For many of us, hunting season has ended, and we’re left to catalog the things we did well, the things we did poorly and the things we didn’t do at all (like tag a deer) during our month in the woods.
But as I like to point out, there’s much more to hunting than tromping through the woods, studying deer droppings and hoping to (finally) fill a freezer with delicious venison.
A recent e-mail illustrated that point in hilarious fashion. The writer let me know that it’s possible to have a great time during hunting season even if you forgo the hunt itself.
After reading the e-mail three or four times, I realized two things.
First, the writer was, on some level, yanking my chain.
Second, I had no idea at which level the chain-yanking was taking place.
On Friday, after doing a bit of Google detective work and getting some tips from a co-worker, I tracked down the writer, Lew Payne of Holden, at his office.
Payne, you may want to know, is a banker. He was laughing by the time I got to his door, fully aware, I suppose, why I’d visited.
He greeted me with a smile and a handshake, and I got right to the business at hand.
“Are you a swine?” I asked him.
I know. Normally that would be an odd way to greet a banker you’ve never met, no matter what kind of bailouts are dominating the news.
Now might be the right time to share a bit of the e-mail that prompted my visit:
“I belong to a local motorcycle gang called the Feral Swine,” Payne’s missive began. “Along with the drugs, sex, and rock and roll usually associated with cycle gangs, we have a public service element. This year’s public service project was an informal survey of hunter’s breakfasts in the region. We also sponsored an unarmed but very blaze orange day at hunting camp.”
In my business, we call that kind of introductory paragraph a great lead. In your business, you may call it inappropriate … especially the drugs, sex and rock and roll part.
Upon visiting The Swine and quizzing him, I fully appreciated the joke, and decided that his e-mail must be shared.
Yes, Lew Payne is a Swine. One of eight, as I later learned. But he’s also a banker. And (believe it or not) he also raises horses with his wife … who is a lawyer.
Fancy, prancing horses. Dressage horses. Decidedly un-biker-gang (iron) horses.
Forget all that for a moment. Forget the picture of the bearded, jolly 57-year-old banker that you’ve been drawing in your head.
Instead, focus on this: For the past five years, Payne has been, proudly, a Feral Swine. He’s got the jacket patch to prove it. And the hog snout, which adorns the bikes of Swine members. Heck, the Feral Swine even have their own Web site (www.feralswine.org).
Payne said he began his motorcycle career just five years ago and admitted that 20 or 30 years ago, he never dreamed he’d eventually be a “gang” member.
“My father told us when we were growing up – there were four kids in the family – he told us, ‘If you ever come home with a motorcycle, don’t bother,'” Payne said.
But nowadays, Payne, mild-mannered banker by day, becomes a wild-mannered biker on weekends … more or less.
“More and more the banker part’s becoming the disguise. It’s not the biker part,” Payne said with a laugh.
Payne said the group of friends has a simple rule for membership in the gang.
“To be in the Feral Swine you have to tell, and to continue to support, a really bad lie. The whole thing is to be lying, self-centered scum. So you have to pass that test to get in,” he said.
Before you decide to mount a Swine eradication effort to make our streets safe, rest assured that Payne was chuckling when he said that.
In fact, he chuckled through most of our conversation.
“It’s a joke,” he said of the wild-and-woolly reputation members have contrived. “It’s huge tongue-in-cheek.”
And as Payne wrote in his e-mail, the Swine had an eventful November. After reading about all the hunter’s breakfasts planned for the month, they formulated a plan to visit one a week … and to pass along their critiques.
“Our ideal standard for a hunters breakfast would involve eggs benedict, bloody Marys, and mimosas. None of the breakfasts measured up to that standard,” he wrote, in true biker fashion.
“The following is a summary of the results of the survey. The names and specific locations have been omitted to protect the innocent. The breakfasts were selected based on their proximity to one of the members on the theory they could not bow out due to distance, and the following week could be shamed into attendance because everyone else had traveled so far to go to the breakfast near them. We also made sure that if someone did bow out, we would call them at 6 a.m. to inquire after their health and the weather.
“Opening Day: Up at 5 a.m., on site somewhere in Penobscot by 6 a.m. There was good food and plenty of it, eggs, beans, sausage, bacon, coffee, and best of all biscuits. We were so moved by the biscuits that we asked to meet the cook. She told us we could duplicate her recipe by buying the frozen prefabricated biscuits at Sam’s Club the way she had. Done with breakfast, we all went home to bed, to reconvene at hunting camp around 2 p.m. for drinks, cribbage, and finally a fine roast of venison.
“Nov. 8: Up at 5:30 a.m., on site somewhere in Hampden by 6 a.m., miracle appearance of a teenage daughter [of one of the Swine], great beans, by chance met with two retired stock brokers who explained the current mess. We were the wedge group between the real hunters and the old folks. Home and back in bed by nine.
“Nov. 15: Up at 5 a.m., on site somewhere in Orland by 6 a.m., along with the usual suspects, Bisquick pancakes with ersatz syrup. The teenage daughter now two for three. The high point was the raffle, which I won. Back home and asleep by nine.
“Nov. 22: Up at 5:30 a.m., on site somewhere in Hampden by 6 a.m., usual suspects plus real maple syrup, silent auction and yard sale attached. Teenage daughter three for four.
“Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving Day): Somewhere in Brewer. We were drawn to this breakfast by the promise of eggs to order. The Eagles Club was reinitiating an old tradition. Remarkable performance of being able to leave a fairly detailed order, sit down for coffee, and within ten minutes having your custom-crafted breakfast delivered to you. How did they do that? I won this raffle as well. Teenage daughter four for five.
“Nov. 29: Last day of hunting. Up at 5:10, on site by 6 a.m., no hunters breakfasts advertised, so we went to Dysart’s, corned beef hash to die for. Some blaze orange. Home and in bed by 8. Teenage daughter not present, but overall a remarkable record for the season at four for six.
“Summary: Biscuits, beans, eggs to order, real maple syrup set the standard. Winning a raffle is a big plus. Advertising on the net got us there. Orland did a great job of that, others required some hunting around.
“The good news is that we got up really early every day we went. The bad news is that there are members of the motorcycle gang who think we ought to do this EVERY Saturday!” Payne concluded.
In the interest of full disclosure, the Feral Swine did not roar into the parking lots of the breakfasts on their Harleys and Hondas.
The weather wasn’t suitable, you see.
And some have misplaced their rides … kind of.
“The bikes are in Florida right now,” Payne said on Friday. “[A friend] and I, at the beginning of October, rode to Key West, and then left the bikes in Sanford and flew home.”
Swine are clever, you see. And Payne has already formulated a foolproof bike-retrieval plan.
“Next spring, I’ll wake up some morning and say [to his wife], ‘Clare, do you remember where I put my motorcycle? Oh my God, I left it in Florida. I’ve got to go get it.'”