A Tale of Two Boars – Part Two
An Ungulate with a Foot Fetish
By Dave Fox
Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Borneo, Malaysia
[For the first installment in this action-packed, two-part series, please see “A Pig with a Snout Two Sizes Too Long.”]
It’s 4:45 a.m. and there’s a tapping at our cabin door. Kattina rolls out of bed and creeps to the window.
Our guide, Esrael, has warned us the macaques are fearless when it comes to poking around the lodge. “Do not leave anything outside,” he said the previous afternoon when we arrived. “They will steal it.”
The monkeys freak me out. I usually keep my distance. But if there’s a window and a locked door between us, seeing one a couple of feet from my nose might be cool.
So I’m about to get up and check out the commotion, but before I can roll over, Kattina gasps and starts pounding on the window.
“What are you doing?” I yawn.
“It’s a bearded pig!” she says. “And he’s stealing your shoes!”
My brand new hiking shoes? The shoes I just bought a week ago? The shoes I loved so much, I sacrificed an expensive camera in an effort to keep them dry?
“But I brought them in last night!” I insist.
“Well he has a shoe in his mouth. And mine are still on the porch.”
“Esrael told you not to leave them outside,” Kattina continues.
She’s right. While I had every intention of bringing my shoes in, the truth is I am easily distracted. I’ve been living in Asia for two years, so leaving my shoes outside has become habit. I was exhausted when I went to bed. A momentary interruption from my thoughts is all it would have taken for me to forget our guide’s caveat.
“He’s running away,” Kattina adds as if she’s doing a play-by-play sportscast.
“Are you kidding?”
This means war. I am not letting a boar with a goatee steal my shoes. He can steal my food. He can steal my dignity. But he’s not getting my shiny new Gore-Tex footwear.
I do not know how I will confront this beast. Borneo’s bearded pigs are big. They can grow to nearly double my weight. I don’t want any violence. All I want is for the porker to drop my hiking shoes – which are neither delicious nor ergonomically healthy for his needs. But I know better than to be all naïve and peace-loving. Retrieving my property might require more coaxing than a simple, “Please, Mr. Bearded Pig, sir, could you please put down my shoes?”
I am not experienced in hand-to-hoof combat. I need a weapon. Something to throw. A flip-flop will do. It might have a boomerang effect.
With adrenaline surging, I turn on the light. I look around the room for my battle tool.
Which is when I spot… my hiking shoes. They are next to the bathroom door, where I left them.
“He’s gone now,” she says. “It’s too late.”
“Kattina, my shoes are right there.”
The bearded pig, she later concedes, must have stolen someone else’s shoes. It looked like my shoe in its mouth, but it was hard to see. Also, she says, it might not have been a bearded pig. It looked a bit like a dog. Maybe it was a civet.
“You can’t tell the difference between a wild boar and a civet?”
“It was dark out.”
“Maybe it was a macaque,” I say. “They walk like dogs sometimes.”
“It wasn’t a macaque. I saw it.”
“You also saw my shoe in its mouth.”
Crisis resolved, I return to bed. I’m still riled up so it takes me a while to fall back to sleep, but when I do, my head fills with delicious dreams – of bacon, and of offering my wife’s shoes to the first wild animal that asks for them.