- 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.