No
matter what else anyone says…. the Battle of the Swine King will
forever be remembered as the Grand Poo-Bah of all weird paddling trip
happenings. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I hope that
I never slide to that grim and gory level again.

It
was Friday night, and we were supposed to run Section III of the
Chattooga the next morning. After a long drive down from
Chattanooga, the eight of us found a decent campsite near the put-in
at Earl’s Ford and crashed for the night. Warm fire…. good
food…. good conversation…. many, many cans of beer. We all
crashed at something like two in the morning. My good buddy, who
we’ll call Hossenfeffer (or Hoss for short), had left twenty or so
beers nestled in a plastic ice chest right outside his tent door
before turning in. A tactical error, in hindsight, but we let it
slide.

A
few hours before dawn I was jarred awake by the noise of an ugly
smashing of plastic, a few grunts, and then one of the strangest
sounds I think I’ve ever heard…. a soft, metallic crunching,
followed by a pop and hiss, and then rapid gurgling and snorting.

What
does that mean, I wondered. Hottentots? Communists? Boy Scouts? I
rolled over to my pack and pulled out the .44 magnum that I reserve
for those very special moments on paddling trips, and I crept quietly
to the door of my tent. I scanned the camp and made eye contact with
a few of the others who were peering warily from behind tent screens.
I flicked on my flashlight…

And
then I saw him. Mother of Babbling Pearl! The Swine King!

My
flashlight beam jumped out and caught what must have been a three
hundred pound wild boar right betwixt his malignant red piggy eyes.
He was standing amidst the debris of the cooler he had smashed, and
as I watched in horror, he turned his head away from me, rooted
around through the shards of plastic and ice, and snuffled up a can
of beer. He tilted his head back, and slowly began to chew the can.
In just a moment came the sounds I’d heard before…. a metallic
crunching, then the pop, hiss, and gulping. The evil bastard was
shotgunning our entire stash of beer!

Ye
gads, I thought. What weirdness is this? We must save this beer!
Twenty cans! And then the awful thought struck me…. he had been
through several cans already…. and what kind of tolerance for
alcohol do swine have, anyway? A three hundred pound pickled pig
rooting up the camp at four in the morning is not to be tolerated
under any circumstances, but what choice was there?

I
considered the merits of creasing the Swine King across his hams with
a few hundred grains of copper-jacked hollow point, but he was
standing right in front of Hoss’s tent, and the consequences of a
missed shot might be an new part in Hoss’s hair. Single combat,
maybe? But, no, the tire iron was safely locked in the car several
hundred yards away.

The
Swine King was still nosing through the beer stash when the answer
came to me. I eased the barrel of the .44 out through the tent flap
and squeezed off a quick shot straight up into the air. The cannon
blast of the fat powder charge knocked me flat onto my kiester from
where I’d been squatting, but had an effect on the Swine King…. he
leapt at least a foot into the air, came down hard on his belly,
actually swallowed the beer can he’d been sucking on, and tore off
into the underbrush squealing like Ned Beatty.

We
never saw the Swine King again, but the next night we made Hoss sleep
outside and we stashed the beer in his tent. You see, paddling isn’t
about soaring with the eagles…. the trick is to soar with the swine
instead of wallowing with the eagles.

We
figured that if the Swine King came back, he would know Hoss for one
of his own.


Reprinted from AWA’s American Whitewater, July/August 1996 via the
newsletter of the Huntsville Canoe Club.

by Ed Ditto
From
The Eddy Line, March 1997