Rick, the ranger, taken by the game Angry Birds on his iPad while supposedly charged with watching that the day hikers were aware of, and did not dare try crossing the badly damaged rope bridge, missed the wild boar that had slipped past his truck and walked out over the ravine.
Two days earlier, in a most terrible early spring storm, a flock of carrion were blown down over the ravine and in the confusion of the driving, frozen rain, got tangled up in the rope meshing of the handrail. In their mad attempt of escape, they had also broken a few of the boards. While Rick was playing his game and waiting for the cleanup crew, the wild pig walked out onto the bridge for one of these rotting carcasses.
The ranger looked up from his game to see the boar after it grabbed hold of one of the birds and while trying to pull it free, slipped through the opening of the bridge, through the space between broken boards. At first he couldn’t see the boar from where the truck was parked, but through his open window, he could hear the animal’s loud squealing.
“Oh, for criminey’s sake,” the ranger said after he stumbled out of his vehicle to see the boar hanging from the bridge by the rotting carcass of the bird still tangled up in the ropes. He shouted from the edge of the bridge, “Let it go! Just fall to the river, you stupid pig.”
But the river was a hundred and fifty feet below, and full of rocks, in some places, and though possible to survive if lucky enough to land in a deeper pool, the river this time of year was ice-cold. If the fall did not crush the spirit of any warm-blooded animal, the frozen water most certainly would.
The bridge, though slick in places, was still manageable. Rick told himself not to look down as he stepped over one missing board and then came to the space between boards through which the boar was giving him an angry look, squealing still, and snarling at him through his gritting teeth as he held onto the bird.
The ranger didn’t know what to do. He could cut the bird loose from the ropes, and send the bird and the pig both crashing onto the rocks below and decided that, yes, before the cleanup crew arrived, that was what he would do. But first, more as a sentimental gesture than anything else, he wanted to touch the wild boar. Though he had come across a couple of dead boars in his lifetime, had scared a few from the brush, and had once even been chased back to his truck by one, he hadn’t ever touched a real live breathing wild boar in its, so to speak, natural habitat.
Rick got on his knees, seeing then that it not a he boar, after all, but a sow, a female. When he reached down through the space between missing boards, the pig in a wild swinging attempt of getting free of the ranger’s hand, threw the ranger himself through the opening of the bridge.
Rick was not a believing man. He did not believe in God. He believed in nature. He believed in cause and effect. He believed in survival of the fittest, even if a somewhat outdated model. He believed, too, in Bigfoot, but only because he had once seen him.
But that would all change as he held onto the ribcage of the wild pig while hanging over the river through the better part of the next hour. It could not be said that he had the experience of God, per se, in those long minutes before the cleanup crew arrived, late by his calculations by twenty-five minutes, so much as an overwhelming feeling of connectedness as he had never quite experienced before.
He understood that the pig, too, was reconciling herself to this new understanding of the universe. As the ranger whispered and encouraged her to hang onto the bird, he could feel a communal warmth growing between them. It was the closest he had felt to any warm-blooded thing, ever, human or otherwise, in his forty-five years. He would finally understand this feeling, quite simply, as love.
And thus he hung for what felt like days, although it was probably only closer to forty-five minutes. He thought he could hear his game beeping from his iPad through the open window of his ranger truck, but that was impossible. It was too far away. And he could only image, finally, how it must have looked when the clean-up crew arrived.
“Hi, fellas!” he yelled. “I know this looks weird. But I can explain.”
What he could not explain, what he could never, for the rest of his life, explain, or forgive himself for, was that he belonged to a family of primates that would feel the need to kill a wild animal for their own protection, they said, and for his own, after helping Rick back to the bridge.
Rick spent his earlier years after the incident looking for the pig. He thought that she could have survived the fall, even if another part of himself knew how impossible this was. Although he could not bring himself to look, the echoey thudding sound of her body against the rocks below after she was cut loose were testament enough: that pig, the only female that he had ever truly loved, was dead.