April 20
by Jim Smith

In October 1975, Peewee Bolen, a long-time friend, and I were spending a week together at Union Camp’s hunting camp, Hamilton Ridge. The camp was located on a 15,000 acre tract of land on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River. About 5,000 acres of the tract were in the Savannah River swamp. Late one afternoon, we decided to explore a point on the Savannah River that was formed by a large bend of the river.

This particular point was almost an island since one side was bordered by the oxbow Jordan Lake. A little before dark we came upon a drove of wild hogs that when roused headed for the most remote area of the point, about one half mile distant. We judged there to be 6 or 8 some of which appeared to be gilts, and decided to hunt them seriously the following morning.

That evening, George Gehrken, a game biologist with the Company, arrived with his two Labs, Trusty and True. George and I had planned to hunt quail the following morning but plans were changed and we recruited George and his dogs for the new mission. George was reluctant to expose his dogs to wild hogs. We told George that these may be descendants of the hogs that accompanied Hernando DeSoto on his explorations along the Savannah River. George was unimpressed with our effort to add historical flavor to the enterprise. He said his dogs were good for quail and ducks and other airborne game and hogs were unworthy of their talents. We told George that when we saw the hogs a little before dusk they were literally flying through the swamp and thus met his test for airborne quarry.

We did express some doubts about the courage of dogs that would only hunt game that could not defend itself. Eventually the weight of our adamant arguments and George’s pride in his dogs carried the day. About the time daylight broke, George, Joe Morris, another friend and hunting companion, Pewee and I headed for Jordan Lake after an early breakfast. A ride in the open Jeep on an unseasonably cold morning brought the group to a shivering full wakefulness. After a short drive and a half-mile walk we arrived, at Jordan Lake at the same a flock of woodducks were pitching in. Peewee and Joe took stands in the narrow strait between the River and the Lake.

George, the dogs and I walked to the point and found the hogs ensconced on a sand bar in the shade of some willows. We rousted them from their hide-a-way and drove them back toward Jordan Lake and the narrow escape lane between the River and Jordan. In the chute 4 hogs expired. It took the four of us about two hours to drag them to a place where we could load them into the jeep. By mid-afternoon they reposed in the coolers having been reduced to hams, loins and ribs. Though quite well exhausted from our morning activities, George and I went quail hunting and bagged enough for supper. George grumbled that his reputation would be ruined if the word got out that he had used “Trusty” and “True” to roust hogs out of the Savannah River Swamp.

I penned an epic poem to commemorate this hunt and the fellowship we enjoyed.

The Transformation of a Bird Hunter

Three pigs on the wing
Bolen’s mythical tale
Of Jordan Lake swine
That resemble the quail

Now a flushing quail
Is a plebian sight
But precisely unique
Is a porker in flight

Joe Morris told of the soaring sow
And George forsook the quail
Anxious to bag the flying gilt
And the airborne curly tail

To the banks of the Jordan
Did Gehrken repair
To seek the winged boar
In its vine-shrouded lair

Made of silk purses
Was his camouflage gear
Mistaken by his quarry
For a giant sow’s ear

Of unquestioned pedigree
Are Trusty and True
From a Labrador line
Through and through

Canines that retrieve the bird
Are not thought the least absurd
But certainly a peculiar dog
That on command will fetch a hog

Read about Jim on the Writer’s Bios Page