Read The Boar Online

Authors: Joe R. Lansdale

The Boar

BOOK: The Boar
The Boar
Joe R. Lansdale
Night Shade Books (2005)
Fiction, General, Historical, Westerns, Comics & Graphic Novels, Depressions, Texas, Fiction & Literature, Wild Boar, Texas; East, Dangerous Animals, 1929-
From Publishers Weekly

Best known for his celebrated mysteries featuring Hap Collins and Leonard Pine (The Two-Bear Mambo, Bad Chili), Lansdale wrote this shopworn coming-of-age tale in 1983 when he was still sunk in obscurity. His introduction explains that he set out to produce a YA novel like those by Gary Paulsen and Robert Cormier because, to his mind, their work was "closer to literary novels than those written for adults." Set in 1933 during the early Depression, with whispers of Mark Twain and an echo of Faulkner's The Bear, this yarn recounts the bravado of 15-year-old East Texas farm boy Richard Dale, who battles with "old Satan," a wild boar of mythic proportions. After his father goes off to earn money as a carnival wrestler, Richard must protect his pregnant mother and younger brother. When the monstrous boar kills the family's dogs and bursts through the farmhouse door, his mother goes into early labor, and the boy resolutely hitches up the wagon to take her and his younger brother to a doctor in the nearest town. Returning home undaunted to face the unearthly creature, Richard enlists the aid of his best friend, Abraham, an African American boy who dreams of returning to his African heritage as a great warrior. While Lansdale's sentimental attachment to his early work is understandable, it gives little indication of the gift for telling disturbing and outrageously funny tales that would later bring him acclaim. This "deluxe'" edition contains illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Boar
Joe R. Lansdale





I’ve always liked coming of age stories, and have written several. Some of them were for adults, a few, like this one, were designed, at least on the surface, to be for younger readers. But the theme is the same, and the way I write is the same, so I like to think this novel is for anyone willing to read it, adult, or young adult.

I became passionate about young adult fiction in the eighties, and because of that, I wrote this. For a while it was called
Get Back, Satan
, Satan being the wild boar in the novel, but that title didn’t stick, and the publisher who planned to publish it under that title didn’t publish it at all. That’s a long story and this isn’t the place for it.

I turned around several years later, intending to revise the novel, reread it, and found I liked it as it was. It was published under the current title, and published again some years later by another publisher, and like most of my work, published overseas. There is currently interest in it for a film and I co-wrote the screenplay.

I think of it as a novel of the thirties more than I think of it as a Young Adult novel. Frankly, all those categories just make me tired. A book is a book is a book. It either works for you or it doesn’t.

I didn’t grow up in the Great Depression, but my father and mother did, being somewhat older than most parents when I was born. They told me about the Great Depression, as did my grandmother on my mother’s side, my uncles, and people that my parents knew from that time. My brother, who is almost seventeen years older than me, was born during that era.

Due to my parent’s experiences we saved string, rubber bands, were fanatic about not wasting food, clothing, or anything, for that matter. This was all a holdover from the Great Depression, and from my view, good common sense.

Anyway, I knew about this era almost as if I had been there. I did do some research, but so little was necessary. The Great Depression was in my DNA. I had always wanted to write about it, and this was my first crack at it. Later I wrote
The Bottoms
Sunset and Sawdust
, and
All the Earth Thrown to the Sky
, another novel marketed as Young Adult, and I am currently working on another title that takes place during this era,
The Edge of Dark Water

All that matter is this: is it a good book.

I think it is. I’m prejudiced about that, I’m sure. But it seems to be a book that continues to garner positive attention from readers, year after year.

So, what I offer you is that book. The decision as to its worth is yours.

As a side note, I should mention that some of the characters in this novel appear briefly in my better-known novel,
The Bottoms
. I liked them and couldn’t let them go, so they have a brief moment on stage in that novel.

Happy reading.

Part One

This happened in the summer of 1933 in the Sabine River Bottoms of East Texas. Those that still remember call it the year of The Devil Boar.

It was also the year that Richard Harold Dale became a man at the not-so-ripe-age of fifteen.

I know, because I probably recall that year and The Devil Boar better than anyone else. I should. I’m Richard Harold Dale, and I still bear the scars.

Times were hard then. Real hard. The Depression was going on, and there just wasn’t much of a way to make a living.

I suppose, in many respects, us country- and river-bottom folk had it better than the city slickers. We’d always been poor, so when times got bad we didn’t notice quite as much as those who’d had steady jobs and lost them. Our family pretty well lived off the land, and always had, raising all we ate and selling the extra.

The extra was our main problem in the thirties. You couldn’t get much for it. People just didn’t have the money anymore.

Course, ‘33 wasn’t all that good a year for our crops either. What the heat didn’t kill, the insects ate. It was like all kinds of bugs from everywhere in the world had been passed the word that there was a free lunch being served in our fields and they ought to come on down, bring a friend and sit a spell, take in as much as they could eat.

And they did. They ate and ate and ate.

What was left was just enough to get by on, and if it was too tough for the heat to kill, and too untasty for the bugs to eat, you can bet we weren’t all that thrilled with it either. But it beat an empty belly.

For our meat supply we depended on hunting and fishing. The woods brought us squirrels, coons, rabbits, and possums. The Sabine supplied us with perch, bass, catfish, crawfish, and an occasional turtle. In other words if it could be eaten, we ate it.

In the past we’d raised a hog or two, but not that year. There just wasn’t enough extra to go around for feeding a pig. Stuff we might have thrown out for it to eat the year before we were eating and had pretty well convinced ourselves it was mighty good.

Just putting food on the table from meal to meal kept the entire family—which was Mama, and she was pregnant, Papa, Ike, my little brother, and me—hopping like toad frogs. It was that way for near everybody. In fact there was an old joke that went something like this: Fellow looks out the window and says, “Ma, times must be getting better.” And the lady asks, “Oh, why’s that, Pa?” And the fellow says back, “There ain’t but one man out there chasing a rabbit this morning.”

To tell the truth, I don’t remember those days as bad times. Busy maybe, but not bad. I was young and had the entire river bottoms of East Texas at my fingertips. I didn’t just read about adventures like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had, I lived them. Our house isn’t there anymore, but in those days it was deep in the woods at the end of a narrow, rutted, clay road about half a mile from a shallow spot in the river. If anyone came down that road, they were either coming to see us, or they were going to stop at our place to ask permission to leave their car or wagon and do some fishing. Papa always told them they could. And as he used to say, “The river ain’t ours to give permission about. The water you put a claim on today will have gone on down to Louisiana tomorrow.”

Since anyone coming down that road was going to have to stop and see us, we always got excited when we heard a car or wagon coming. Living where we did, we didn’t always make it to town regularly, and since we didn’t own a radio then, anyone that might be bearing gossip and news was always welcome.

In fact, thinking back on that year of 1933, the first thing I really remember about it was Doc Travis and his noisy Model B Ford.

Something he brought me that day, and the news he told us, changed my life forever.


Papa, Ike, and me were outside, chopping wood. Papa was cutting some of the bigger logs into lengths, and I was using a hatchet to cut some of the smaller stuff into kindling. Ike was gathering up what we cut and stacking it in separate piles.

Ike was ten years going on thirty. Most of the time he seemed near grown. He was spunky as the dickens and as determined as a billy goat. Some of the logs Papa split were near big as Ike, even with them halved, but Ike would wrestle them into place like they were enemies that had to be whipped, or he’d die trying.

Mama used to say Ike was born to consider, and I reckon he was. He seldom said anything unless he had something to say.

Me, I’d blabber all day long about next to nothing. Every now and then when I got going, Papa would look over at me and say, “Take a break, boy.”

That would shut me up for a while, but pretty soon I’d be at it again, popping my lips together faster than a hummingbird could beat its wings. I loved talking better than anything, except reading. We didn’t own many books. The Bible,
Moby Dick
by Herman Melville,
The Call of the Wild
by Jack London, and a book of his short stories,
The Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Complete Works of Kipling, Huckleberry Finn
Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain, and my all time favorite,
A Princess of Mars
by Edgar Rice Burroughs. (It used to drive me wild that someone would give their son the middle name Rice. I wondered if he had brothers and sisters with the middle names Oats, Wheat, Corn, and Barley.) There was also a book on flower gardening.

I had read each of those books—including the one on flower gardening—at least half a dozen times. And that was another reason I liked seeing Doc Travis. He often brought me a magazine or two. Usually
The Saturday Evening Post
but whatever it was, by the time I got through reading and rereading it, the pages had been turned so often they were as soft as tissue paper. Guess that was the reason they usually ended up in the outhouse.

15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Long Division by Taylor Leigh
Betrayal by Will Jordan
Christmas at Twilight by Lori Wilde
Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin