Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales

The Hogs of Hog Hollow!

by Norris Chambers

I remember well that starry night
I murdered Humphrey Boggs.
I chopped his body into bits
And fed him to his hogs.

   When Clifton and I were growing up, we heard many tales about the abundance of wild hogs in Hog Hollow. This was the name applied to an almost inaccessible stretch of Red Creek about six miles upstream from where we lived. We also heard tales about the Puckett-Boggs feud.

  Humphrey Boggs, in the latter half of the 19th century, was known as "Greasy" Boggs, the hog man. Boggs and his wife and daughter lived on a 320 acre plot of sandy soil infested with post oak, briars and associated brush. The east side was host to Red Creek. Red Creek stretched between high, rocky hills and bluffs the entire length of the Boggs property and wound on into the Miller Place where Cat Gorge displayed its yowling population. Water did not run in Red Creek except after a rain, but there were deep holes that held water through all dry spells.

  There were no close neighbors except the Puckett family, who lived on an adjoining tract of the same size on the west. The Pucketts and Boggs families were good neighbors to each other for a few years. But as Boggs' hog population kept increasing, the swine became a nuisance to Jim Puckett. Both families were peanut farmers. They planted about 80 acres of their cleared sand each year. The rich soil produced good crops of peanuts.

  Puckett had a thresher come in and thresh his crop. He baled his hay and kept it for animal fodder. Boggs opened his field to his herd of hogs each harvest and the animals grew fat and marketable on the rich peanuts. Boggs had his field fenced with hog wire (a woven fence about two feet high with two barbed wires above and one below) and could control the hog harvest. Puckett only had barbed wire around his acreage and this offered no barrier to hogs.

  When Boggs' hogs were ready for the market, he and his wife and teen age daughter drove them twenty miles to the nearest market. There was a good market for them and they brought home a tidy sum of money. Puckett sold his peanuts to the thresher operator and also received a nice amount of cash for his summer's work.

  Boggs' pigs ran loose in the brush much of the year and were not fed until time for the peanut harvest. Hogs in the brush were able to survive on roots, acorns, nuts and now and then some careless wild game. Of course it was quite a job to round them up for the trip to the peanut field and several were not found. These continued to exist and increase in the wild and began to become a nuisance to Puckett, who had no hog-proof fence. The wild hogs, along with some of Boggs' prime stock, proceed to raid the Puckett field, helping themselves to watermelons, cantaloupes and anything else they could find. They loved all garden produce. Then when the peanuts began to mature, they started gathering them prematurely and did considerable damage.

  Puckett and his 19 year old son, John, made a special trip to Boggs' and explained to him the seriousness of his hog problem. Boggs told Jim that perhaps he ought to fence his place with hog wire. It worked well for him.

  Of course Jim didn't care to spend hundreds of dollars and weeks of work just to keep a bunch of hogs out. The debate grew stronger and became a full fledged cuss fight. Jim informed Humphrey that in the future, any hogs on his property would be shot on sight.

  "You shoot one of my hogs, and I'll kill you!" The message that Boggs gave Puckett was plain and well understood.

  "If I don't kill you first!" was his reply.

  So began the famous Boggs - Puckett feud.

  The violence soon began. The next morning Jim and John shot and killed twenty-two half grown shoats in their watermelon patch. They proceeded to drag them to Humphrey's hog wire fence and, after cutting the wire, piled them just inside the peanut patch. Humphrey heard the shooting and grabbed his shotgun and started for the field. His wife followed, pleading with him to come back. But Boggs was angry and kept walking briskly toward the Puckett place. He arrived just in time to see the last hog dumped in his field and Jim and John heading back home.

  Some bitter words were exchanged when Jim and John came back to the hog pile and confronted Humphrey. Humphrey's wife was screeching and trying to drag him away. John, who still had his Winchester, pointed the weapon at them while Humphrey was aiming the shotgun at John. John shot first and Humphrey's wife fell to the ground. An instant later Humphrey fired one barrel of the shotgun and caught John in the stomach. He went down. Jim grabbed the gun and shot quickly at Boggs. But he missed, and when he tried again there were no more cartridges in the magazine and there was only a harmless click. But the other barrel of the shotgun exploded and a portion of Jim's breeches leg disappeared and blood started running down the leg into his right boot. Humphrey had no more shot gun ammunition with him, but he finished the fight by poking Jim in the side with the heavy stock of the gun. He went down with broken ribs.

  Boggs went home and came back with a sled to move his wife to the house. She was dead.. John was still lying still on the ground, but Jim was gone. A trail of blood led off toward the west.

  Things were pretty quiet for a few days. Boggs buried his wife under a large live oak tree and the Pucketts carried John to a country graveyard a few miles to the north. Boggs mended his fence and went about his chores carrying a loaded shotgun. Jim's leg was slow to heal, but when he began to get around he carried the loaded Winchester.

  The next violence occurred about three months later. Someone shot Boggs' daughter while she was milking.. The shot also killed the cow. The bullet came from the brush on the east side of the lot. Of course there was no proof that Jim did the shooting. Boggs buried his daughter beside his wife. He probably had plans to get even. The next night a shotgun blast from out side the house shattered a window and hit Jim's wife in the head. She died instantly. Jim grabbed his Winchester and searched the brush for several minutes, but did not find anyone.

  Until this time no one had informed the authorities of the killings. Jim had told Mr. Miller, who lived to the west of his place. After the death of Jim's wife he made a trip to the county seat and informed the sheriff of the feuding and fighting. The sheriff came out and talked with Jim, then went to see Boggs. But Boggs could not be found. Unfed animals and hungry hogs rooting around the house and inside indicated that he had been gone for several days. The front door was open and there was blood on the kitchen table.

  The sheriff opened the gates and let the livestock out and opened the gate to the peanut field. He went back to talk to Jim, but Jim didn't give him any useful information. He told the sheriff that John had done the shooting for his family, and that Humphrey had done the other killing. He didn't know anything about Boggs' daughter's death. He had no idea where Boggs was.

  The sheriff went back to town and the episode was soon forgotten.

  Thus the feud ended. Puckett died a few years later. The Boggs place was eventually sold for unpaid taxes. Puckett's brother inherited his property and it too was eventually sold for taxes.

  This story was told for many years. Clifton and I heard it, of course, and eventually decided to investigate the wild hogs of Hog Hollow, just as we had the cats of Cat Gorge. There were many tales about the wild hogs roaming up and down Red Creek. These, according to the tale, were descendants of Boggs' hog herd. Sometimes a few of these animals strayed from the creek up the hill to the fields and farms above. They were usually killed and eaten when they appeared. Sometimes an adventurous hunter picked his way down to the creek and occasionally brought back some fresh pork.

  When Clifton and I walked through the old Puckett and Boggs places, we saw the old hog wire still in place around the field. Someone was still growing peanuts. The Puckett place also had hog wire around the field, but it was much newer. We supposed that with the wild hogs down along the creek it was necessary to protect the crops. We did see a few scrawny sows and pigs along the creek, but the brush and huge rocks made travel very difficult. We soon finished our inspection and headed for home.

  Our inspection trip was made in the late twenties. We did not see a house on either farm. The crops were no doubt being grown by farmers who lived farther north and closer to civilization. But the sandy land still produced a good peanut crop. And peanuts meant money.

  It is too bad that the two families couldn't settle their differences peacefully. But in those days, as often happens now, disputes ended in violence. And now, just as in those days, nothing worthwhile is accomplished by fighting. The same principle applies to nations - but as long as human nature remains unchanged, violence, both personal and worldwide, will be a way of life.


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