The Barrow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
A piglet caught and released becomes a menace

Submitted: April 28, 2019

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Submitted: April 28, 2019

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There was a story, or was it a legend? About a barrow living at the back of the forest, a big barrow with a hide too thick for a dog’s canines to penetrate. The legend goes that Hazlitt, the weird hermit from across Duffy’s creek, had caught the piglet in one of his snares and because he fancied his colour, he decided to let him loose, but before doing so, he castrated him. Waste not, want not, Hazlitt roasted those testicles as a tasty entrée to his usual two cans of baked beans and fried onions on toast.

Over the years many hunters lost their dogs to the barrow. Good hunting dogs will target a boar’s testicles, but with none to latch onto, they couldn’t pull the fast moving pig down. He developed savage, slightly curved tusks, eight inches long and razor sharp! Dog-killers they were! The bright, smooth tan of the piglet had long gone, morphed into a coarse-haired mane that flowed right down to his tail. A tail they said was a thick as a man’s wrist! One eye was green and the other red, bloodshot by a .22 bullet that has ricocheted off his lower lid. They said it was the constant pain that made him angry.  

Local farmers feared him during the lambing season because the barrow ate to not only any dead lambs but any live ones that he could catch. He was attracted to the afterbirth and the blood. It was said that when he needed meat through the summer months, so he herded the growing lambs into a corner of a fence to take one, leaving only the skin behind, scraped clean of meat! One of the farmers had tried to trap him, using a cage built of one inch pipe, strong and sturdy it was, baited with possum carcases. It caught too, but not for long. The next morning, the cage lay on its side, its bars bent, but that’s not how he got away. Despite the cage being secured to the ground with stout iron pegs, the pig managed to get his snout under the bottom bar and with the strength of an ox, he tossed it aside!

Henry wasn’t long on the job, and hadn’t yet heard about barrow. He was in charge of the forest, tasked to replant a logged-over area at the back of for the forest. After a persistent period of gale force winds he went up there to check how the newly planted seedlings had fared. Pig rooting had demolished about an acre of the new plantings! Tasty huhu grubs had been recycling remnant, rotting logs, and a big pig had been rooting through the windrows, disturbing the soil to shake the grubs loose. There was only one set of hoof-prints and they belonged to an unusually big pig, the hoof-print was as big as cattle beast’s!

Back at headquarters Fred wasn’t surprised about Henry’s discovery and told him about the legend behind the big barrow, warning him the animal was deadly dangerous! Henry’s attitude was that a wild animal damaging the forest’s trees, had to be stopped and resolved take his rifle up to the spot and hunt the animal down. Fred couldn’t do more he had done his best to warn Henry off, but was excited at the prospect of what might happen next.

Armed with his trusty ex- army, fully wooded Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. Henry was soon on the track of the big barrow. He knew he was big because he found a fresh, still-steaming tolley, which made Henry smile and mutter, ‘Elephant!’ Smiling again, he was pleased with his little joke. And then he heard the grunting. Not high-pitched as Henry expected. He smiled yet again at his new joke. It was a guttural grunting of pleasure, because the pig had found a good cache of huhu grubs deep within a windrowed heap of old logging slash.

The pig was half buried in the windrow, he was making a mess, tossing chunks of logs aside like pieces of straw with his snout. He didn’t afford Henry a decent shot. In hunting mode, Henry skirted some second-growth vegetation to change the angle of his shot. The wily animal sensed his presence, hearing or smelling, Henry didn’t know, but the big animal lifted his head, offering a good shot. Henry hesitated, surprised by the enormity of the head and his magnificent tusks! The pig didn’t hesitate, charging at Henry for half a dozen steps, then veered off to the right, tail up like a warthog, bulldozing his way down a short slope into a patch of gorse! The whole patch shook with the force of his entry! Henry had missed his chance but he had learned that the pig was going to be a tough nut to crack!

The next evening, the barrow was waiting for Henry! As he dismounted from his truck and walked onto the area of pig rooting, Henry saw the barrow standing there, head down eyes fixed on his his approach. They were about thirty yards apart. Henry had goose bumps and his skin tingled. He slipped a round into the breech of his rifle and quietly closed the bolt. The barrow was watchful. Henry raised the rifle to his shoulder and took aim at the centre of the barrow’s head. His nerves weren’t quite settled, but he took the first pressure on the trigger, and at that moment, the barrow charged!

Training and experience kicked in and time slowed… As the pig moved toward him, Henry fired, but the pig had lowered his head. Henry saw a bullet hole appear in his left ear! And did he see the bullet ricochet off his back? Was that a spark as the bullet passed through the steel-wool-hair on the pig’s back? The pig snorted and the steam from each nostril singed the grass!

Henry had another round up the spout and was looking for his chance! The pig’s snout was in the soil and as he ploughed towards the hunter, he made a furrow like a bulldozer with a V-blade! Henry couldn’t take another shot! The pig was upon him! He deftly stepped out of his way, narrowly missing the swing of his head with tusks attached!

Henry levelled his rifle, but there’s nothing vital to shoot at on a runaway pig! But a target did present itself! It was the pig’s warthog run that gave the opportunity! Beneath the tail is an orifice that usually lets stuff out, but it had an unwelcome, powerful visitor! Henry was neither happy nor sad, simply pleased to have done his job. There would be no further damage to the out-planted tree seedlings. He needed no trophy and the meat on an old tough barrow would be rank, so he left him where he fell for the environment to absorb him.

A year later to the day, old Hazlitt, the weird hermit from across Duffy’s creek, visited the barrow’s carcass for the second time. He was there an hour after Henry had despatched the animal, but this time the animal was but a pile of bones. Old Hazlitt took the bottom jaw with tusks attached, and  back at his shack, he lit a candle.  


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