"Bambi is bullshit." It is late August and John Drew is driving his truck along Cottonwood Creek, looking for wild pigs. "Bambi is a fucked-up story, and I will not allow that movie in my house," he continues, drawing out the word fucked as laconically as one can while still maintaining something of a rant "Death," he says firmly, "is not a bad thing. It is a life-sustaining thing."
Drew drives as he talks, the dirt road dipping and dropping, unspooling in a thick plume of dust behind him. In the wane of summer, northern California's Great Valley is a hostile and heartless place. Scorched from heat, the land cracks and buckles or simply catches flame. The temperature routinely exceeds a hundred degrees, leading locals to brag that some days the only place hotter is the Serengeti.
By now, everything green has been bleached to gold, and the star thistle has reached thigh height Fields of it wave like the wheat of the damned, lodging hateful hooks in the gums and eyes of the animals forced to run through it.
"Kills a lot of pigs," Drew says. "Blinds them, and they starve."
Drew hangs his head out the window, inhales deeply.
"You can smell them," he says with a boyish laugh.
Drew supposes he has killed 1,800 feral pigs in his 35 years. He has shot them, knifed them, set dogs on them, trapped them, baited them, and run them down Dukes of Hazzard-style with his truck. He has committed these acts without regret or remorse. In fact, he is providing a valuable service. And while...