For this week’s FotW we have to go way back into the archives, to the man who inspired Dobro Turtlebane. When I was a graduate student at Vanderbilt, I went back to my hometown in Georgia to work on a remodeling crew. One of my crewmates was a boy named Jake. He was seventeen and skinny but tough as beef jerky. He was so country that the dash and bustle of Warner Robins, GA made him gape the way you might gape at Times Square, and any time we went to a restaurant for lunch, he had the unsettling habit of telling the town girls how pretty they were.
Most mornings Jake came to work bleary-eyed, as if he had stayed up all night. I asked him what that was about, certain there was a good story behind those red-rimmed eyes.

“I hunt wild hogs,” he said. “Me and my buddies spend most nights in the swamps, either at the Ocmulgee or the Flint.”

“Boar hunting!” I said. This was interesting. I didn’t figure it would be hard to get him going on that subject. A question or two, and he would be off. “So, what kind of gun do you use?” I asked.

“Gun?” he scoffed. “We don’t take no guns!”

“Then what do you take?”

“Dogs. Rope. A flashlight.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, not sure we were talking about the same thing. “What did you say?”

“We got these dogs,” Jake said. “Mostly bulldog. We slog through the swamp until they bay up a hog. Then a catch dog grabs holt of his ear.” He paused, basking in my fascinated attention. “And then I whirl in with the rope to tie him up.”

“Tie him up?” I asked. “Tie who up?”

“The hog! Who else?”

“You mean like calf-roping at a rodeo?”

“About like that. Except that a calf aint slinging five-inch tusks around and kicking like a roto-tiller and squealing to deafen a feller. It’s some excitement, I don’t mind telling you.”

I gaped. “So you tie him up,” I said. “What do you do then?”

“We carry him out on a pole, kicking and squirming.”

I didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but the next day he brought me pictures of the dogs, the hogs, and the hunters, both in the swamp and in the pen where they fattened up their captured hogs.

Jake came to work one morning more red-eyed than usual. Obviously he had been crying. I put a hand on his ropy shoulder. “What’s wrong, Jake?” I asked.

He gave me a doleful look, then busted out crying again. “We were hunting last night,” he sobbed. “And an alligator ate my dog.”

I thought, What a world is this? I was living this suburban, academic life, and yet there was this alternate world swirling just around the corner where men wrestled wild boars in the swamp and alligators ate their dogs. I decided that if I ever wrote a book, Jake would have to be in it. And he is. He is the original feechie.

Jake, wherever you are, congratulations on being named Feechie of the Week.

  • sally apokedak
    12:24 AM, 25 August 2010

    Whoa. Look at the hog!
    Well, all your fans owe a huge debt to old Jake and his poor, poor dog (that is just too sad), because Dobro is a brilliant character. I do hope Jake never blew his nose on the table cloth, though.

  • Aaron Roughton
    2:14 PM, 25 August 2010

    Hog hunters have always been the stuff of legend, but this guy takes the cake. I just hope Jake has access to the interwebs in whatever swamp he now resides so he can bask in the glory of this post.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:48 PM, 25 August 2010

      Aaron, you are correct that hog hunters have always been the stuff of legend. Hercules hunted the Erymanthian boar as one of his twelve labors, and the Calydonian boar caused all sorts of trouble among the Greek heroes who hunted it. As for Jake, he took many cakes. One Friday we went to deposit our paycheck after lunch. The teller was a young woman in her early twenties. Jake was lovesick at the first glimpse of her. “Look at her!” he said. “She’s pretty, aint she!” He had to shout to make himself heard over Steve Earle (Copperhead Road, I think it was), which was blaring at about the volume of a jet engine. The teller could have heard him even if there hadn’t been a speaker there, and she looked embarrassed. “Yes,” I said. “She’s pretty.””I’m gonna tell her,” Jake said, looking earnestly at me, like a man who has made up his mind.
      I looked past Jake to the poor girl behind the glass. Her eyes widened in horror.
      “I wouldn’t,” I said. “I’m sure she gets that kind of thing all the time.”
      “No, I’m going to,” he said.
      About that time the drawer with the cash poked itself out and Jake reached for it. “Hey,” he hollered at the teller. “Hey, I want to tell you something…”
      She ran away.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    2:57 PM, 25 August 2010

    Sally, that hog looks like he might be wearing a wig. I don’t know if Jake ever blew his nose on a tablecloth, but he frequently did that free-blow trick whereby a person pinches one nostril shut and blows out the other onto the ground (or sawhorse or wall or whatever surface is handy).

  • Aaron Roughton
    3:26 PM, 25 August 2010

    Gymteacher’s handkerchief. That’s the term for that particular nasal activity. Sounds like Jake might make many appearances in this blog, both feechie and anecdotal.
    You meant actual legend! Fantastic. I was thinking of the time my dad was visiting a some parishioners in Florida and the 11 year old son showed up covered in blood with his pit bull by his side. He had been out in the swamp, alone except for his dog and his knife. He had killed a boar. The dog would snatch it down by the snout or ear and he would pounce with his knife and end its life right then and there. I think at 11 I was trying to end the life of some space invaders on my Atari 2600 while enjoying a New Coke. Is there such thing as an anti-feechie?

    • Jonathan Rogers
      8:44 PM, 25 August 2010

      Hey, Aaron, that’s not a comment. That’s material. You might want to save that for a future FotW guest post. And you have promised an account of your dad behaving in a feechiefied manner in his youth. I’m still waiting on that.

  • Amy
    4:21 PM, 25 August 2010

    You must find Jake and reunite. I can only guess (or maybe I could never guess) what he would think of being The Original Feechie.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    8:24 PM, 25 August 2010

    I did a google search on Jake by first and last name. I think he’s a schoolteacher.As Mike Tyson once said, “That just scrutinizes with my brain.”

  • Kristi S.
    10:14 PM, 25 August 2010

    In remote West Texas, we always called them “farmer blows”.

  • Aaron Roughton
    10:43 PM, 25 August 2010

    That’s all I know about the 11 year old hog killer. But I sent an email to my dad with my recollection of the other feechie story for his approval and editing. I’ll send it to you as soon as I get it right.

  • Terri DeFoor
    1:19 AM, 26 August 2010

    Hey, Jonathan,
    Just got a post from a young Facebook friend: “Killed 4 hogs after school. And a good night at church.” I’ll let you know if he posts pictures…

  • Jason Shipman
    1:51 AM, 7 September 2010

    Any opportunity I get to use the word “holt” outside of a proper name, I take it…or take holt of it.

  • Canaan Bound
    3:01 AM, 29 September 2010

    Snot Rockets. That’s what us Kansans call ’em. Sounds gross, but saves the environment from the Kleenex compnay.
    All this talk makes me think of Lord of the Flies and the boar hunt and poor old “Piggy”.

  • […] wrote about an old boy who inspired the whole tribe of feechiefolks here: Then there’s Kentucky’s Turtle Man: I’ve got […]

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