I watched a line of wild hogs run along a fence line about two hundred yards away. The Hamlin lease is pretty wide open in places, and the pasture full of mesquite is easy to see through.
Wrong Willie was pacing me, following a pig trail about forty yards off to my left. The entire pasture was crisscrossed with trails and dry wallows where the hogs had buried up for several years.
By the time I saw that bunch of pigs, we’d already seen more than a hundred, and we hadn’t been there but a couple of hours. Most were too far to shoot, and some heard us when we arrived and scattered through the tree line that wrapped the lease.
Willie’d been flickering in and out of the mesquites, so when he stepped into the open, I waved to get his attention. Cradling the AR in the crook of his arm, he followed still another trail to where I was standing.
I jerked a thumb to the north.
“Did you see that bunch of pigs?”
“That’s called a sounder.”
“We don’t have time for this discussion. I want to shoot them instead of talk about ‘em, but a mixed group of hogs is called a passel, so I just saw a passel of hogs.”
“It was half grown hogs and some half-grown pigs. I could have called it a drift or a drove, depending on how many of each there was, but I didn’t count ‘em. Would you like that better, because that’s what you call younger pigs.”
“A group of young pigs is a litter.”
“There was a litter following one mama, but the point is that…”
“Did you know a group of boars is called a singular? That’s funny. I wonder why several is singular.”
“The point is that I want to walk over there and shoot some of them.”
“We’ll get a passel of ‘em with this AR.” Willie patted his rifle.
I ignored his little lame joke.
“Anyway, I know what they’re called, but it sounds odd to say sounder. I’ve never heard anybody say that aloud. Let’s go get one of those big ones.”
“You’re the writer. Use the right words.”
“More of a writer than a speaker. I get what you’re saying, like a group of crows is also sometimes called a congress, which is funny in its own right because most politicians just caw and complain, but I just saw a big…sounder…of hogs run that way. They disappeared into those thick shin oaks.”
I glanced over and Willie was staring at his cell phone. We get a pretty good signal out there, and he looked up with a grin.
“Get this. A group of apes is called a shrewdness. I didn’t know that.”
“Let’s go get ‘em.”
“There aren’t any apes around here.”
“The hogs. Here’s what I’ll do. See that rise? I’ll walk around the left side. The hogs in there will smell me like the last time, and when they come running out, you can get a few shots. Then, I’ll get the ones that are farther away with my rifle.”
I led the way and Willie followed, still talking.
“This is cool. A group of buffalo is a gang. I wonder if those old buffalo hunters used that term. Oh, get this. I’d forgotten that a bunch of crows is also called a murder. A murder of crows.”
“I’m thinking about murder right now. Shhhh.”
“And then there’s a parliament of owls.”
I couldn’t help it.
“Those are the titles to books by Patrick Buchanan.” I remembered the author from when I was a kid. “Those were great mysteries.”
“More than one fox is a skulk, and get this, several hippopotami…
…he emphasized the word to make it sound funny…
…is called a bloat.” Willie cackled like a lunatic. “Big hippotamusses is a bloat. Get it?”
I whispered, though his laugh probably woke up Rip Van Winkle.
“I’m going around now. Get ready to shoot.”
“And I wonder where a labor of moles came from. And then there’s…”
The pigs winded me and charged out of the shoulder-high oaks. From where I stood, I couldn’t see them, but I heard Willie yelp and a second later his rifle opened up, firing as fast as he could pull the trigger.
I walked around to see him picking up his phone from the dirt.
“Did you get any?”
“They surprised me. I only got one.”
“This feels like I’m hunting with Delbert P. Axelrod. You’re about as loud as a pandemonium of parrots and I’m feeling like an unkindness of ravens enough that I’m about to knock a knot of toads on your head.”
He glanced up from the screen.
“How’d you know what all those were called?”
“I’m a writer, remember. Now, put that phone in your pocket and let’s go after that other drift of pigs I just saw over there. Hunting with you these days is like hunting with a barrel of monkeys.”