The Pig and I
by Gary Hall
It was, literally, o-dark-thirty when I made the acquaintance of the Pig.
I was walking the second shift of guard duty at the 1/68 Armor Motor Pool in Baumholder, Germany, just after 0200 hours. It was February, 1978, and it was cold, dark, and snow fell in big, thick flakes that combined to reduce visibility to about almost zero. I was dressed in just about every item of cold-weather gear that had been issued to me when I arrived the previous December – parka, parka-liner, wool shirt, field pants with liner, long-johns, Mickey Mouse boots, two scarves, and, of course, my web gear, helmet and my M-16. Having grown up in Alabama, this first winter in Germany came as a shock – I had never seen more than an inch of snow in my life, and now I was out walking in a freaking blizzard.
I had been “volun-told” by the Sergeant Of The Guard to walk the post at the Transportation Motor Pool, which lay across a road and down a 75 meter hill from the 1/68 Armor main Motor Pool gate. While all the other sentries walked around the inside of the fence of the main Motor Pool, my post snaked around the outside of the Motor Pool that held the fuel trucks, ammo haulers, APC’s, jeeps and trucks of the battalion headquarters. The Transportation Motor Pool sat beside a training area where units would “swim” their Armored Personnel Carriers every few months. An infantry battalion had done the swimming exercise just the day before, and the trash-cans were full of C-Ration left-overs. This tended to attract the wild boar in the area – apparently C-Rations were a delicacy to the boar. Little did I know that those over-flowing trash cans would lead to a surprise for me.
The M-60A1 tanks in 1/68 Armor always had their basic load of ammo on board, so we walked guard with a magazine loaded with ten rounds in our weapons. During Guard Mount, the Officer of the Guard reminded us NOT to shoot at a wild boar with an M-16; the rounds tended to bounce off their thick skulls and really piss them off.
The snow and freezing wind were brutal, so I wrapped one scarf around my face, leaving just a slit for my eyes to peer out. The front of Transportation Motor Pool was somewhat lit by the large flood lights illuminating the tanks across the road, but the sides and the back of my route were mostly dark, with only a single light shining down from each of the back corners.
I trudged around my route, mostly looking down to keep from slipping and falling in the darkness. I had made several circuits around my post when, about halfway down one side of the motor pool, I looked up and noticed that something was blocking the path, just at the back corner. Something big – really big. I thought at first that someone must have parked their VW Bug on the path – that’s how huge this “whatever” was. The light at the corner was so diffused by the blizzard that I could only see a big, dark something in my path
I took another step, and then froze when I heard a low, rumbling grunt/snort. “Oh crap!” I thought, “it’s a wild boar!”
This is when time seemed to stop. My mind flashed back to a castle tour I had recently taken. The castle had a huge tapestry depicting wild-boar hunting in the 1500’s. Men on horseback were shown using long spears to kill the boar. One boar was shown gouging an unfortunate man, apparently knocked off his horse, with its tusks. I remembered the tour guide mentioning that, back then, hunting boar was a dangerous activity – half of the time, he said, the boar got you.
I then remembered my first battalion field training exercise a month earlier, when I watched an enraged boar head-butt an M-60, and then try to climb into the driver’s hatch.
I remembered the tale going around the battalion of a poor guy walking guard, like me, around the outside of the Transportation Motor Pool fence. While rounding the back corner, he had managed to step on a baby boar. The story went that momma boar charged the guy, who scrambled up one of the fence posts and was hanging on the barbed-wire while the boar butted repeatedly at the post, trying to knock him down.
All of this passed through my mind, it seemed, during several minutes, but it was surely a split-second. Then, I noticed that the big thing blocking my path was getting closer, fast. So I did what any red-blooded American boy does when confronted by a charging wild-boar – I turned and ran.
Running in Mickey Mouse boots up a hill on a slick, ice and snow covered road is usually an exercise in futility. However, it’s amazing how motivated one becomes when one realizes that a huge wild boar is closing on one’s rear end with, undoubtedly, razor-sharp tusks that said boar would just love to plunge repeatedly into one’s rear end.
I believe I set a land speed record that night – one instant, I was watching the boar start to charge, and the next, I was inside the gate at the main Motor Pool. I say an instant, but I seem to remember the run lasting forever as I heard the boar’s hooves pounding just behind me as it snorted and snarled in rage. I don’t remember if I went through the gate, or just jumped over the 10-foot barbed-wire fence. I do remember the Sergeant of the Guard and the other sentries laughing as I tried to swallow my heart back into my chest, and the boar snorting and stamping in the road on the other side of the fence.
Eventually my heart stopped hammering, and the boar got bored (sorry) and headed back down the hill. The Sergeant of the Guard told me to get back to my post, but I said, “C’mon, Sarge, that pig will guard that Motor Pool much better than I ever will.”
I did go back, but I admit that I left the whole back side of that motor pool under the boar’s watch for the rest of that night.
Gary Hall spent over 7 years in the U.S. Army, with 2 tours in Germany, before being medically discharged for diabetes in 1985. He started out as a Ground Surveillance Radar Operator in an armor battalion, and later served as an Army Broadcaster assigned to AFN Bremerhaven. Gary currently lives in Baltimore, MD, with his wife, Anita, and is “staff” for 4 cats. He is an executive producer at the Defense Media Activity at Ft. Meade, where he oversees the production of the “commercials” (Command Information PSAs) for American Forces Network and the Pentagon Channel.