"I saw one
here, in Bear Canyon. It was gone like that. They're the hardest thing there is
to see. Look at us, how much we've been out trailing and we've only had about
15 seconds' worth of bobcat between us."
Beyond the fact
that in both activities a lot of time is spent walking along head down looking
for something, there is another similarity between golf and trailing. When you
hit a golf ball, it is generally aimed at the hole and there is a possibility
it will go in, but the chance is remote and is seldom realistically
anticipated. In the same way, signs can be followed until their maker is found
and run into its hole, so to speak, but this involves so much luck and work
that it is not a practical reason to go trailing. Yet as a climax to this
splendid day we brought off the equivalent of a hole-in-one, or at least of
sinking a long approach shot.
Copper Glance is
a good place for javelina, the tough, pugnacious little wild pig that roams the
Southwest in small family groups. We may well have passed some of their
hoof-prints on the way up without identifying them because of the erasures and
smudges made by the deer. At about 7,000 feet we came on a very straight trail
made by a number of somethings that had crossed the stream going to or from the
wall of the canyon. Considerable recent use had turned the trail into a mush in
which no individual prints were clear, but the probability was that they were
javelinas because they move along in close-order groups, rather than cavorting
about individually like deer. Backtracking along the trail confirmed this
guess. It led into the mouth of an abandoned mine tunnel. No deer would go into
such a place, but javelinas very obviously had: tracks aside, their scent, a
strong, skunky one, was evident. Cautiously, with an eye to quick escape
routes, we tossed a few pebbles to see if we could flush out anything.
Javelinas have a
local reputation for ferociously attacking anyone who gets in their way. I met
one hunter who claimed great familiarity with these savage beasts. He said they
would chase a man up a tree and then wait in a circle below it until he starved
to death, fell out and became pig food. The man was a Phoenix road hunter who
tended to be terrified by things both real and mythic in the mountains. Yet
there is a basis of fact in the javelina attack stories. They are shortsighted
and upon hearing or smelling something strange often will trot closer to see
what it is. They may come directly at you for this purpose, but they are easily
avoided simply by stepping out of their way. Generally, it is prudent to do so.
They are not savage killers, but for a 40-pound animal standing no higher than
a boxer dog they have extremely powerful jaws with formidable teeth, two of
which are tusks. Now and then somebody ends up with a badly mauled leg because
of getting crossways with a javelina.
There was no
response to the stones we threw in the tunnel so we went back across the stream
and, heads down, began to follow the javelina path in the other direction. Our
heads came up quickly only a hundred feet or so from where we started when we
heard a sharp commanding grunt. Ahead of us stood an obviously agitated sow.
Her bristly mane was raised, she was pawing the ground audibly, and she was
suggestively gnashing her teeth. Farther up the slope, three animals that
looked to be yearlings and a mature boar were unconcernedly uprooting and
munching away on prickly pears. We stopped dead in our tracks and soon saw why
the sow was so exercised. Two newly born offspring (an umbilical cord was still
attached to the sow) stood just behind her in a rough circle of bare pine
needles from which the snow had been pawed and scraped. The piglets may not
have known we were there and gave no indication that we had alarmed them. The
sow, on the other hand, obviously did not want us around and would have run us
off had she been free to do so. She did make a series of short, noisy charges
in our direction but never moved more than 10 feet or so from her infants.
Recognizing this safety margin we edged to within 50 feet of the family to
watch. The unsteady piglets pushed at leaves with their snouts, bumped each
other playfully and nursed when the sow was not occupied rushing and swearing
fight for those little fellows until you killed her," Will said
approvingly. "There isn't anything but death will make her leave them. I
was thinking about some hippies I saw over in Bisbee. They had hair down to
their tails and were all dressed up in leather suits and beads and cowboy hats.
They had a little tiny girl, I guess it was theirs, with them. It was a cold
day but that little thing was barefooted and just wearing a pair of bib
overalls. Her hair was all snarled. I'd like to bring her mama over and show
her this javelina and let her think about it."
The first rule for everything, people or pigs, is take care of the little ones,
no matter what, no matter what it costs. We've got a lot of problems because
too many people have forgotten why that mama pig acts like she does."
Interested as we
were, we decided that too much observation might create harmful stress for the
pig family. We forded the stream, made a quiet, cautious circle around the
javelinas and continued climbing in the canyon. When we returned in late
afternoon they had moved farther back into the brush. The sow had cleared
another nursery space in the snow and all seemed in order.
Up and down, we
walked about 10 miles in Copper Glance canyon and by the time we got back to
the truck we felt all of them. "I'm dragging," Will said. "I've
spent too much time being a dozer jockey lately. But"—he uncorked one of
his back-smashers—"what we've been doing is about as good a way as two old
fellows could find to get tired."