• Paul Keil

POOR MAN'S PORK

A poem about pig hunting and wild pigs as the "poor man's pork"




A poem about a man remembering his younger years in the rural areas of northwestern NSW, when they used to chase pigs with dogs to kill and eat the pig. There are some lovely lines describing where you might find pigs “Near bore-drain and slimy tank” and how they defended themselves “Shielding their rear with a stump or fence” as well as the chase and eventual sticking of the pig. But the poem is all about how wild pig’s harvested were “the poor man’s pork”

The hunter who shared this poem with me - as supported by the author note - explained that wild pigs historically were not necessarily seen as dirty or diseased. Instead, they were a valued resource among a certain socio-economic class. The hunter went on to argue that with the rise of intensified and scientifically controlled domestic pig farming from the 50’s onwards, there is a shift in how wild pigs are characterised. EM Pullar, for example, published some of the first scientific work on wild pigs in Australia in 1950, and it was about the disease they carry (see here). And much of the modernised pig farming emerged after massive outbreaks of classical swine fever in the fifties. Of course, wild pigs can carry disease but its prevalence its overstated, and Australia does distribute wild boar meat, just mostly overseas.


"THE POOR MAN'S PORK" by KEITH GARVEY


(Our enlightened bureaucracy claims that to eat the flesh of wild pigs is a dangerous health hazard) – Author’s note

Out on the blacksoil south of Bree

And westward of Moree town

Where the plains are a vast eternity

And Quinyan sleeps in his hollow tree

And the sags in the drought turn brown

Where the big red ‘roo and his fleet blue mate

Are heedless of ramp and baulk,

Where the brolga dances his reels sedate

And the old bush sinners their yarns relate,

There is the poor man’s pork.

Deep in the lingum cool they bide

And the sags and the rushes rank.

The big wild grunters are well supplied

By Nature’s hand with a place to hide

Near bore-drain and slimy tank.

And well I remember the days gone by

When many a mile we’d walk,

Through winter winds or ‘neath a summer sky

In hopes of winning a choice supply

Of succulent poor man’s pork.

Savage old boars with tusks immense

And fight in each bristling hackle,

Chopping the air with rage intense

Shielding their rear with a stump or fence

As the pig-dogs went at the tackle

And when from the drain he sows we flushed

We didn’t have time to talk,

As after the suckers fat we rushed

And under our feet the sags were crushed

In pursuit of the poor man’s pork.

Sharp were the knives in our fingers skilled

Loud the squeals at the sticking,

Hot the fire where the chops were grilled,

As we sat contented with bellies filled

The grease from our fingers licking.

Youthful and happy of heart indeed,

We’d load in the shade and talk

Again reliving each daring deed

While the hungry dogs ate a grisly feed

Of blood-spattered poor man’s pork.

Then tired and weary we’d homeward roll

When the mantle of night was falling,

Shouldering a grunter tied on a pole

While the curlew wailed like a long-lost sould

And the mopoke’s croak was calling.

And now I’m grizzled and old and grey

But at darn when the magpies squawk,

I dream I am tramping the bushland gay

With the youthful strength of a happier day,

On a hunt for the poor man’s pork.