Alec Auld and Hog Drives of the Frio Canyon in the Texas Hill Country in the late 1800’s
This is part of a great trilogy about my great grandfather Alexander Kennedy Auld and his family and neighbors living and working in the Texas Hill Country in late 1890’s. It is well researched and written by Linda Kirkpatrick of Leakey, Texas for the site Texas Escapes with Part I in December 2007, and Part II January 2008, and Part III in March 2008, and is titled; Hog Drives of the Frio Canyon.
Hog Drives of the Frio Canyon
Part I: “Git Along Little Piggy”
Late 1890’s —Early 1900’s
published December 8, 2007
By Linda Kirkpatrick
The Frio Canyon suffered hard times in the late 1800’s. Lipan Apache still made soirees through the area, money was scarce, and times were just plain tuff. The folks, who built up the early ranches in the Leakey area, did what they could to just get by. They were hardy individuals who suffered many hardships that would seem impossible to bear in these days. They “made do” with what little they had and when opportunities came along cattle drives of old but just not as classy or as romantic or as written about were the hog drives of the Frio Canyon. And with that thought, imagine an old, night-herding, hog driving they jumped on the chance to take advantage of each situation. Like the cowboy singing, “Get along little piggy, get along, get along.”
The blood lines on these hogs proved to be as interesting as the hogs themselves. Most were a cross between domestic “listed” hogs, better known as “Hampshire”, and the imported European’s, commonly called Russian hogs. The settlers ran their animals on open range and as a result many of the hogs just went feral. Round-up time was very interesting to say the least!
Hog Drives at Rock Pens
Bud Huffmon, Fred Large, Jared Huffmon, Jeff Thompson, Alex Auld, John Auld (Jan’s edit; John is Alec’s oldest son)
Alexander (Alec) Auld, an early rancher in the area known as the Divide, became the entrepreneur of these hog drives. He furnished the holding pens. The pens were actually large pastures where the surrounding ranchers would bring their hogs until enough were gathered for the drive to the rail head in either Kerrville or Sabinal. The pastures, known as the East Pasture and the Maverick Camp, supplied an abundance of oaks that in the fall became laden with acorns. These acorns supplied the main food source necessary to keep the pigs fat and sassy.
The composition of the hog drives was much like that of the cattle drives of old. Each rancher would spend several weeks gathering their hogs. They drove these hogs to Maverick Camp and East Pasture. Then they gave the drover the number of head that they put in the pens. The drover recorded the total number of rancher’s hogs and then released them into the holding pen with the rest to await the drive to Kerrville. At the end of the drive the rancher collected money for the number of hogs that he released into the holding pasture. The hogs would feed on the acorns and continue to fatten until the drovers had enough gathered and were ready to hit the trail for the rail road some sixty-five miles away. “Enough” would equal several thousand hogs. Jake Haby, a descendant of one of the drovers, said, “As the story goes, when they hit the trail with the pigs you could see hogs from one horizon to the other.” Now that folks is a lot of little porkers.
Group of men standing
L to R: Walter Large, Luke Large, Drew Large, Jeff Thompson, Callie Bell, Fred Large, Holmes Ferguson and their favorite hog dogs.
Alec Auld and about ten to fifteen other men made up the drovers. Some of the names included: William Putum, Whittum Holmes, Fred Large, Walter Large, Luke Large, Drew Large, Jeff Thompson, Dave Huffmon, Pete Lowrance, Bud Lowrance, Callie Bell and Holmes Ferguson. Along with the drovers there would be a chuck wagon and a couple of corn wagons. And we must not leave out the dogs as they played an important role in moving the pigs along.
As the gate opened on an early fall morning, the number of pigs released could total from one to two thousand head of fat pigs. Keep in mind these were wild hogs, hogs with a very aggressive attitude. It took a tuff drover, with a tuff horse and with extra tuff dogs to get the herd over the sixty five miles of rough terrain.
One drover owned about ten to fifteen hog dogs. These dogs were probably hound crosses. The dogs would intimidate the hogs until the hogs would relent. The hog dogs had to be quick, agile and fearless. I am quite sure that several dogs probably lost their lives trying to control these aggressive pigs. The hogs, when on the fight, would attack man, horse or dog. As the ranchers came upon these wild hogs during the year they would rope, castrate or spay them in order to control the population and make them easier to fatten and drive later. Most of the ranchers would rope the hogs but not Alec Auld. He would run into the herd on foot, grab a hog by the hind leg and take it to the ground. Other ranchers kept telling him that one day one of the hogs would get him and sure enough one day David Huffman came upon Alec sewing up his arm with a spaying needle. As Alec grabbed for a hind leg the hog turned and a well-aimed tusk ripped a gash in his arm.
Besides good dogs, each drover had to have a pair of durable leggins’. The leather had to be extra heavy duty, strong enough to resist the bite or slash of a nasty boar. The leggins’, as we call them in this part of the world-you may correctly call them chaps, needed to have a special alteration. Most leggins’ are buckled in the front with a belt like piece of leather. The smart cowboy removes the buckle and replaces it with a heavy string, one that would break should a bucking horse cause the top of the leggins’ to hang up on the saddle horn. Keep this thought in mind for a future story. (Jan’s note: Alec Auld (spelled Aleck on death certificate) died on July 27, 1905, when he roped a steer and unfortunately hung up on his saddle and came off the horse and was drug by his horse. It fractured his skull and he lingered at home for three days. The accident happened at the Grapevine Springs pens.)
Hog drive to Sabinal. The town in the background was identified to me as Sabinal, Texas
L to R: Drew Large, Holmes Ferguson, Fred Large, Alex Auld, unidentified drover, Callie Bell, unidentified drover
When enough hogs were gathered, it was then time to hit the trail. A few gentle hogs mingled with the wild hogs in hopes to keep the herd going in the direction of the rail head in either Kerrville or Sabinal. The corn wagon, loaded with corn, would lead the hogs. Someone would ride in the back of the wagon and entice the gentle hogs by throwing corn out to them. The gentle hogs would chase after the corn and the rest of the hogs would, for the most part, follow. The wilder hogs would soon get the idea and before long they were, as in the days of cattle drives, trail broke! And for those hogs that just refused to conform, the drovers had a little trick for them. A drover would rope the obnoxious beast. The pig was then enticed to bite a cedar stave and when he did the drover quickly wrapped leather straps around his snout in order to keep the pig from biting and gnashing the dogs and drovers. For some, it became more severe. Before their release, their eyelids were sewn shut so that they could not see to attack or escape. They would follow the rest of the herd by scent alone. The journey to the rail road could take up to three weeks. Some of the drovers rode horses while others would walk along behind the herd prodding and yelling to keep them on the move. The dogs constantly barked and nipped at the heels of the pigs that lagged behind. This is truly not as romantic as the cattle drives of old.
The ranchers found the hog business to be quite lucrative it was actually more lucrative than anything else that they did. They could make three to five cents a pound for the critters. All good things usually come to an end and so did the hog drives. The weevil that hit the acorn crops proved to be the demise of this business. This weevil would burrow into the acorns and eat the meat. The wild hog market soon fell by the wayside. But since these little porkers can produce three litters a year, they began to replace the acorns with rancher’s sheep, goats. To this day, they can literally wreak havoc everywhere they go.
Hunting hogs soon became a popular sport which continues today. Sport hunters do it for the thrill of the hunt; ranchers do it out of necessity. The January column will feature stories of the hog hunters.
Thank you Linda for permission to reprint part of this great trilogy. Click the above links to read the rest of the story and more about Linda Kirkpatrick at the link: http://www.texasescapes.com/LindaKirkpatrick/Linda-Kirkpatrick.htm
My family and I still own and ranch this wonderful land of my great grandfather Alexander Kennedy Auld. We are blessed with his forethought and fortitude to be the first owner of this ranch. During his time it was Bandera County and in 1913 it became Real County. There will be a centennial celebration next year 2013 in Leakey.
Originally published on 26 May 2012, but changed to 22 Jun 2012.