Dusk crept across the valley as I sat on the stone bench overlooking the old meandering farm road below. Suddenly, I heard a snort somewhere to my left and immediately became motionless, listening intently. Then I heard multiple snorts and munching sounds to my right, coming from the nearby brush just beyond the road. Glancing back to the left, the first snorters came into view! There were 4 full grown cinghiali, wild boars standing in the middle of the grassy road. Although I could hardly pick one of those porkers up, I would guess they weigh somewhere between 300-400 pounds each, and that’s a lot-o’-good-eatin’ for someone so inclined. A tusky-face looked up toward me and I froze, hardly breathing, trying not to give my position away since they are incredibly astute. It occurred to me that I was nearly surrounded by a ring of what could have been a dozen or more of those gnarly giants. It’s not unusual to see families of 8 or so, roaming around together in the early evening. That’s their favorite time to head out for apertivi, appetizers before the first evening meal—oddly enough, just about the same schedule as the Italians observe.
When the curious boar looked back down to his farm road dining room, I stealthily stole away, running on tiptoe to the house. Through the glass door, I motioned for Cheryl to hurry, and she instinctively knew what was up. When either of us displays that familiar wide-eyed expression with the frantic “hurry-up” wave, we know there’s been a sighting. We aren’t really sure why the boars fascinate us so much, but we’ve always enjoyed the risky drama of possible encounters on our evening meadow-walks. Last night, however, was an easy one since they came to see us for a change.
We both made it back to command central (the stone bench) as they were still in the same place rooting around and generally ripping things up. It would be nice if they learned how to pick-up after themselves—like carefully pushing the sod back into position after they’ve stolen the goodies. But no, they aren’t particularly well mannered creatures. And then, in true form, without putting their toys away, they followed their constantly sniffing noses off into the adjacent bushes. We quietly circled around to where they were headed. As we stood at our new promontory, peering over the edge of the hill, we could hear at least two of them still within range—very, very close indeed!
Moving through the tall grass, we could see their rounded forms inching closer as they scrounged more grubs, roots, and nuts. When they got within about 20 feet, we started whispering get-away-plans to each other, should things turn ugly. We could face a stand-off, or worse yet, a charging run. It was then that we realized our game of “let’s find the cinghiali” had lost some of its intrigue and frivolity. It seems our evening fun had turned into some pretty serious business.
The wild boar have a great sense of smell to search out yummy things just under the ground, so within seconds, the pig closest to us picked up the scent of a couple humans. They probably thought we were hunters (without guns), so they high-curly-tailed it down the hill into the adjacent woods. Not being ones to give up easily, we followed them to their new stop, about a hundred yards away. We could still hear them in the tall grass, just as close as before. But by then darkness was settling in, so we never spotted them again.
Walking back to the house as the full moon rose, lighting our way, we chuckled about the many close-calls we’ve had over the years—some laughable, some not quite so funny. There’s nothing like a herd of wild boars in the dusky evening shadows, under the eerie glow of a full moon, to fire the imagination. The mood inspired us to momentarily slip several millenia back in time, becoming two Etruschi, Etruscans out on an evening hunt—returning to the village with new stories to tell around the fire.
In honor of our adventure, we lit a fire in the old stone fireplace and sat there, talking for hours about the thrill of living close to nature—close to our own nature.