THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- COOL PIGS RUNNING

by: Wes Ishmael

Despite the average behavior innate to every breed of every species, some individuals are destined to be lovers, others fighters.

For some reason that thougt flashed through Hooter's brain at the same instant he accepted the fact there was no escaping the mahogany red, curtain-eared sow.

Such are the sacrifices made in the name of innovation…

New Year's Blue

There could be something lonelier than a parched Christmas tree after the day has come and gone, bereft of packages and purpose, forlornly ashamed to be still hanging around. There might be, but Peetie Womack didn't think so.

As much as Peetie loved Christmas and all it stood for, he hated the aftermath, the free-fall from heady expectation to routine existence.

Hooter and the rest of the boys knew this about Peetie; he was the elder statesman of the Rio Rojo County Cattlemen's Association (RRCCA), after all; everyone had known him since they were kids. If Hooter had a mentor, it was Peetie. So, more than most, Hooter knew that year by year Peetie's post-holiday doldrums grew deeper and stayed longer.

That's why Hooter started before Christmas trying to come up with something out of the ordinary that might capture his friend's attention through the Christmas season and after.

Hooter thought about the other holidays that followed.

There was the Fort Worth Stock Show, of course. But, Peetie already used that annual field day as a pick-me-up.

There was groundhog's day, but both Hooter and Peetie had definite opinions about how the Yankees had hijacked any value in it all those years ago with the shadows and winter nonsense. Besides, there were more hogs than groundhogs here.

There was Valentine's Day, too, but it had been done to death. Besides, it wasn't much of a celebration for those without romantic prospect or inclination. And, Hooter wanted to come up with something that would involve the whole gang.

It was those kinds of thoughts randomly ricocheting around Hooter's subconscious that finally led him to the notion; that and an idle conversation at Lonnie's feed store. About mid-December Delmar Jacobs had tottered into the backroom with a pail-sized mug of eggnog. Lonnie was asking him for the umpteenth time to give him his recipe for hog bait—no one had ever found anything so irresistible to the feral hogs endemic to the state. It looked like shelled corn, maybe a shade brighter, but there was some added ingredient or process that made the bait foolproof.

“I coul…I couldn…I could…no,” Delmar slurred.

That's when it hit Hooter, the missing link, the final puzzle piece that spun the tumblers into alignment.

Birthing an Event

Dolly Parton may have been the first to famously explain, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” But it was Hooter McCormick who understood how much work was required in becoming excellent at the inconsequential.

“The First International Running of the Pigs,” Hooter announced, would be an invitational Calcutta, with proceeds, after prize money, split between the church mission's committee and the RRCCA political action committee.

“The what?” wondered the boys in unison.

“Everybody thinks about catching hogs, but nobody ever thinks about letting them go,” Hooter replied.

“Huh?”

Basically, Hooter's idea was to trap 15 head or so, let folks choose the pig of their choice—high bid getting first choice and so on—then turning the pigs loose; the first one out of sight would be the winner.

“I get the trapping part,” said cousin Charlie, “But why would we be so knot-headed as to let them go again?”

“Because it's the last thing anyone would think of,” said Hooter smugly.

“Huh?”

“Just roll with it,” said Peetie. “Might be fun.”

Soon as the boys heard Peetie's interest, they were all in, no matter how ludicrous it seemed.

“We'll probably need to build a trap for it special,” Lonnie ventured.

“That's a fact,” said Charlie, picking up the drift. “You know, there could be an educational element to all of this. Maybe we build a couple of different traps, see which works best side-by-side.”

“Now you're talking,” said Hooter.

If you're unfamiliar with them, hog traps designed to catch multiple hogs consist of a pen—often made by welding hog panels together—and a spring-latch gate of various designs that allows hogs to enter but not to leave.

“Make sure they have tops on them,” Peetie advised. “We don't want anything extra getting in, and we don't want any of them getting out. I swear some of them can climb.”

“And, Delmar, we'll need some of your special bait.”

“Yo…you…you bbbb…sure.”

“There's a clearing in one of my pastures that would be perfect,” Peetie said. “Lots of tracks around, too.”

“I'll even throw in an old sow for some extra bait,” said Lonnie.

Lonnie's generosity should have raised a red flag, but before Hooter could think about it one way or another, Izzie had cackled, “We'll call her Miss February. I'll give you odds right now her trap fills first.”

“And, I'll give you odds it won't,” Charlie countered, as a side-betting pool took root.

So it was that the boys occupied Peetie with designing, building, rule-making and bid collecting right through January.

By the time the big day rolled around, the boys had caught 23 hogs, counting Miss February—several sizes, colors and conditions.

     

They're Off!

By 10 a.m. the day of the event there was a sizeable tailgate party going on behind the brush where the traps were hid.

Especially with money on the line, this wasn't going to be some half-cocked event. The boys had four deer stands around the clearing with spotters in each to track the hogs that had been marked with paintballs. Izzie and Peetie were mounted on four-wheelers, just in case some extra encouragement was needed. Air horns behind the brush would scream at the appointed time. Charlie would jerk the door on one trap using a chain from behind, Hooter the other.

Even Stitch Wilson, rodeo announcer extraordinaire, had consented to man the portable P.A.

There was all kinds of betting going on: which one would be the last out of sight, how many seconds would it take for the first one to disappear, would it be the fattest or leanest cut on average that would win, that kind of thing.

“A spectacle is born,” Hooter said to Charlie, as they prepared to jerk the chains that would pen the doors to their respective traps.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, take your places,” Wilson announced. “The First International Running of the Pigs is about to begin.” Wild applause. “I'll remind the spectators that any Calcutta participant doing anything to encourage his or her own hog, or to impede the progress of those owned by other contestants will be disqualified.”

The crowd joined in the countdown: “Ten, nine, eight…blast-off!”

Hooter and Charlie jerked the doors open. The air horns wailed. And, nothing happened.

The hogs were interested in the commotion, but not alarmed. It was only a couple seconds, but the kind that seem to last minutes.

Never one to place safety ahead of progress of common sense, Hooter instinctively hooked his chain around the panel and then raced to the open door of his trap. He stuck a hand inside and waved. Miss February charged like she'd seen her worst enemy. Hooter ducked around the side, as the trap-mates stampeded out behind Lonnie's sow. That got the ones in Charlie's trap running, too. The crowd was cheering and screaming.

Without realizing it, Hooter had drifted back inside the trap to unhook the chain and release the saloon-style doors, so the trap could close again.

It took Hooter about as long as the crowds nearest him to realize he wasn't alone. Inexplicably, Miss February had doubled back. Hooter had trapped himself inside with red demon.

Hooter was reaching for the chain again when the nonplussed porcine made her initial dash at him, all dewclaws, ears and squeal. “Help…Heeeeeelp!” Hooter screamed. Somebody…ouch…help…”

On his first lap around the pen, Hooter spied Charlie doubled over in laughter. Oh the second lap. He thought he saw one of the four-wheelers making a beeline to help him. On the third, he was sure he heard Stitch Wilson announce, “And in chute number 2, three-to-one odds on Miss February!”







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