by CJ Mouser
Fall is definitely in the air in central Florida… you can feel it, and when the wind is right, you can smell it.
The Jimson Weed, Horse-Nettle and Purple Nutsedge will die off in a few more weeks, and as if they are aware of their coming demise they dominate the evening breeze with their scent, perfuming the air in a last, desperate, hurrah. The pond is full to the top, and long-legged glossy ibis pace the banks, peering intently into the water as though thoroughly enraptured of their own reflections.
That idiotic little dog that Fred saved from sure death on the highway is bounding around like he has no sense whatsoever, pouncing at the cat trying to instigate a chase, and worrying the other two dogs silly. He’s a cute thing, though. We named him Petey, because he’s white all over with a circle around one eye, and looks a lot like the dog on the old Little Rascals episodes.
I was standing there watching his shenanigans and listening to thunder rumble off to the north, when my husband Fred came out to offer the dogs the scraps from supper. Suddenly Pete straightened right up and began to exhibit his best behavior; sitting at attention, his tail ticking back and forth, his head and ears up.
“Faker.” I accused the dog.
“What?” Fred asked.
“Nothing.” I laughed.
I watched Fred go through the familiar routine. A bite for Killer, the Australian Shepherd mix with one blue and one brown eye; a bite for Mooch, the speckled Heinz 57, and finally Pete got his share. The cat meowed, and was ignored. He has a habit of begging and then turning his nose up in disgust at offerings, making the benefactor feel a bit stupid. Once the scraps were fairly distributed, Fred ventured a glance out into the hog pasture.
“What the hell is that?” He face was settled into a frown as he gazed out at the pasture on the west side furthest from the house.
“What?” I turned around to look.
“There’s another pig in the west pasture!”
“Right there!” He thrust an arm forward, sighting down his index finger like it was a rifle barrel.
“Which pig, though?” I strained my eyes to see where he was pointing, but could see only the usual pigs wandering somewhat aimlessly about.
“That little wild boar that’s breeding that gilt right there!” He turned incredulous eyes on me, clearly amazed that I didn’t see it right off.
“Oh! I didn’t see that.” I said, but I saw it now. The little gilt was facing us and she looked like she had two heads …one propped on top of the other, but the top one had the unmistakable long, narrow snout and thick, dark hair of a wild hog.
“You mean Achilles is putting up with that?” I asked, and then searched for the giant white Yorkshire boar that reigns over that particular pasture. I finally found him strolling back and forth at the back of the pasture, a little too calmly I thought, considering some gigolo was making woo with one of his women.
“I guess so.” Fred grumbled, and then turned and disappeared into the house. I didn’t need to bother to ask why, I knew he was going after a gun.
The little wild hog was in, well, hog heaven at the moment. The gilt was clearly in standing heat, as both animals were still as statues. The sun was touching the treetops in the west, providing a beautiful romantic backdrop for the two lovers, and as it tends to do when it gets that close to bed, it began to sink like a massive prehistoric animal that has given up the fight, allowing itself to be sucked down into a waiting tar pit.
“Hurry up, Fred.” I muttered. I’d seen this scenario many times and I could tell the two hogs were finishing up by the way the gilt kept shifting her weight, trying to walk out from under the boar.
Fred popped out the door at that moment and I cautioned him that the two lovers were nearing the cigarette smoking stage.
“You’re not going to shoot him right off of her back, are you?” I chewed a nail and waited as he evaluated the situation.
“Nu uh.” He said and shook his head, and then took off across the yard, trying to hurry and be casual at the same time.
“There he goes!” I yelled. Fred stopped, yanked his head up and then followed with the gun, settling the butt neatly into the hollow of his shoulder.
The little wild boar knew his business and he was scooting under the far fence and into the orange grove before Fred could get his finger to the trigger. He managed to squeeze off a shot that kicked up dirt right at the boars heels, prompting him to tuck himself into a knot and kick it in high gear, slicing through the grove with Fred following in his tracks.
The excitement seemed to be over for the moment, until I happened to look back at Mooch and Pete. Pete had that “look” in his eye and Mooch was battin’ her eyelashes back at him. The two dogs began to twine around each other in a classic, timeless dance of love and I knew what was coming. After the scene with the gilt and the wild boar, and now the two dogs, it occurred to me that maybe… there was a bit more than just Fall in the air.