telling each other that everything was going to be ok, although both of us didn’t fully believe it. This is all very, very bad. What are the chances of this actually happening? What are the chances that we’ll find him? I cursed the farming gods every second I thought about the weight of this whole ordeal. One thing we knew for sure is that a negative attitude wasn’t going to help anything. From past experiences with pigs, we knew that we had to enter this situation with calm, cool and collected heads. Wallowing in negativity never solves anything. Worrying doesn’t do shit. But a positive attitude can do wonders. So with that, it was time to catch 2 hours of sleep. The plan was to ride at dawn to go back to the scene and send out a search party.
We’re very, very lucky to have such a wonderful circle of friends that will, on a few hours notice, meet you at the side of a highway at sunrise to go looking for a 400lb boar. We just happen to have a badass group of friends that are down to help us do some cowboy shit at 7am. First thing in the morning, everyone was on sight and ready to start looking. Just as Dave and John were getting to the location, Dave called Warrenton, MO’s finest (and they really were–their police department was excellent to work with) to tell them that our group was going to begin searching the area. As Dave was on the phone with the police, the police got a call from animal control saying that they had spotted the boar! Our search crew was only a half mile away from the location and began getting a capture game plan together.
Boarzilla was bedded down underneath a cedar tree. He had some road rash on his back but he was still moving just fine. Thankfully when he got out of the trailer, he slid on his back and not his belly. Now comes the hard part; catching him. This isn’t the boar you can just walk up to, tap on the shoulder and be like “hey buddy, let’s get in the trailer.” Especially not when he was in a trailer fire. And jumped out of said trailer while it was going 70mph down the highway. He was like an action hero!
While we kept eyes on him, Brian from animal control loaded up a tranquilizer dart and got him with a perfect shot! But he still kept moving. Brian hit him with another dart and while he was starting to slow down, he was still moving about the cabin! This pig had enough tranq for a 600lb animal, but was still upright! He’s a fighter, this one! Dave and John had to wrestle this 400lb pig that was still walking around with two tranq darts in him. Dave grabbed a hold of his back legs but then ended up being dragged through some bushes until the boar kicked him off. Dave and John just decided to go for it and wrestle him to the ground while David and Reeko stood nearby with lariats and ropes to hog tie him with. With his legs tied up, John straddled him and tied a rope around his snout. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of suspense and adrenaline these dudes must have felt during this process. I don’t know if we would have had the same outcome with any other boar since he was so docile and gentle. All I know is that we were very lucky. The police officer and bystanders commented that we’re the most unlikely looking bunch of hog farmers they had ever seen. We’ll take that as a compliment.
With Boarzilla subdued and tied up, we rolled him onto Ted’s blanket and everyone grabbed a piece of blanket to carry him up the hill and to the trailer. No straw in the trailer this time! Everyone stood in amazement that it was over. I think everyone had to manually unclench their butt cheeks. Not only did they find him, but he was relatively unharmed, subdued and transferred back to the trailer ready to head home! Miracles really do happen every day. But they’re not possible without the wonderful people in your life that can make them happen. We’ve said it a hundred times and we’ll say it a thousand more times, we have an awesome crew of people.
When the search party caravan got back to the farm, we tended Boarzilla’s wounds and made sure that he was ready to meet the herd of gilts. We opened up the trailer door and got him into the pasture. He walked right past the water, right past the food and right up to the ladies. Within five minutes he was already getting down to business. We left to give them some, umm, privacy. You gotta hand it to the breeding of this boar, this dude had some vigor to immediately mate after all that he had been through! The search party/amazing group of friends/the most badass people you have ever met gathered in the kitchen for some celebratory venison and champagne.
And there you go. That’s the story of Boarzilla. It just goes to show you that with farming, nothing is impossible. Oh, and that the phrase “when pigs fly” takes on a whole new meaning to us now.