Often when riding around the countryside I congratulate myself on the lack of dangerous predators in Australia, in stark contrast to Africa with its lions, tigers and other bloodthirsty mammals to threaten the peace. We could ride anywhere in the landscape with goannas, snakes, foxes, dingoes – everything melting away in front of us. However because of its rarity in those days I had overlooked one species which I was destined to run into one day. This morning father had asked me to look for a cow and newborn calf down on the creek in number 4. He had detected her sneaking away from the mob in that direction so guessed that birth was imminent.
Happy to do this job I selected Blue Pony from the horses in the yard because she needed some work. Blue Pony was little ball of muscle, active and strong with a good turn of speed. She was however nervy and jumpy and not a horse on which one could daydream or fall into a trance. We rode forth down to number 4 and along the north side of the creek quietly, without dogs, searching for sight of cow and calf. We didn’t find anything until we reached the boundary of the next paddock, so I crossed the creek at a suitable spot then returned back on the south side.
Not far back was a large weeping prickly mimosa bush across the path. Blue Pony stopped short about 10 yards from it, threw her head up high and gave a huge snort. 0h-oh trouble ahead! I shortened rein and sat tight. But what on earth could be alarming her so badly? Then there was a ghastly roar–squeak–squeal and a large boar burst out from under the branches straight at us in full frontal charge, mouth open and tail straight up in the air. I couldn’t do anything, he was too close. But Blue Pony’s instinct of survival must have worked because she shied to the right and the pig’s impetus took him past us. I glanced around and saw him turning for another go.
On my right was a steep creek bank, straight ahead was the prickly mimosa bush, to the left was escape to the open downs – but so was the pig. He was charging again with mouth open, tail up, full sound effects and flashing tasks. It was a horrible sight. Perhaps my own instinct for survival cut in here. I whirled the horse to the left and dug in my heels. The little winner didn’t hesitate. She leapt forward at full speed, flattened her ears and bared her teeth. The pig saw her coming. He hesitated looked disconcerted and lost his voice. Another application of heels to ribs, another leap, another stride and we were past that menace and out to safety.
I don’t know if it had a slash at her as she passed but it missed anyway and I didn’t look back till we were well clear – just in time to see a rather portly piggy rear, tail still up at battle stations, disappearing over the bank and down to the bed of the creek. Oh dear, the relief! I was feeling bewildered; it had been so sudden and all over so quickly, surely not more than a minute from start to finish. More likely half a minute! I felt like standing still for a while collecting my wits, thinking it all over. But the horse would have none of that. She was most upset and very excited. So I let her run for a while parallel to the creek but well out from it, hoping it would make her feel better. Later we pulled up to a walk, but rather to a dance and prance, with much tossing of the head and champing of the bit. I put up with it patiently because we needed that spirit further back. So we pressed on with me trying to glimpse the outline of cow and keeping my eye out for the pig at the same time. I certainly had no intention of going into any long grass, bushes or trees and shrubs to winkle out my cow and calf. I’d leave that to an armed posse but it would be handy to know her whereabouts. We at last reached the spot where a road crossed the creek and led up to the homestead. This was when my nerve was shaken and I was reluctant to go into the depths. After the pig disappeared I had no means of seeing which way he’d gone. He may have followed the creek parallel to our route or he may have gone the other way so I approached that crossing very slowly and cautiously. But all was well. I never saw that pig again.
We arrived home safely and I told my tale and allowed myself to relax. Mum, the cook, Nell and Jean came out and made a great fuss of the little horse. They patted and praised her and called her a doll and she was the heroine of the hour. Naturally I came in for some attention too. But she caused us to laugh. At every fresh peon of praise and petting she would nod her head vigorously as if agreeing with us. She looked to be saying; ‘Yes I fixed that pig didn’t I!’
Meanwhile Dad and Bill Brooks quietly loaded up the truck with guns, ammunition binoculars, and all the dogs on the place. Then, with me as guide, we set off for the scene of my encounter. The dogs had a picnic. They of course came upon dozens of pig tracks but lost them in the water of the creek. There were tracks everywhere so they had a great sport. We searched all afternoon (with the family safely on the truck) but that that pig was never found. We never heard reports of it again although we warned neighbours of what was loose in the district.
The creek then became out of bounds for some time but in a few days the cow brought her calf back and rejoined the herd – greatly to our relief. I had noted the pig’s good condition and he could easily have killed and eaten a newborn calf. In fact the family had realised he could have done the same to me – as I’d realised from the first moment of sighting that if he’d brought down the horse or if I’d fallen off, then I’d never have returned to the bosom of the family. I was very glad that I didn’t have any more experiences like that; I was not a seeker of adventure. In fact I’d had two nicknames in my early youth. One was Nip (Nipper) and the other Chick (chicken). I soon grew to know that the second was by far the more appropriate of the two!
But I still was not finished with shocks and a little drama before going South and joining the Air Force. There was the day of the fire….
Footnote: As a footnote to my pig story I must say I, as well as others, was surprised to discover that boars could be so aggressive.
It was not until I was in my 70s that I read of a similar case in the Courier Mail. A country man had been out chopping wood on the creek for the household fire and had his 8 year old son with him. Suddenly out of a bush came a charging boar which attacked the man. The man had an axe in his hands which he could only use to fend the boar off him–he couldn’t get a swing it because it was so close.
Finally the fellow tripped (or was pushed) and he fell on his back. The boar renewed its attacks on him. The man said it kept “going for his groin”. He thought he would be killed and that his son would be next. He yelled to his son “help me– hit him–hit him”. The brave little boy picked up a branch and began belabouring the pig. He couldn’t have had much strength but apparently it was sufficient, for the boar suddenly and unaccountably broke off the combat and ran away.
I had a great fellow feeling for that man and can only imagine the praise and gratitude heaped on that little boy when they arrived home.