A story of boars and moles
On August 10, 2012 I was at the military cemetery of Leopoldsburg for a photoshoot of the military graves of 801 of our victims of the First World War.
The soldiers buried in Leopoldsburg are almost exclusively soldiers deceased in captivity in Germany. They died either from wounds sustained during their imprisonment, from inhumane treatment during their detention or from disease and hardship.
After the war, their remains were transferred to the military cemetery in Leopoldsburg, after the hitherto German cemetery, was evacuated of the German remains, who either returned to their heimat, or were centralized in Vladslo.
It was a hot day, the sun did its utmost to make work extremely difficult. In Leopoldsburg the layout of the cemetery is such that the tombs are placed in circles, ellipses and other possible curves so that there is always, regardless of the position of the sun, 50% backlighting.
My sweat was already coming down my forehead in heavy drops when suddenly a figure appeared behind me.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Popped a voice that was used to speak with a certain authority.
"Donít you see that, Iím making pictures" was my laconic answer. If I get talked to in rudeness I have an habit to respond in the same way. That may not be very polite, but it is usually very effective.
Meanwhile, I got time to visually judge my assailant. He seemed in his early fifties, literally a tough guy.
The man brought his voice down and asked: "Maybe you are a journalist"?
Because he estimated me higher than I was I got also a little nicer.
"No, sir, I make those picture to use them in 2014, at the Centennial of the First World War."
"Ah, I thought you came for the wild boar," went the conversation. The man had my attention, here comes a story.
A single word and the talkative got started.
"Well, sir, you see the churned-up grass pickings? That is the work of wild boar."
Of course I had noticed those churned spots, I fumbled over one of them and I almost fell, and those spots made me adjust my tripod for almost every picture. But I had thought that these were caused by moles, the kind of moles that dig their courses just below the surface. In Buggenhout we call these creatures "reemoles" they dig their hallways so shallow that you can follow them with the naked eye. Now that I think about it, it's decades since I've seen one. Maybe they are extinct? In any case, an endangered species.
But wild boars, who thinks now boars in Limburg?
"Come on sir, so small a critters as a mole can do no such harm?"
"Maybe, but I would think that boars would do much more damage wouldnít they, no?"
"It's bad enough as it is, and now there is a journalist in the local press that blows this affair right out of proportion."
My next reply was logical: "What are you going to do about that?"
"We cannot do anything about that journalist. I thought that it was you and I would have given you a piece of my mind if it had been you, but I was wrong, I'm sorry!"
What exactly he was sorry about wasn't clear to me at that moment. Probably the fact that I was not a journalist and that he could not lose his egg with me.
"We have now been given a permit to finish off the boar, but we can only do it at night because they donít come here during the day. How can we shoot-up the neighbourhood after ten o'clock at night, thatís impossible? Despite the fact that here in Leopoldsburg, with all the military activity, people are used to a number of things, that will not work. Moreover, the pieces of bluestone would rather fly of here these tombstones! "
What an assist he gave me here! I had already figured out that he had to be one of our military regulars, so I gave him the full house.
"Are you guys such a bad shooters in our army?"
And... would they have had boar problems in Calais Nord too?