Of Earth Day, Trash, Pigs and Wild Hogs

Funny, all the contexts within which the spirit of Earth Day appears. For nearly 50 years (since 1970), April 22 has been set aside as a time to honor our Mother Earth. Some will argue that the environmental movement had its birth on that day, while others point to much earlier times. Be all that as it may, for some weeks before and after 4/22, huge numbers of us devote time to cleaning up out-of-control messes.

A couple weeks back, Son in Law Chris Kolakowski and I found ourselves in a small town outside Wichita Fall, Texas. We were seeking the high adventure tucked inside quiet nighttime waits at bait stations for feral hogs.

Our rancher host was very serious about his property and established hog stands. We were to use the red (invisible to most wildlife) varmint flashlights attached to our rifles only when critters were on the bait. Specific preparation directions for sitting in these maybe-all-night-long stands included: brushing teeth with only baking soda; no deodorants, aftershave or other scents, and carry a pee jug (“‘cause you can’t relieve yourself anywhere out there on that ground”). We would wear rubber boots and spritz them and our pants with a cover scent – diesel fuel (since it is a normal smell on these working farms). “Anything you carry in, you gotta carry out, so plan accordingly, “ he said. “And shoot some hogs ‘cause Texas has now got somewhere around six million out of control hogs to clean up, according to the Game Department.”

Very heavy rains had preceded us, flooding creeks and isolating large numbers of hogs in other places on the ranches we were sitting. We were pretty sure to see hogs, but no guarantees how many, and we were only after the small and mid-sized “meat hogs.” Through our three moonlit nights we watched wild turkeys, rabbits, raccoons, deer, bobcats and coyotes hanging around or passing by the bait stands. We also saw hogs – including a huge, probably 350-pound, boar which stayed 50 yards out from me for over an hour – but nothing that wanted to come home and feed our families. By our third night, the ground was drying and hogs were returning to their normal patterns. Our host offered us a couple more nights, on him, but Christopher had a job waiting. With a promise to see him next year, we wrapped up one of  our most enjoyable ever hunting adventures.

Our rancher host is a talented guy. I brought back samples of some remarkable writing he has never shared with anyone. (Yes, it did occur to us that the writing may have been why God sent us there in the first place – and his books may be well worth the wait.)

Before we left, he and I talked about his determination to keep his ground clean. “It’s like Earth Day cleanup, only there’s nothing left around to clean up,” I said. He looked puzzled, so I told him about our annual Durr Road cleanup – all the trash and garbage that some people leave after their shooting. “Wow,” he said, “so we got feral hogs and you got pigs!” Apparently that was funny – he chuckled for several minutes.

And here we are now, just a week away from the social event of the spring: our Annual Durr Road Cleanup. With help from Waste Management, Kittitas County Solid Waste, Kittitas County Public Works, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and volunteers, the event is organized by the 99-year-old Kittitas County Field and Stream Club. Our chefs prepare a hot dog and hamburger lunch for all volunteers. (Did I mention the morning’s doughnuts?)

Most years, 60 to 80 pickers come to play. We pick up rifle brass, bag upon bag of spent shotgun shells, paper, cardboard, shot up computers, shattered glass building blocks, tires, cans and plastic bottles, brazillians of broken beer and wine bottles and pickup loads of almost anything else a fool could carry to the hill, shoot up and leave. We have several times filled the 30-yard dumpsters provided by Waste Management, with somewhere between two and three tons of shooters’ irresponsibility. Our cleanup is an appropriate way to celebrate – after all, as we rake and pick up, we literally groom Mother Earth.

Consider the possibilities: meditating on Earth and its web of life; taking outdoor work and play action; and eating food with joy, gusto and laughter. All that just has to be good for the planet. Join the party. You will be able to tell your grandchildren that you played alongside the outdoor heroes of Kittitas County, Washington. Watch their eyes light up when you mention collecting trash alongside icons like Gordon “Keep That Road to Wild Places Open Forever” Blossom, Lee “Small Streams are the Answer to All Fishing Blues” Davis, Bill “Dances with Rattlers” and Deborah “Bird Whisperer of Paradise” Essman.

By the way, things will be improving along Durr Road. The Wenas Target Shooting Advisory Committee and DFW will be doing some Firewise clearing in the area, and building better backstops for target shooters. Expect to see a new information/safety pamphlet, a bit more engagement with law enforcement, and new eyes on the shooting areas.

Come play next Saturday. 9 a.m. on Durr Road – look for the signs south of Ellensburg. Happy Earth Day, 2018…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment