Importing Pigs to Paradise
"...And the grizzlies Extinct, a wealthy amateur up the Carmel Valley brought in wild pigs From the Urals to stock his hunting-park: they overswarmed it and broke his borders and roam the coast-range, beautiful Monsters, full of fecundity, bristled like a hedge at midnight; and the boars with long naked Knives in their jaws. They lair all day in impenetrable manzanita-thickets of the farther mountain And whet their knives at night on the farmer's apple-trees."
n his 1937 poem "Steelhead, Wild Pig, The Fungus," coast-range poet
and Ventana wanderer Robinson Jeffers touched rather accurately upon
the source and essence of the feral swine that so robustly defile the
Ventana country to this day. Corroborating Jeffers' lyric account,
below is the full text of a letter from George Gordon Moore, owner of
the Rancho San Carlos in Carmel Valley during the 1920's, to
Stuyvesant Fish whose family owned the neighboring Palo Corona Ranch
(aka Fish Ranch) from the 1920's through the mid-1990's. In his
letter, Moore offers a delightfully long-winded explication detailing
how the original wild-boar blood-lines found their way not only to the
northern Santa Lucia, but very likely to California and the continent
Thanks and appreciation are due Nikki Nedeff, who shared the following document from the Big Sur Land Trust historical files with the Double Cone Quarterly, knowing the keen interest that our readers have in the environmental impacts associated with feral pig presence in the Santa Lucia.
METALS & PETROLEUM CORPORATION
February 12, 1963
Mr. Stuyvesant Fish
Palo Corona Ranch
You would like to know where the wild boar originated that I turned loose on the Rancho San Carlos, etc.
It involves two names that you probably never heard of:
The Investment Registry, 2 Waterloo Place, London, England and Walter Winans, an American sportsman with a country place in Kent County, England. To answer your questions without these names would be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark.
Before the first world war England, not U.S. was the world's banking center. Any security with merit, from any place in the world, found a ready market in England. The Investment Registry was its largest independent institution dealing in unlisted securities. All of the stock in this company was acquired jointly by a Canadian Trust Company and myself, about three years before the first world war.
After we secured control, one of the first properties financed was about 100,000 acres of first class timber in Graham County, North Carolina in the heart of the great Smoky Mountains. It borders on Tennessee and Virginia. You may think the country on your ranch and the San Carlos in the Santa Lucia Mountains very beautiful - it is, but nowhere have I ever seen anything so beautiful as this wild section of the great Smokies - rhododendrons 40 feet high; the widest variety of foliage imaginable and views of three states from Hooper Bald Mountain, the highest peak in the center of it. I understand the government now has purchased this area for a national park.
You must remember that all I am about to tell you happened before the U.S. had any income tax laws.
My perquisite was a lease of the game rights of the property. There were still black bear and deer and the mountain men who lived there were natural hunters. I hired three of them; built cabins for them, enclosed about a thousand acres in a high woven wire fence on top of Hooper Bald Mountain; built my own log cabin with six bedrooms and baths (no doubt the first bathtubs in Graham County); built a 20 mile road from Andrews, No. Carolina, the nearest railroad to our center. The first tenants inside the fence were a dozen elk and seven buffalo of both sexes, but the piece de resistance was about 40 bear of all ages that I purchased from various zoos.
Some amusing things happened with the bears. They lost no time in escaping from the fence, but the fact that they had lived inside of buildings during their first months made them seek to return to any building shelter.
One night when I arrived at Hooper Bald, I found a guest, a young Englishman, his arm and leg bandaged from bites from a young bear that had come into the cabin when he was putting it out.
The cabins of the mountaineers in this area had no glass in their windows. Believe it or not, Stuyvie, I was actually sued because one of my young bear crawled through one of these open windows on the Tennessee border and the lady inside had a miscarriage from fright.
I mentioned Walter Winans, an American with a country place in Kent. He had two great sporting interests, trotting horses and wild boar hunting.
About this time I had a great deal of international publicity because I had just bred the winner of the Kentucky Trotting Futurity, Justice Brooke, 2:9-1/2, but more important, the colt was the first one to ever trot a mile faster than 2:10.
As the breeder of Justice Brooke, I received an invitation from Winans to spend the weekend with him. This was the first time I ever heard anything about wild boar. He had his own boar hunting forest in Belgium. He was so enthusiastic I decided to add boar to my Graham County collection. He gave me the name of his dealer in Berlin. I wrote this man for the price on three boar and nine sow, the biggest and toughest he could find anywhere. He gave me his price, I paid it. He said they were from the Ural mountains of Russia. In due time they arrived at Andrews. Within a couple of years they had taken over the mountain; wild boar always have the initiative. You can never tell whether they run away from you or run at you, all the action any hunter wants.
I had a great many guests, usually for periods of two weeks at a time and the first day or two we had bear hunts with the native Black Bear Hounds.
Our bear hunter was Forest Denton, who was always on hand the first day, but on one trip he wasn't there, arriving a day late. He explained: "just after dark I was coming up the mountain and I thought I saw a bear coming through the laurel, but it wasn't a bear - it turned out to be a boar and he charged me. I did a little bird work up a rock high enough to miss him, but he stayed there all night watching me until noon the next day."
For hounds to hunt the wild boar, we quickly found that the local bear hound had little value. The boar killed too many. However, by crossing the Irish wolf hound with the Great Dane we produced a breed that could creditably hold its own.
The hunting period was October and November. Over the years I had many guests. The only Californian was Richard Tobin, but your neighbor, Henry Russell's first wife when she was Ethel Harriman, was there with her mother, Mrs. Borden Harriman.
One of my guests was your All American relative Hamilton Fish. Ham was anxious to take a boar's head back to the Porcellian Club at Harvard. unfortunately when he aimed at the boar, he missed it but killed the favorite coon hound of our chief hunter, Devereaux Birchfield. In those days human life was a cheap commodity in the Great Smokies. A good coon hound was slightly more valued than a child. Devereaux Birchfield had already killed three men for less important causes than the death of his coon hound. I suddenly found that I had urgent business elsewhere and early the next morning our entire party returned to New York.
I don't think I ever told Ham the reason for our sudden departure.
In the early 20s, when I purchased Rancho San Carlos, the man in charge of Hooper Bald was Garland McGuire. I had him trap nine sows and three boar, the same number that I had originally purchased for Hooper Bald and he brought them to the ranch and stayed there at least a month placing them. He told me that in trapping them four hounds had been killed and one helper badly wounded.
The residents of the Carmel Valley can carry the story on from here.
The biggest boar we ever killed on the ranch, when hung, measured 9 ft. from tip to tip. The skin on his neck was three inches thick; eleven bullets were found which over the years had been imbedded in the fat.
The last time I was in Washington visiting Duffie and Sheila, one of their guests told me that he had just returned from Hooper Bald Mountain area where he was hunting the descendants of these boar and that the states of No. Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia granted licenses for the shooting of only one a year.
The last time I saw William Randolph Hearst, Sr., he said "your pigs have reached San Simeon."
Please remember me to Enna and Belle. Tell them that one of these days when I am North I'll pay them a visit.
With kind regards,
George G. Moore