The following was written by Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson:
(Des Moines Register) -- The desperate plea on my phone mail concerned a pot-bellied pig terrorizing a neighborhood on Des Moines' east side.
didn't quite smell a Pulitzer. And this wasn't the sort of complaint
from an angry citizen or consumer in search of justice that I could
easily pawn off on fellow columnist Lee Rood, our Reader's Watchdog.
was a lowly yet crafty porker, apparently named Willie, who has run
amok since June among the homes east of East 29th Street between East
Ovid and Tiffin avenues. The plea came from hapless residents Don and
They and their neighbors explained how the pig in recent weeks has become the subject of barroom lore nearby at McCuen's Pub.
Schoolkids routinely spot him and his all-black hide.
city animal control unit has been in hot pursuit for a couple of weeks,
to no avail. Some swear that he has escaped from traps.
Neighbors have knocked on doors up and down the street without determining the pig's owner.
sly swine has been nicknamed the "little bulldozer" and less flattering
(or just plain unprintable) names for the way he roots along driveways
and fences. He shaves off grass and leaves more bare, churned earth than
your average, uglier mole.
Neighbors have swapped pig tales in
the driveway - cursing the beast - only suddenly to spot Willie plopped
in the sun a mere 40 feet away, as if mocking them. But he darts off as
soon as a broom or rake can be grabbed in an effort to corral him.
neighbors have talked of stalking Willie with a bow and arrow, but Dee
Bowers wants to see him unharmed and captured before the chill of winter
gives him pneumonia. She even paid to publish an ad this week in
The two yards hardest hit by Willie are
the Bowers' on Ovid and the property of Art and Bonnie King, whose
backyard borders the Bowers' across a creek and timber that has served
as the pig's presumed Sherwood Forest.
"That pig is pretty darn smart," Art declared as he lingered in the swing in his driveway. "I've seen it several times today."
Kings' spacious yard stretches about 300 feet from Tiffin Avenue back
to the creek that carves a tiny, shady path in the valley behind Fuller
Family Dental on East 29th Street. That's where the city's animal
control unit has positioned a giant trap that the Kings and their
neighbors have helped to bait with table scraps.
"My grandson said put a pickle on it - maybe it will help draw his attention to it," Bonnie said.
83, has lived on this street for more than 70 years. I didn't request
that she rank how alarming a crisis this represents in the decades since
World War II, but the pig is an obvious pain. Bonnie stood in her
backyard and described to neighbor Dee how she felt her blood pressure
rise one morning this week.
"I went to take an anxiety pill and thought, this is crazy," Bonnie said. "It's just a pig!"
"I'll have him tomorrow morning - damn betcha," Bonnie's next-door neighbor Merle Schieffer reassured her.
has gotten close enough to Willie to spy what looks like a tiny bell
attached to its right ear - albeit a bell that doesn't jingle to herald
his presence. (The former farmer also suspects that Willie is really a
Schieffer grew up castrating pigs on a farm in northeast
Nebraska and still has a couple agrarian brothers in Cornhusker country
to lend advice. So he contributed crab apples from his backyard tree to
the trap bait. Meanwhile, Bonnie has scoured local grocery stores in
vain for off-season sweet corn.
Maryann Domarotsky, who lives
along East 29th Street next door to the dental clinic, spotted what she
assumes was the pig's owner: a tall, slender man with blond hair,
probably in his 30s. He draped a tarp or blanket over the pig and walked
away with it one day as the creature squealed; the young man didn't
give a name but explained that he was trying to train the pig.
is the only neighbor I could scrounge who has seen the alleged owner,
but Willie is a daily presence. "He'll look at me, wag his tail and off
he goes," she said.
Domarotsky also provided the pig its name
among neighborhood gossip: She heard the man shout, "Willie! Willie!"
during his search and seizure of the porker.
"This is very rare,"
said Josh Colvin, the city's animal control services manager. He and his
three animal control officers prowl the urban jungle from dawn to dusk -
7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. They respond to as many as 13,000 calls each
year, mostly dogs and cats.
He and his staff are trying to catch
this pig "as a process as opposed to going in full bore trying to get
this thing." Let's pause a beat or two for chuckles at what was Colvin's
"We're trying to capture this guy," Colvin elaborated. "We don't want to do anything that's going to put the pig in danger."
other words, Colvin wouldn't want to see the pig end up stuffed and
mounted - which is what happened to the most dramatic animal control
call in recent Des Moines history: the cougar shot a year ago that was
exhibited in all his stuffed glory in the Iowa Department of Natural
Resources building at the Iowa State Fair.
Devon Kline, an officer
who has been trailing the pig this week, occasionally wrangles with a
goat on the south side. But she's received just one other call about a
pig since summer.
Assuming animal control somehow nabs Willie, if
the owner steps up to reclaim him within a five-day window, it would
cost $25 - less than a cat or dog because no city licensing fees are
involved nor a mandatory rabies vaccination before the four-legged
menace trots out the door.
If nobody claimed Willie, he would be put up for adoption.
"You find out who owns this pig, you let me know," Dee Bowers said. "I'll turn him in to - I don't know what."
I surveyed more neighbors up and down the street for sightings but gathered only laughs, no details.
But I did, finally, manage to spot Willie.
I stood behind the dentist office and gazed down on the Bowers' and
Kings' yards spread out below, there he was. The bacon on the lam stared
back, almost defiantly if I had to assign motive.
captured all of four seconds of distant, shaky video footage of Willie
as he scurried away to chase a rabbit into the creek before I lost sight
of him. I'm sure better video exists of entire Sasquatch families.
I sped down to the creek in pursuit of Willie but found no sign of the much fatter pig.
I can attest that Willie is as wily as advertised.