Monday, January 28, 2008

Nice pig, dat!

Pig hunting is very big here.

Actually it's the true, living religion of Ka'u. That's where you'll find most of the men on a Sunday morning. They'll be up before dawn, heading into the hills with a pack full of exuberant dogs in the bed of their pickup. And they'll go at it fervently as long as there are pigs to be found.

To say that Ka'u is rural is somewhat wishful. The local culture, despite decades of plantation agriculture, never has given up its allegiance to the wild ways of the hunter's life. "Bucolic" is not something you think of when you think of Ka'u. It's entirely too disorderly and precarious a place.

Pig hunting is very important. It keeps the men in the forest, out of the house, and out of trouble. It's a wonderful reason to keep a lot of dogs and what is life without dogs? It gives the men and the dogs something to do together, so that there will be mutual admiration amongst them. And it keeps the pigs, who are wonderful creature and just as smart as men and dogs, from taking over the world.

It's a dangerous sport, mostly for the dogs. A boar's tusks can rip a dog's throat open in an instant. This happened a lot before the hunters started using cut-collars, thick nylon collars that cover a dog's entire neck. But the dogs still get very serious injuries. The men take an ill-concealed pride in the scars of their dogs. Each scar on a beloved hunting dog is a story much recounted and embellished, with the dogs as stars, the pig as co-star, and the hunter as arbiter of good and evil, and always, eventually, the victor.

In Ka'u pig hunting tournaments a big deal: the teams  are given 24 hours to pound the forests in search of prize pigs - the biggest pig wins the overall prize but there are prizes for sub-categories such as: the biggest boar, the biggest sow, and the boar with the longest tusks. The winners are instant celebrities of the pig-hunting world, especially the winner of the highly esteemed "Jungle Express" hunting tournament. Hunters come from all over the island on the day of the big tournament, and after staying up all night searching the forests, the contestants meet early in the morning at a beach park for the weighing and measuring. The winners are photographed with their prize, their team-mates, and their kids. It's a proud moment.

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