Born and raised in eastern Iowa, I knew that pigs were sloppy, dirty and spoke with incomprehensible grunts.
But I was surprised to learn there are wild pigs in the desert called javelinas, or collared peccary by scientists. This animal has long legs for its size, a snout like any other pig, and a dark grey bristly coat that’s as stiff as a hairbrush. Their babies are small enough to fit inside a baseball cap. A cute vision that almost overshadows the ugliness of this creature.
While working on the golf course over the years I’d see a javelina now and then. I didn’t pay them any special attention. I never thought they were aggressive or noisy. They seemed to mind their own business.
That image was shattered the day I approached the 14th hole. As I came upon the tees I heard squealing. I stopped quickly and looked out at the fairway to see an astonishing sight. At least 20 javelina mothers and babies were in the middle of the fairway. It looked like a family picnic. Then I heard the squeal again. It came from the herd, but I couldn’t tell where until one javelina in the middle of the herd started chasing another javelina.
It was war! Chasing, butting, biting, until the victim turned and chased the aggressor. Their fight left the grassy fairway as they ran into the desert. Their skirmish created a cloud of dust that would have made a dust devil proud. Then they raced back to the fairway and fought some more. Round and round from the fairway to the desert and back to the fairway at least three times.
The curious thing, as I watched, was that absolutely no one in the herd paid attention to them. They grazed, took care of their babies, whatever. They acted like they had no clue a fight was going on.
I lost track of who started the fight, but one of the female javelinas went off to the desert while the other rejoined the herd.
Alarmed with what I’d seen, there was no way I was driving through the herd to move on to the work I’d planned. I quietly turned around and retreated, not as naive as before, and making mental notes that javelina are fast, mean, and persistent.
A year or two after I’d witnessed this javelina war, I drove my cart out of a deep wash, and went up the cart path to the restroom by the 15th tee complex. As I left the restroom I heard a loud squeal. I knew what that sound was all about, and I quickly scanned to see where the angry javelina was. Before I caught sight of it, I saw Mario running and yelling for help.
Mario is one of the more light hearted members of our crew. Always happy, smiling and mischievous, he’s played pranks on fellow workers numerous times. Although many tried to retaliate, rarely did he get paid back. We all look over our shoulders to make sure he’s not targeting one of us.
It was unusual to see Mario scared and panicking as he dashed past me, running as fast as he could yelling, “Stop that dammed pig!”
And there she was, the wild pig running at full speed chasing Mario. Whatever he did, I was sure the javelina would give up soon. But, Mario had an obstacle course ahead of him with lots of chances to fail. Starting at the top of the slope were five tees shaped like lily pads. There was the black tee, a green tee, a blue tee, and white tee, and red tee pads. All separated by gravel slopes from one down to the other. He was in for trouble.
The javelina ran across the black tee as Mario jumped onto the blue tee. Screaming with fear Mario looked over his shoulder. The javelina was gaining. Mario ran and jumped from tee to tee until he jumped down off the red tee, lost his footing, and slid on his butt 15 yards down into the dry wash. After he hit bottom Mario turned around and looked, hoping the javelina would stop. She didn’t.
Screaming for help again, Mario streaked 25 yards across the wash and clawed his way up the bank onto the 15th fairway. Losing his footing in the soft soil, he stretched his arms over his head and grabbed the grassy edge. As he pulled himself up onto the fairway, mama javelina was barely twenty feet behind.
As I watched Mario’s dilemma unfold, a high shrill squeal came from my left. There I saw a baby javelina running and calling for its mama. Obviously, Mario had angered mama when he got between her and her baby.
This chase had gone on too long, and I headed out to help Mario. But, I stopped on the other side of the wash when I noticed Jesus and Andres leaning back in their cart with their feet on the dash, watching and laughing at Mario’s struggle. Obviously they had heard Mario’s pleas for help, just like I did, but they must have felt this was a good payback for the pranks he’d played on them. The two of them were doing more laughing at his struggles than trying to help him.
The javelina had more stamina than Mario and was gaining ground on him as they passed the fairway’s two-hundred-yard marker. Exhausted, Mario couldn’t keep his balance, and swung his arms like a propeller before falling to the ground.
When Mario’s situation turned serious, Jesus and Andre’s raced the cart onto the fifteenth fairway to head off the javelina, arriving just in time to chase her away and keep her from attacking Mario.
As the javelina retreated to her squealing baby, Mario growled at his saviors. “Why didn’t you help me sooner?”
Jesus leaned over the steering wheel, “Man, that was a helluva race.”
“That javelina could have hurt me,” Mario said as he got to his knees while panting to catch his breath.
Andreas leaned back in his seat. “We didn’t let that happen, did we?”
As I drove up beside them I heard Jesus say, “We had you covered all the way, bro.”
“What if you’d been wrong, huh?” Mario fired back as he got to his feet. “What if you were too late to help?”
“Mario, Mario, settle down,” I said. “Hop in and I’ll give you a ride back to your mower.
While leaving the fairway Mario turned back and shouted, “I won’t forget this if you guys ever need my help.”
Jesus, Andres, and I looked at each other and smiled. Revenge is sweet, but none of us want to be in a situation where Mario can make good on his threat.