Todd Spivak
These hogs weren't harmed in the story -- just fattened up for the rodeo.

Notes from Hog Heaven

Todd Spivak may be back from horsing around for his hog story, but his heart's still in rural Texas.

It was my first time on a horse.

We rode for eight hours, till five in the morning. Needless to say, it wasn't pretty. A digital camera stuffed into my shirt pocket, a spiral notebook tucked into the ass of my jeans, I spent the first couple hours trying to snap pix and scribble notes while juggling reins and a flashlight, getting smacked in the face with thorny tree branches and trying like hell not to fall off or rupture myself.

After a while, I gave up my reporting duties and just tried to enjoy the ride.

And I did.

See, I grew up in Pittsburgh. Been traveling this country since I flew the coop at 17, and every place I've lived was just as I imagined it as a kid filled with wanderlust.

New York City: blinking lights, stinking rivers, impossibly beautiful women. Vermont: brilliant foliage, bucolic pastures, sheep and cows. Chicago: seedy dive bars, stunning architecture, a large, moody lake.

And then there's Houston. It's easy to forget this city of highways, strip malls and cookie-cutter development is really in Texas. It ain't the Texas I imagined, anyway.

Even trips to Austin, Beaumont, Galveston and San Antonio have fallen short of my expectations. That is, until I sat atop that horse, under a night sky that stretched on forever, trailing behind men armed with long knives fixin' to kill themselves a wild hog.

A few weeks earlier I had attended my first hog-dog rodeo in East Texas. I figured the organizers wouldn't take too kindly to a reporter, so I went in undercover. Turned out, my hunch was right.

A lady caught me scribbling notes in my car. As I walked back to the pen I found myself surrounded by eight scowling men, arms crossed and resting on their giant guts. You'd think they would have spied me earlier. After all, I was the only person there not driving a pickup truck. My little Chrysler four-door has Pennsylvania plates.

They returned my $5 entrance fee and pointed me back to the country road that led to the highway.

Not to sound like an after-school special, but researching this story has been a big learning experience. Beyond riding horses, I also discovered that because of loopholes in the state's animal cruelty laws, it is perfectly legal to set a stray cat on fire or to tie a stray dog to the back of a truck and drag it for miles.

That's fucked up, right?

Of course, some folks would say wrestling a feral hog to the ground and stabbing it in the heart is no good, either.

Hell, my gal, who grew up outside Dallas, uses a magazine and an ice cream bowl to trap insects in our house and set them free. I help when she asks. Left to my own devices, I flatten 'em with the bottom of a flip-flop and scrape 'em into a trash can.

Sure, I walked a little funny for a couple days after the hog hunt. But the longer I sit in this downtown office, buses and cars whirring by, the more I long for rural Texas, where men ride horses till dawn and gut hogs along the way.

That's the Texas I love. The one I imagined as a boy. -- Todd Spivak

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >