Red in Tooth and Claw…


Feral pigs can grow to fairly enormous proportions. Photo By Max Saeling

The world seemed awfully dire back during the Cold War. Nowadays, Vladimir Putin keeps busy rubbing Novichok nerve agent into his political opponents’ underpants (No kidding. Google it). However, nobody seriously expects clouds of thermonuclear warheads to interrupt our socially distanced family gatherings these days. That wasn’t always the case.

An Army buddy was an enlisted soldier assigned to an attack helicopter unit billeted in Cold War Germany. In the event the balloon went up, their Cobras would sortie out in a hopeless attempt to stem the overwhelming tide of advancing Soviet armor. They appreciated that their bases would be obliterated by tactical nukes in short order. As a result, they needed some way to keep these combat aircraft in the fight without fixed support facilities. Some rocket scientist came up with the idea of the Poor Man’s FARRP.

FARRP is mil-speak for “Forward Area Refuel/Rearm Point.” In this case, the Army just secured a little open piece of dirt big enough to accommodate an attack helicopter and stacked up a bunch of crated ammunition in a big pile underneath tarps. They then surrounded the stack with concertina wire leaving a single opening for access. As abandoning several tons of unsecured military-grade ordnance in a field seems stupid, two Army privates were assigned to stand guard 24/7. The detail rotated in 12-hour shifts.

These two soldiers were each issued an M16 rifle and ten rounds of ammunition, meticulously accounted for. If you didn’t have each and every one at the end of your shift, something particularly vile would happen to you.

Personal comfort is not a thing in the US military, so chow was MREs. MRE technically stands for “Meals Ready-to-Eat,” but we always called them “Meals Refused-by-Ethiopians.”

As anyone who has ever met one can attest, a bored Army Private without any meaningful supervision is the chemical formula for mischief. For the most part, this duty was the very manifestation of tedium. However, late one evening the guards heard an ominous rustling in the surrounding forest. The noise grew louder and more intimidating. By the light of an ample moon they could barely make out the massive hairy shapes of a veritable army of monstrous beasts emerging from the wood line, moving inexorably closer. In short order, a large sounder of tremendous feral swine chased the two young soldiers up on top of the rocket crates.

A big male European boar reaches more than six feet long and weighs around 220 pounds. These animals are grouchy, mean and ravenous. Lured by the smell of the MREs, they eventually arrived every evening and chased the soldiers up onto the ammo crates in search of food. My buddy grew weary of this in short order.

In the last two centuries, there have been 665 humans attacked by
these vile creatures in the wild. Photo By Kevin Jackson

Al Gore had not yet invented the Internet, so a phone call home produced a care package that included, among other things, a Wrist Rocket slingshot. For those who grew up someplace other than the Deep South, a Wrist Rocket uses rubber surgical tubing to accelerate a marble to simply breathtaking velocities. The next time my friend came up on the duty roster he was ready.

He baited the area around the ammo stack with MRE detritus, climbed atop the rockets, and waited. The pigs were happily munching on the Army chow in short order. He leaned over the biggest, meanest boar of the lot, oriented the slingshot just above his massive hairy head, drew the thing back as far and he was able, and let fly.

That standard glass marble caught the beast squarely between the ears from a slant range of maybe six inches. All four of the pig’s legs went in four different directions, and the big boar squealed like he was being skinned. He started running around in insensate circles, knocking into the ammo crates and running afoul of the concertina. His swine buddies just looked confused until my pal went to town bouncing high velocity marbles off pigs at his weapon’s maximum cyclic rate.

The porkers still returned regularly looking for trouble, but my buddy and his pals stood ready to give it to them. Slingshots poured into the barracks via the post, and the First Sergeant was surprised to find these young studs volunteering for the onerous guard duty by the bushel. You might take the boys out of Second Grade, but you’ll never take the Second Grade out of the boys.

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