28 July 2011

Hogs is hogs

Charles Jacque - Le Retour du BergerLe Retour du Berger, Charles Jacque (1879-1959)

A scene of uncommon hilarity from Cormac McCarthy in Outer Dark:

On a good spring day he paused to rest at the side of the road. He had been walking for a long time and he had been hearing them for a long time before he knew what the sound was, a faint murmurous droning portending multitudes, locusts, the advent of primitive armies. He rose and went on until he reached the gap in the ridge and before long he could see the first of them coming along the road below him and then suddenly the entire valley was filled with hogs, a weltering sea of them that came smoking over the dusty plain and flowed undiminished into the narrows of the cut, fanning on the slopes in ragged shoals like the harried outer guard of schooled fish and here and there upright and cursing among them and laboring with poles the drovers, gaunt and fever-eyed with incredible rag costumes and wild hair.
     Holme left the road and clambered up the rocky slope to give them leeway. The first of the drovers was beating his way obliquely across the herd toward him, the hogs flaring and squealing and closing behind him again like syrup. When he gained the open ground he came along easily, smiling up to where Holme sat on a rock with his feet dangling and looking down with no little wonder at this spectacle. hog drovers
     Howdy neighbor, called out the drover. Sweet day, ain't she?
     It is, he said. Whereabouts are ye headed with them hogs if you don't care for me astin?
     Crost the mountain to Charlestown.
     Holme shook his head reverently. That there is the damndest sight of hogs ever I seen, he said. How many ye got?
     The drover had come about the base of the rock and was now standing looking down with Holme at the passing hogs. God hisself don't know, he said solemnly.
     Well it's a bunch.
     They Lord, said the drover, they just now commencin to come in sight. He passed his stave from the crook of one arm to the other and cocked one foot on the ledge of rock, his sparse whiskers fluttering in the mountain wind, leaning forward and watching the howling polychrome tide of hogs that glutted the valley from wall to wall as might any chance traveler a thing of interest.
     They's more than one mulefoot in that lot, he said.
     Mulefoot. I calculate they's several hunnerd head of them alone and they ain't no common hog to come upon.
     What's a mulefoot? Holme said.
     The drover squinted professionally. Mountain hog from north of here. You ain't never seen one?
     Got a foot like a mule.
     You mean they ain't got a split hoof?
     Nary split to it.
     I ain't never seen no such hog as that, Holme said.
     I ain't surprised, the drover said. But ye can see one here if you've a mind to.
     I'd admire to, Holme said.
     The drover shifted his stave again. Seems like that don't agree with the bible, what would you say?
     About what?
     About them hogs. Bein unclean on account of they got a split foot.
     I ain't never heard that, Holme said.
     I heard it preached in a sermon one time. Feller knowed right smart about the subject. Said the devil had a foot like a hog's. He laid claim it was in the bible so I reckon it's so.
     I reckon.
     He said a jew wouldn't eat hogmeat on account of it.
     What's a jew?
     That's one of them old-timey people from in the bible. But that still don't say nothin about a mulefoot hog does it? What about him?
     I don't know, Holme said. What about him?
     Well is he a hog or ain't he? Accordin to the bible.
     I'd say a hog was a hog if he didn't have nary feet a-tall.
     I might do it myself, the drover said, because if he was to have feet you'd look for em to be hog's feet. Like if ye had a hog didn't have no head you'd know it for a hog anyways. But if ye seen one walkin around with a mule's head on him ye might be puzzled.
     That's true, Holme allowed.
     Yessir. Makes ye wonder some about the bible and about hogs too, don't it?
     Yes, Holme said.
     I've studied it a good deal and I cain't come to no conclusions about it one way or the other.
     The drover stroked his whiskers and nodded his head. Hogs is a mystery by theyselves, he said. What can a feller know about one? Not a whole lot. I've run with hogs since I was just a shirttail and I ain't never come to no real understandin of em. and I don't doubt but what other folks has had the same experience. A hog is a hog. Pure and simple. And that's about all ye can say about him. And smart, don't think they ain't. Smart as the devil. And don't be fooled by one that ain't got nary clove foot cause he's devilish too.
     I guess hogs is hogs, Holme said.
     The drover spat and nodded. That's what I've always maintained, he said.

mulefoot hogs “The last remaining herd of Mulefoot Hogs in the USA has been conserved by an individual farmer.” [source]

“Hog Drovers” as sung by Ollie Gilbert, Mountain View, Arkansas on October 28, 1969. [source] [see also]

Charles Joshua Chaplin - Le porcher Le Porcher, Charles Joshua Chaplin (1825-1891)

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