I remember, as a small boy in knee britches, going with my father to hear an address given by the Honorable Stephen Pace, then congressman from the old Georgia 12th District. It was on the banks of the Ocmulgee River. There was a barbecue, and citizens, especially farmers, from all the counties gathered. This was before the first World War.
It seemed that someone in the Congress had introduced a bill that would give the farmers some money provided they did something. The congressman vigorously opposed it. I have no idea what it was, because I was watching a “dirt dobber” making a ball of mud. The congressman snapped me back to attention, however, when he said, “I’m going to tell you a true story about the wild hogs that once lived about forty miles down the river.”
“Years ago,” the congressman said, “in a great horseshoe bend down the river, there lived a drove of wild hogs. Where they came from no one knew, but they survived floods, fires, freezes, droughts, and hunters. The greatest compliment a man could pay to a dog was to say that he had fought the hogs in Horseshoe Bend and returned alive. Occasionally a pig was killed wither by dogs or a gun — a conversation piece for years to come.
“Finally a one-gallused man came by the country store on the river road and asked the whereabouts of these wild hogs. He drove a one-horse wagon, had an ax, some quilts, a lantern, some corn, and a single barrel shotgun. He was a slender, slow-moving, patient man — he chewed his tobacco deliberately and spat very seldom.
“Several months later he came back to the same store and asked for help to bring out the wild hogs. He stated that he had them all in a pen over in the swamp.
“Bewildered farmers, dubious hunters, and storekeepers all gathered in the heart of Horseshoe Bend to view the captive hogs.
“‘It was all very simple,’ said the one-gallused man. ‘First I put out some corn. For three weeks they would not eat it. Then some of the young ones grabbed an ear and ran off into the thicket. Soon they were all eating it; then I commenced building a pen around the corn, a little higher each day. When I noticed that they were all waiting for me to bring the corn and had stopped grubbing for acorns and roots, I built the trap door. Naturally,’ said the patient man, ‘they raised quite a ruckus when they seen they was trapped, but I can pen any animal on the face of the earth if I can jist get him to depend on me for a free handout.’”
We have had patient men in our central government in Washington for years. They are using our own dollars instead of corn. I still think about the trap door and the slender, stooped man who chewed his tobacco deliberately, when he spat and turned to the gathered citizens many years ago and said, “I can pen any animal on the face of the earth if I can jist get him to depend on me for a free handout.”
This essay originally appeared in the Fulton County Medical Society‘s November 1961 bulletin. Reprinted by permission from the March 1962 issue of The Freeman, published by The Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York 10533.