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Sport and Work on the Nepaul Frontier
Chapter X


Kuderent jungle—Charged by a pig—The biter bit—"Mac" after the big boar—The horse for pig-sticking—The line of beaters—The boar breaks—"Away! Away!"—First spear—Pig-sticking at Teeprah— The old "lungra" or cripple—A boar at bay— Hurrah for pigsticking!

THeRe was a very fine pig jungle at a place called Kuderent, belonging to a wealthy landowner who went by the name of the Mudhobunny Baboo. We occasionally had a pig-sticking meet here, and as the jungle was strictly preserved, we were never disappointed in finding plenty who gave us glorious sport. The jungles consisted of great grass plains, with thickly-wooded patches of dense tree jungle, intersected here and there by deep ravines, with stagnant pools of water at intervals; the steep sides all thickly clothed with thorny clusters of the wild dog-rose. It was a difficult country to beat, and we had always to supplement the usual gang of beaters with as many elephants as we could collect. In the centre of the jungle was an eminence of considerable height, whence there was a magnificent view of the surrounding country.

Far in the distance the giant Himalayas towered into the still clear air, the guardian barriers of an unknown land. The fretted pinnacles and tremendous ridges, clothed in their pure white mantle of everlasting snow, made a magnificent contrast to the dark, misty, wooded masses formed by the lower ranges of hills. In the early morning, when the first beams of the rising sun had but touched the mountain tops, leaving the country below shrouded in the dim mists and vapours of retiring night, the sight was most sublime. In presence of such hills and distances, such wondrous-combinations of colour, scenery on such a gigantic scale, even the most thoughtless become impressed with the majesty of nature.

Our camp was pitched on the banks of a clear running mountain stream, brawling over rocks and boulders; and to eyes so long accustomed to the never-ending flatness of the rich alluvial plains, and the terrible sameness of the rice swamps, the stream w>as a source of unalloyed pleasure. There were only a few places where the abrupt hanks gave facilities for fording, and when a pig had broken fairly from the jungle, and was making for the river (as they very frequently did), you would see the cluster of horsemen scattering over the plain like a covey of partridges when the hawk swoops down upon them. Each made for what he considered the most eligible ford, in hopes of being first up with the pig on the further bank, and securing the much coveted first spear.

When a pig is hard pressed, and comes to any natural obstacle, as a ditch, bank, or stream, he almost invariably gets this obstacle between himself and his pursuer; then wheeling round he makes his stand, showing wonderful sagacity in choosing the moment of all others when he has his enemy at most disadvantage. Experienced hands are aware of this, and often try to outflank the boar, but the best men I have seen generally wait a little, till the pig is again under weigh, and then clearing the ditch or bank, put their horses at full speed, which is the best way to make good your attack. The rush of the boar is so sudden, fierce, and determined, that a horse at half speed, or going slow, has no chance of escape; but a well-trained horse at full speed meets the pig in his rush, the spear is delivered with unerring aim, and slightly swerving to the left, you draw it out as you continue your course, and the poor pig is left weltering in his blood behind you.

On one occasion I was very rudely made aware of this trait. It was a fine fleet young hoar we were after, and we had had a long chase, hut were now overhauling him fast. I had a good horse under me, and "Jamie" and "Giblets" were riding nock and neck. There was a small mango orchard in front surrounded by the usual ditch and bank. It was nothing of a leap; the boar took it with ease, and we could just see him top the bank not twenty spear lengths ahead. I was slightly leading, and full of eager anxiety and emulation. Jamie called on me to pull up, but I was too excited to mind him. I saw him and Giblets each take an outward wheel about, and gallop off to catch the boar coming out of the cluster of trees on the far side, as I thought. I could not see 1dm, but I made no doubt he was in full flight through the trees. There was plenty of riding room between the rows, so lifting my game little horse at the bank, I felt my heart bound with emulation as I thought I was certain to come tip first, and take the spear from two such noted heroes as my companions. I came, up with the pig first, sure enough. He was waiting for me, and scarce giving my horse-time to recover his stride after the jump, he rushed at me, every bristle erect, with a vicious grunt of spite and rage. My spear was useless, I had it crosswise on my horse's neck; I intended to attack first, and finding my enemy turning the tables on me in this way was rather disconcerting. I tried to turn aside and avoid the charge, but- a branch caught me across the face, and knocked my puggree off. In a trice the savage little brute, was on me. Leaping up fairly from the ground, he got the heel of my riling boot in his mouth, pad tore off the sole from the boot as if it had been so much paper. Jamie and Giblets were sitting outside watching the scene, laughing at my discomfiture. Fortunately the- boar had poor tusks, and my fine little horse was unhurt, but I got out of that orchard as fast as I could, and ever after hesitated about attacking a boar when he had got a bank or ditch between him and me, and was waiting for me on the other side. The far better plan is to wait till he sees you are not pressing him, he then goes off at a surly sling trot, ami you can resume the chase with every advantage in your favour. When the blood however is fairly up, ami all one's sporting instincts roused, it is hard to listen to the dictates of prudence or the suggestions of caution and experience.

The very same day we had another instance. My manager, "Young Mac," as we called him, had started a huge old boar. He was just over the boar, and about to deliver his thrust, when his horse stumbled in a rat hole (it was very rotten ground), and came floundering to earth, bringing his rider with him. Nothing daunted, Mac picked himself up, lost the horse, but so eager and excited was he, that he continued the chase on foot, calling to some of us to catch his horse while he stuck his boar. The old boar was quite blown, and took in the altered aspect of affairs at a glance; he turned to charge, and we loudly called on Mac to "clear out." Not a bit of it, he was too excited to realise his danger, but Pat fortunately interposed his horse and spear in time, and no doubt saved poor Mac from a gruesome mauling. It was very plucky, but it was very foolish, for heavily weighted with boots, breeches, spurs, and spear, a man could have no chance against the savage onset of an infuriated boar.

In the long thick grass with which the plain was covered the riding was very dangerous. I remember seeing six riders come signally to grief over a blind ditch in this jungle. It adds not a little to the excitement, and really serious accidents are not so common as might be imagined. It is no joke, however, when a riderless horse, intent on war, comes ranging up alongside of you as you are sailing along; biting and kicking at your own horse, he spoils your sport, throws you out of the chase, and you are lucky if you do not receive some ugly cut or bruise from bis too active heels. There is the great beauty of a well-trained Arab or country-bred; if you get a spill, he waits beside you till you recover your faculties, and get your bellows again in working order; if you are riding a Cabool, or even a waler, it is even betting that he turns to bite or kick you as you lie, or he rattles off in pursuit of your more firmly-seated friends, spoiling their sport, and causing the most fearful explosions of vituperative wrath.

There is something to me intensely exciting in all the varied incidents of a rattling burst across country after a fighting old grey boar. You see the long waving line of staves and spear heads, and Quaint-shaped axes, glittering and fluctuating above the feathery tops of the swaying grass. There is an irregular line of stately elephants, each with its towering howdah and dusky mahout, moving slowly along through the rustling reeds. You hear the slurp report of fireworks, the rattling thunder of the big doobla or drum, and the ear-splitting clatter of innumerable tom-toms. Shouts, oaths, and cries from a hundred noisy coolies, come floating down in bursts of clamour on the soft morning air. The din waxes and wanes as the excited beaters descry a "sounder" of pig ahead; with a mighty roar that makes your blood tingle, the frantic coolies rally for the final burst. Like rockets from a tube, the boar and his progeny come crashing through the brake, and separate before you on the plain. With a wild cheer you dash after them in hot pursuit; no time now to think of pitfalls, banks, or ditches; your gallant steed strains his every muscle, every sense is on the alert, but you see not the bush and brake and tangled thicket that you leave behind you. Your eye is on the dusky glistening hide and the stiff erect bristles in front; the shining tusks and foam-flecked chest are your goal, and the wild excitement- culminates as you feel your keen steel go straight through muscle, bone, and sinew, and you know that another grisly monster has fallen. As you ease your girths and "wipe your heated brow, you feel that few pleasures of the chase come up to the noblest, most thrilling sport of all, that of pig-sticking.

The plain is alive with shouting beaters hurrying up to secure the gory carcase of the slaughtered foe. A riderless horse is far away, making off alone for the distant grove, where the snowy tents are glistening through the foliage. On the distant horizon a small cluster of eager sportsmen are fast overhauling another luckless tusker, and enjoying in all their fierce excitement the same sensations you have just experienced. Now is the time to enjoy the soothing weed, and quaff the grateful "peg"; and as the syces and other servants come up in groups of twos and threes, you listen with languid delight to all their remarks on the incidents of the chase; and as, with their acute Oriental imaginations they dilate in terms of truly Eastern exaggeration on your wonderful pluck and daring, you almost fancy yourself really the hero they would make you out to be.

Then the reunion round the festive board at night, when every one again lives through all the excitement of the day. Talk of fox-hunting after pig-sticking, it is like comparing a penny candle to a lighthouse, or a donkey race to the Grand National!

Peeprah Factory with its many patches of jungle, its various lakes and line undulating country, was another favourite rendezvous for the votaries of pig-sticking. The house itself was quite, palatial, built on the bank of a lovely horseshoe lake, and embosomed in a grove of trees of great rarity and beautiful foliage. It had been built long before the days of overland routes and Suez canals, when a planter made India his home, and spared no trouble nor expense to make his home comfortable. In the great garden were fruit trees from almost every clime,; little channels of solid masonry led water from the well to fill parts of the garden. Leading down to the lake was a broad flight of steps, guarded on the one side by an immense peepul tree, whose hollow trunk and wide stretching canopy of foliage had braved the storms of over half a century, on the other side by a most symmetrical almond-tree, which, when in blossom, w as the most beautiful object for miles around. A well-kept shrubbery surrounded the house, and tall casuarinas, and glossy dark green india-rubber and bhur-trees, formed a thousand combinations of shade and colour. Here we often met to experience the warm, large-hearted hospitality of dear old Pat and his gentle little wife. At one time there was a pack of harriers, which would lead us a fine sharp burst by the thickets near the river after a doubling hare ; but as a ride a meet at Peeprah portended death to the gallant tusker, for the jungles were full of pigs, and only honest hard work was meant when the Peeprah beaters turned out.

The whole country was covered with patches of grass and thorny jungle. Knowing they had another friendly cover close by, the pigs always broke at the first beat, and the riding had to be fast and furious if a spear was to be won. There were some nasty drop jumps, and deep, hidden ditches and accidents are frequent. In one of these hot, sharp gallops poor "Bonnie Morn," a favourite horse belonging to " Jamie," was killed. Xot seeing the ditch, it came with tremendous force against the bank, and of course its back was broken. Even in its death throes it recognised its master's voice, and turned round and licked his hand. We were all collected round, and let who will sneer, there were few dry eyes as we saw this last mute tribute of affection from the poor dying animal.

THE DEATH UP "BONNIE MORN."

Alas, my "Brave Bonnie!" the pride of my heart,
The moment has come when from thee I must part;
No mere wilt thou hark to the huntsman's glad horn,
My brave little Arab, my poor "Bonnie Morn."

How proudly you bore me at bright break of day,
How gallantly "led," when the boar broke away!
But no more, alas ! thou the hunt shalt adorn,
For now thou art dying, my dear "Bonnie Morn."

He'd neigh with delight when I'd enter his stall,
And canter up gladly on hearing my call;
Rub his head on my shoulder while munching his corn,
My dear gentle Arab, my poor "Bonnie Morn."

Or out in the grass, when a pig was in view,
None so eager to start, when he heard a "halloo";
Off, off like a flash, the ground spurning with scorn,
He aye led the van, did my brave "Bonnie Morn."

O'er nullah and ditch, o'er hedge, fence, or bank,
No matter,
 he'd clear it, aye in the front rank;
A brave little hunter as ever was born
Was my grand Arab fav'rite, my good "Bonnie Morn."

Or when in the "ranks," who so steady and still?
None better than "Bonnie," more "up" in his drill;
His fine head erect—eyes flashing with scorn—
Bight fit for a charger was staunch "Bonnie Morn."

And then on the "Course," who so willing and true?
Past the "stand" like an arrow the bonnie horse flew;
No spur his good rider need ever have worn,
For he aye did his best, did my fleet "Bonnie Mom."

And now here he lies, the good little horse,
No more he'll career in the hunt or on "course":
Such a charger to lose makes me sad and forlorn;
I
 can't help a tear, 'tis for poor "Bonnie Morn."

Ah! blame not my grief, for 'tis deep and sincere,
As a friend and companion I held "Bonnie" dear;
No true sportsman ever such feelings will scorn
As I heave a deep sigh for my brave "Bonnie Morn."

And even in death, when in anguish he lay,
When his life's blood was drip—-dripping—slowly away,
His last thought was still of the master he'd borne;
He neighed, licked my hand—and thus died "Bonnie Morn."

One tremendous old boar was killed here during one of our meets, which was long celebrated in our after-dinner talks on boars and hunting. It was called "the lungRa," which means the cripple, because it had been wounded in the leg in some previous encounter, perhaps in its hot youth, before age hail stiffened its joints and tinged its whiskers with grey. It was the most undaunted pig I have ever seen. It would not budge an inch for the beaters, and charged the elephants time after time, ousting them repeatedly from the jungle. At length its patience becoming exhausted, it slowly emerged from the jungle, coolly surveyed the scene and its surroundings, and then, disdaining flight, charged straight at the nearest horseman. Its hide was as tough as a Highland targe, and though L. delivered his spear, the weapon turned aside as if it was merely a thrust from a wooden pole. The old lungia made good his charge, and ripped L.'s horse on the shoulder. It next charged Pat, and ripped his horse, and cut another horse, a valuable black waler, across the knee, laming it for life. Eider after rider charged down upon the fierce old brute. Although repeatedly wounded none of the thrusts were very serious, and already it had put five horses hors de combat. It now took up a position under a big "bliur" tree, close to some water, and while the boldest of us held back fur a little, it took a deliberate mud bath under our very noses. Doubtless feeling much refreshed, it again took up its position under the tree, ready to face each fresh assailant, full of fight, and determined to die but not to yield an inch.

Time after time we rode at the dauntless cripple. Each time he charged right down, and our spears made little mark upon his toughened hide. Our horses too were getting tired of such a customer, and little inclined to face his charge. At length "Jamie" delivered a lucky spear and the grey old warrior fell. It had kept us at bay for fully an hour and a half, and among our number we reckoned some uf the best riders and boldest pig-stickers in the district.

Such w as our sport in those good old days. Our meets came but seldom, so that sport never interfered with the interests of honest hard work; but meeting each other as we did, and engaging in exciting sport like pig-sticking, cemented our friendship, kept us in health, and encouraged all the hardy tendencies of our nature. It whetted our appetites, it roused all those robust virtues that have made Englishmen the men they are, it sent us back to work with lighter hearts and renewed energy. It built up many happy, cherished memories of kindly words ami looks and deeds, that w ill only fade when we in turn have to bow before the hunter, and render up our spirits to God who gave them. Long live honest, hearty, true sportsmen, such as were the friends of those happy days. Long may Indian sportsmen find plenty of "foemen worthy of their steel" in the old grey boar, the fighting tusker of Bengal.


PIG-STICKERS


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