Fakahatchee Island (1965) Home of “Big Pig”
The Ten Thousand Island area is a wonderful place to visit. Most of my time was spent hugging the coast line and I had rarely crossed any of the large bays to visit the Gulf of Mexico shoreline.
A canoe trip to Fakahatchee Island was always enjoyable, at least after my first trip. The East River appears to terminate at Tamiami Trail (US Hwy 41) at a lake or perhaps it is an old rock pit. The exit from the lake is on the left, the east side, of the lake. It is a narrow cut through to a series of lakes or ponds, connected by a creek and it is all salt water mangrove swamp with plenty of mosquitoes.
We always brought along a tree saw to cut trees and large branches which had been blow down and blocked our passage. From Tamiami Trail to Fakahatchee Bay is about three hours of hard work depending on tide and winds and trees needing to be cut.
A friend, Tom, and his father, Bill, asked me to take them down the East River and across Fakahatchee Bay to Fakahatchee Island. My first trip to the island will never be forgotten. This is when I met the Big Pig.
View looking back across Fakahatchee Bay from the island
Three guys piled into one canoe with a large load of gear made the trip exhausting.
Tom and Dave and some of the gear
As a break from all the work of paddling we decide to take a few minutes to try our hand at fishing and immediately we each caught a fish and this is what started the trouble with Big Pig.
Tom, Dave and diner
I took both fish to the shore for cleaning and shortly I heard Tom yelling “Watch Out!”
I was trapped between the pig and the shore- I had no place to go. Big Pig just stood there and snorted a few times. He moved closer. He did not seem aggressive, perhaps curious or hungry. I quickly tossed the fish guts to him. Not knowing what to expect it was just another time that I feared for my life not knowing if he was going to charge me with tusks slashing. All he wanted was food. I had seen wild hogs in the Everglades and they never came so close. I managed to get to the canoe while he was eating and pushed off. After finishing cleaning the fish I returned to shore where Big Pig stood waiting and I tossed him the rest of the guts. He wandered back into the wilds of the island. He seemed friendly enough.
Fakahatchee Island interior
The island was all shell mound built by the long gone Calusa Indians. The islands’ interior was mostly covered in thick brush and cacti. At the north end of the island was an old frame house leaning over. It looked as if a hurricane and storm surge nearly knocked it down. Clothing and children’s crayon drawings had been packed against interior walls by the storm surge. Behind the house was an old cemetery and also nearby was a large water cistern.
The best trip was with my friend Chris. Chris was the most awesome fisherman ever! I could always catch fish if Chris wasn’t with me, but if he was, I’d not catch anything while he’d reel in one after another. He pestered me for weeks to take him to the island. Chris was a fisherman and not a guy familiar with wildlife.
Perhaps it was ‘fish envy” that caused me to fail to mention that Big Pig lived on the island. Our trip down river was very difficult. Many trees to cut and it rained most of the day. Nearing Fakahatchee Bay Chris got slammed in the face by a tree branch and his thick eye glasses were knocked off his face and disappeared into the swift river.
Chris could barely see his hand in front of his face without the glasses and could see nothing but a blur beyond the end of his arm. After we reached the island and setup camp we fished until dark. We sat around our camp fire eating fish that Chris caught and some baked beans by the light of the fire. Chris became nervous claiming he could hear something moving around in the underbrush. I said I heard nothing (nothing but the clickety clack of Big Pig’s hooves on oyster shell); I really hated to lie to him! It was just the “fish envy” kicking in.
Chris kept turning away from the fire and looking over his back but could see nothing without his eye glasses. He laid his rifle across his lap- as if he could actually shoot something while blind as a bat. Finally Big Pig came into my view. The pig walked right up behind Chris and tried to steal beans off his plate. Chris and Big Pig were nose to nose when the pig snorted in Chris’s face. Chris’ high pitched scream actually hurt my ears! In his panic the beans went one way and the rifle another as Chris scooted backwards on his butt to get away. Too bad he scooted right into the camp fire.
He tried to use his hands to get up but burned his palms so he kept scooting. Now his jeans had holes burned through to the tender meat. Talk about getting your butt burned! I laughed so hard while Chris kept smacking his butt and Big Pig ate the beans. Chris wasn’t stupid and soon figured that since I was rolling around laughing hysterically and not at all alarmed I must have known about Big Pig. Chris was pissed!
The return trip was painful for Chris. It was hard to paddle with burned hands and uncomfortable to sit in the canoe on his burned butt.
Chris never went camping or fishing with me again, ever. It was just the fish envy that had its’ evil grip on me.