Buying hogs ain’t that easy. The Authors Collection
May 18, 2014
THE HIGHWAY PATROLMAN remains in his patrol car, probably running plates, long enough for Weldon to hand his open beer back to Burl and to get Tess set down and buckled in. While the trailer blocks the patrolman’s view, Burl tosses three beers out the window. Weldon steps out on the highway just as the patrolman reaches the door. The strong odor of spilled beer wafts back to Burl’s nostrils. He imagines calling Lillie to get him out of jail.
The patrolman puts a hand on his baton. “Stay inside the vehicle, sir.”
“Yes, sir.” Weldon puts one hand in the air as if surrendering but stays outside. He puts the other hand on the patrolman’s elbow as if to guide him away from the vehicle and makes as if to whisper in the man’s ear, but the patrolman backs away. Weldon nods toward Tess. “You see, officer, sir, my little girl, she had a bad experience back home with a bad man who just happened to wear a uniform same color as yours. No offense, and I have tried to explain to her about how they ain’t nuthin to fear from you folks, but she just goes to screamin’ when she sees one of you.”
The patrolman glances toward Tess, who is gazing out the side window, about to nod off again.
Weldon tries again. “Pore little thing. Lost her mama and all.”
Burl glances at the patrolman, who appears to be buying Weldon’s line of bullshit. He is not happy with Weldon using the little girl this way. He whispers to Clayton. “Lost her mama after she left his sorry ass.”
The patrolman tickets Weldon for expired trailer tags and leaves without looking inside the truck. When Burl judges they have come about two hundred miles, he is riled. “Wait just a damn minute. When we gonna get to them pigs? Already be past dark before we get back if we stopped and turned around right now.”
Weldon takes his eyes off the road and turns again. “See, Burl, this feller I know works for TXU told me about this feller has hogs down around these coal mines.”
“Coal mines? Well, I’ll be damned. You told me we was goin’ just the other side of Emory. Now how much farther is it?”
Weldon cricks his neck enough to glance back at the road. “Well, he said the man lives right around these coal mines in a big house with three garages. Said they would hold two cars apiece.”
Burl leans over the front seat and glances at Tess, still asleep. “Weldon, you better get to tellin’ me where the hell we goin’ or turn this sumbitch around and head home. I told Lillie I’d be home around dark.”
“Man’s got three garages. How hard could he be to find?”
Burl hangs his head. “You don’t know his damn name or where he lives, do you.”
Several stops for directions later and well past dark, they find the huge house with three double garages set well back into the woods. Clayton whistles under his breath. “What the hell is a man owns a house like that doin’ with hogs?”
Weldon feels vindicated. “Traps ‘em cause they come up in his yard at night and make a mess.”
They stare at the garages until Burl loses patience. “Dammit, Weldon. You gonna get out or not? Let’s get the damn hogs and get on home.”
Weldon has one foot on the driveway when one garage door rolls halfway up. Two rottweilers emerge from the open door and stare at Weldon as if he is supper arriving late. Weldon steps back into the truck and rolls the window half down.
Burl rudely pushes the back of Weldon’s head with the heel of his hand. “Go on ahead and get out. I don’t think they gonna bite.” Clayton laughs. Burl feels trapped because he can’t get out of the back seat without waking Tess.
Finally, a man appears with twin leashes for the dogs and lets them lead him out of the garage.
Weldon sticks his head out the window but won’t step out of the pickup. “We lookin’ for a man with hogs for sale.”
The man nods and points. “That would be my caretaker. He traps them. Lives about a half mile on down this road.”
Burl grits his teeth. “Thought you said the man we lookin’ for lived in this big house.”
Weldon backs out of the driveway and points the pickup down the road in the direction of the pointed finger. “Coulda sworn that was what the man said.”
Fifteen minutes later, they are inside a fenced area and backing Weldon’s stock trailer up to another trailer with pens full of hogs. The overalled owner has twelve hogs and wants to keep the two that have what he calls a pure feral look. “I’m willin’ to part with ten.”
Weldon opens the gate to his trailer. “Them’s awful little hogs. How we gonna load ‘em?”
“Easy. I’ll just reach in the pen and grab ‘em by the legs one at a time and hand ‘em over to you. You throw ‘em toward the front of your trailer. One of you other fellers can get in the trailer and work the middle gate.”
Clayton, woozy now, agrees to act like another back gate and stand guard in case one slips away. He and the open trailer gate make a narrow hall for the hogs to be handed through. As Burl eases into the trailer, the lights reflect enough to show that Weldon has gone white.
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