The best you could say about our trip to the area of the hunt was that it was short. We lurched across a couple of small, decaying bridges and then lumbered down a potholed dirt road for about 20 minutes. During the trip one of the beaters' dogs came down the aisle of the bus, sniffed around and relieved himself on the wooden stock of my carbine. At the rear of the bus I noticed the beaters were filling shotgun cartridges with coarse-grained gunpowder that they were dipping out of a can—all to the accompaniment of much laughter and much cigarette smoking. I moved to the very front of the bus.
Eventually we stopped beside a field near a small village, where Aftal explained that we were going to the top of a nearby mountain, where there would be hunters' blinds. Once we were in place, the beaters and their dogs would drive the boar up to us. Under no circumstances were we to shoot any of the beaters' dogs, which were expensive and difficult to come by.
We hiked up a rough path that ran along a ridge to the top of the mountain. To our right was a wide crease covered with underbrush, into which the guides and their dogs peeled off and began their beating. When we were only about a quarter of the way up the mountain, we began tiring badly. Our legs were shaking and the damp air felt raw in our lungs. The reason was obvious. We were all carrying too much weight. My combination of a carbine, .45 caliber pistol, binoculars and bandolier of ammunition must have weighed nearly 25 pounds. The fat supply officer with his BAR was really coming apart. The old guides and Aftal, on the other hand, just bounded from rock to rock.
After about an hour of climbing, we reached a point close to the top where the underbrush abruptly thinned out. Aftal motioned toward a series of shallow ditches cut into the rocky soil. These were to be the hunters' blinds. Holding his fingers across his lips to indicate that we should be quiet, Aftal assigned each of us to a blind, and when everyone was in place he scampered back to join the beaters.
The blind he had assigned to me was in the approximate center of the group. It was raining lightly, and the bottom of the ditch was mostly mud. As I looked downhill I could see at once how this hunt was going to work. We were at the apex of the deep natural crease. The beaters would drive the boars up out of the crease toward us. I got my binoculars out of their case and began to study the terrain below. Far downhill I began to see puffs of smoke and, eventually, I could hear the sound of the shots as the beaters and their dogs spread out and worked their way uphill. Since they were still far away, I took the opportunity to look around.
The most noteworthy thing I noticed about the hunters' blinds was that they weren't located on a straight line but ranged up or down hill from me. About 150 feet to my right and well uphill was the blind occupied by the nearsighted supply officer with the BAR. I watched him with growing apprehension as he unfolded his tripod and set it up on the ground just in front of him. He fumbled with an ammunition magazine and finally got it fitted in, and when he traversed his BAR back and forth I noticed that I was well within his field of fire. Satisfied with his situation, he removed his thick glasses and began to wipe them. There were a lot of stones lying about, so I began to stack them in a low ledge along the right rear of my blind, between me and the BAR. Between stacking rocks I waved my arms at him frantically, in the hope he'd pinpoint my blind. I couldn't shout, of course, because it would frighten off the boar. How's that for a rational order of priorities?
While I was building my rock wall, I heard a distinct rustling in the dense brush growth just below me, accompanied by a sort of snuffling sound, like a dog out of breath. Suddenly a big, lanky animal burst out of the undergrowth, dashed past me and disappeared up and over the mountain, traveling at tremendous speed. I could easily have reached out and touched him.
Most of the others in our hunting party had seen this apparition, too, but no one had fired, because this was obviously one of the beaters' dogs. It had long, coarse reddish hair and a narrow, pointed nose. It had long, lean legs and a short tail. It didn't look anything like a boar. Then I began to wonder: Just what did a boar look like? I realized I didn't really know. In my mind's eye I saw a big hog with sharp tusks, something like those roast suckling pigs they served at luaus in the officers' club at Pearl Harbor. About then I figured out that the animal that had raced past me must have been a boar. The same thought occurred to my comrades, who now erupted with rueful comments appropriate to the occasion. God help the next creature that crossed that ground.
The beaters were getting closer now. Even without binoculars you could clearly see them working their way up the slope toward us, firing their old shotguns in the air, their dogs running around them. Soon we began to hear more noise from the bushes in front of us. An animal was obviously running frantically back and forth in the underbrush. Everybody along the line of blinds heard it. Gradually the noise focused at a point just to the left of my blind, at almost the exact spot where the boar had come out. I was kneeling in the mud of my ditch now and sighting along my carbine. A brown shape popped out of the bushes and began to run wildly about in the open space before me. Suddenly the hillside exploded as everyone opened fire. The ensigns with their M1s way down on the right-hand side of the line began to fire laterally across toward our quarry. The chief engineer was screaming obscenities as he opened up with his sub-machine gun. The noise was deafening, but you could easily tell when the supply officer cut loose with his BAR.
Nobody could see the target now because of the bullets tearing up earth where the animal was last seen. But the supply officer kept walking his BAR fire to the left, and the impact of his bullets apparently looked enough like a running animal to keep everyone else shooting toward the eruptions.