Editor’s note: Once again, Realtor Bill Mancinik’s “Native Reflections” column has inspired the contribution of a memory of growing up in West Volusia. This one comes from Jimmy Doyle in Rome, Georgia. Doyle grew up in DeLand in the late 1950s and the 1960s. He moved during his junior year in high school and, he said, hated leaving. Doyle, now a retired reference librarian, for many years returned to West Volusia annually for camping, hunting and fishing. However, he hasn’t been back for some time. Email him at email@example.com.
It was my DeLand High School buddy Danny Branham who talked me into going on a hog hunt on a hot August night in 1963.
Danny was a true outdoorsman. He grew up in the Florida woods. He even had a pet raccoon that would bite you in a heartbeat. Danny taught me how to hunt squirrels, lead a duck, and fish for specks.
He also convinced me to go on this wild-hog hunt that turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
At dusk, we drove out to a farmhouse deep in the Florida scrub somewhere near Barberville. The guy waiting for us there was someone Danny knew from shop class. He was our guide.
When we pulled into his yard, our guide whistled, and a diminutive and nondescript hound peeled out of a swarm of dogs and jumped into the back of a pickup.
We followed suit and took off down a sandy road that brought us to the edge of a swamp. We waded into the murky waters. After sloshing around for about a half-hour, we came to a clearing.
It was then that our guide introduced us to his dog. His hound’s name was Bruno, and Bruno was real friendly. He had soft brown eyes that made you feel good.
Bruno spent most of the night sitting in my lap while I scratched behind his ears. Every 15 minutes, Bruno would get up and disappear. Then he would reappear and crawl back into my lap for some more ear-scratching.
All night, we sat around talking about cars, girls, hunting and sports. I was getting bored and mosquito-bitten. Then about 3 a.m., Bruno got off my lap and disappeared into the palmettos. Five minutes later, a horrendous sound came roiling out of the darkness.
We took off in the direction of the worst growling, squealing, barking and snarling I had ever heard. When we came to a clearing, Danny shined his flashlight on a sight I have never forgotten. It was as if the gates of hell had been flung open and the Devil’s Beast had been unleashed.
Bruno had a huge enraged wild boar by the nose. Both ears had been ripped off the hog, and he was trying to shake Bruno loose. The hog shook its head and flung Bruno into a pine tree.
Bruno got up and immediately waded back into the monster. This time, he got a death grip on the boar’s snout, and the pig could not shake Bruno loose.
Then, with one upward swipe, the hog ripped open Bruno’s chest with razor-sharp tusks and flung him into the palmettos.
I stood there with a sharpened stick in my hands. Our guide had given it to me. He called it a pig-sticker. I might have been a city boy, but I knew that stick was not long enough for me to stick into the seething beast.
Just before the boar charged me, our guide stepped up and shot him through the heart. The mammoth pig fell to the ground in a dead heap.
I ran to Bruno. His chest was ripped wide open, but no vital organs had been punctured. We caked his wound with swamp mud and wrapped my T-shirt around it.
We field-dressed the hog and tied him to a pole Danny had cut down. We took turns carrying Bruno and the monster out of the swamp. The sun was rising by the time we got back to the truck.
When we got back to the farmhouse, Bruno was barely breathing. I did not think he would make it.
I had to get back to DeLand. We had started two-a-days, and I had football practice at 9 a.m. Even though I barely made it through practice, all I could think about was Bruno.
That night, Danny called to tell me Bruno had been sewn up and the vet said he was going to make it. I was relieved and ecstatic.
I often think about that steamy night long ago when all that mattered was Bruno’s courage.
I know Bruno was just a dog, but I can still feel the resilience of his spirit, and it always gives me strength.
Thanks, Bruno. You were a real Florida dog.
— Do you have memories to share of growing up in West Volusia? Send 600 words or thereabouts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, current town of residence, a telephone number, and photos if possible.