Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Pig Incident

A Dramatization of the Pig Incident

The following is a fictionalized account of the killing of the pig that instigated, or at least gave a name to, the Pig War. It opens the first chapter in David Richardson’s, Pig War Islands. Richardson takes poetic license with history and yet, this is pretty much how I have always pictured the event.

The light June mist of a Puget Sound morning had clung, dead still in the dimness of dawn, about the drizzle-dulled green of island tree tops. Now, it thinned rapidly before the warming rays of a sun climbing fast and yellow from behind the distant Cascade Mountains. A brace of russet tailed hawks awoke to the golden light and began chasing one another in an indolent fashion. Suddenly they swooped, shrieking, into a still-bedewed clearing and nearly brushed with their wings against the roof of Lyman Cutlar’s rude log shanty.

It was not the cry of the hawks that roused Cutlar from a profound and youthful sleep, but the clop-clop of a horse’s hoofs striking the pebbled dust of the trail outside. Cutlar passed a weather-tanned fist through sandy hair and hauled his lank frame from the bed, aiming as he did so a playful thwack at the inviting fanny of the Indian girl asleep beside him.

went to the window and muttered something unprintable. The passing rider, a negro*, had reined his mount to a walk and seemed to be laughing at something across the way. The tall youth followed his gaze and repeated the oath. It was that damn black boar again: it had pushed through his garden fence and was rooting up his potatoes with its ugly square snout. This was too much. Lyman Cutlar seized his long, thin-barreled Kentucky rifle and threw open the door.

Jacob, the black man, whipped up his horse and disappeared down the trail. The boar – he felt the sting of Cutlar’s switches before, when the tall settler discovered him similarly engaged --- began a waddling retreat from the garden, a half-masticated tuber still protruding from his dirty-pink muzzle. He got a few yards away and Cutlar’s rifle spoke sharply. The pig fell in a heap, twitched obscenely, and died.

*Jacob was a native Hawaiian, or Kanaka. Mr. Cutlar’s use of the “N” word in reference to him seems to have confused his origins.

p 13, Pig War Islands

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