The Great Lowveld BushpigWar
Declaring war on pesky bushpigs can be a risky business.
Bushpigs? Yes, I know, they can cause a lot of damage. I’ve seen it. I was sitting in the Barberton Club when the call came. It was Johnny van Tonder from down Louw’s Creek way. To say that Johnny was agitated would be an understatement; Johnny was the hell in. He’d just about had it with farming, he said. The bank was on his back about that loan he’d made to fix the tractor’s engine, but how the hell must he pay them back if they won’t advance him something to get the tomatoes into the ground? It’s about time, he said, he too got tough. For starters he’s going to sort out the bushpigs that had taken over the sugarcane field where they were now farming for their own account.
Would I come and lend a hand, he asked. On Saturday night he’s going to war with them. Big time.
When I reported for the war at about four that Saturday afternoon Johnny was already pacing the stoep. “Tonight’s the night,” he said. “Look what I’ve got.” He showed me a drum-fed, semi-auto 12 bore shotgun onto which he’d rigged a flashlight with insulation tape and wire.
His neighbour, old Oom Jaco with the diabetes was also there, struggling to get to the end of a story of how they once killed 16 bushpigs in one night in the old days. “All it takes is courage,” he kept repeating while patting his tummy. “Courage – I’m telling you.” Besides experience and a pair of faded khakis that were apparently full of courage, he’d brought along an ancient sideby-side shotgun.
Johnny’s wife, Susan, served coffee while we waited for her brother Eddie, who only came off shift at Consort Mine at five. Eddie would be carrying a .303 loaded with ammo he’d managed to wheedle out of old Joe Hagen, who still had a fair hoard of .303 military ball from his time in the commandos.
In the meantime a veritable impi of helpers had been gather- ing behind the shed in the farmyard. These were “mercenaries”, for Johnny had put out word about the hunt and asked for brave men with fearless dogs to report. They’d be well-rewarded with bushpig meat, he promised. So there they were, with about 20 mongrels already howling and raising hell, revved up by the wild war cries of their owners and their stick-swinging brothers in arms. Johnny twice tried to tone the lot down, but to no avail. Their thirst for blood was fast approaching fever pitch out there behind the shed.
Eddie finally arrived in a cloud of dust, accompanied by his girlfriend’s younger brother who was down for the weekend from Jo’burg. It so happened that this young biker-type had his new 9mm pistol with him. “It’s cool, ek sê,” he declared. “The timing’s sharp – I’ve hoeka been checking around for a chance to make my first kill.”
It was getting dark now, so Johnny wasted no time getting the ranks in order. All those under 15 years of age were weeded out and sent home, along with a suckling bitch and her four pups. But these outcasts then complained that they