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Cuttin' up the Hog

Posted by Kerry Hagan | Dec 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

I think property division between people getting a divorce goes a lot more smoothly if the family is a hog hunting one. OK. Stay with me. I have a lesson here in my brain, but I'm gonna need to tease it out with a little explanatory scenario first. 

Hog hunting, at least in my family, is not a solo sport. It's a communal effort! And there are necessities, protocols and essential procedures to be followed when you go hunting. Hogs are not like deer, they don't flick their pretty little tail and vamoose like deer do upon the slightest auditory or movement mistake by a hunter. No. Hogs are much more oblivious to their environment — which means you can drive your side-by-side (we call 'em a "buggy") right out amongst them — making it more of a social undertaking when you go out hog hunting in my family.

One thing everyone understands is that hogs are a natural resource and, of course, it takes resources to get resources. You've got to have the buggy, the fuel, and the oil to make the engine run. You've got to have a cooler (one of those good ones) to keep the drinks and food cold. We believed it was a sin to kill without eatin' what you're shootin'. Which means . . . yup . . . you know what's coming next — every hog hunting family has to have a deep freeze! Or two. Or three. My aunt told me to get the biggest chest freezer you can buy at Sears. I bought two. Plus an upright. 

Weapons? Unless you are a person who hides up in a tree and drops down to do battle with only a Bowie knife clenched in your teeth, you're gonna need guns (50 or 60 per person is usually enough in my family!) Or if you are a bow hunter, you gotta have a collection of bows, along with plenty of bolts in your quiver. I've got one of those Honda six-seat buggies with the green lights mounted on top so we can also do some night hunting, if the spirit moves us.

So, what you do is load everybody and everything up in the buggy, dogs with their Kevlar vests included, and that buggy becomes your portable battleship U.S.S. Hog Hunter as you sally forth to engage that pugnacious, bellicose, cantankerous 4-legged brute that's got thousands of calories hanging right there on the hoof, just waiting to be harvested, after which those calories will be severed from the bone and quickly confined to one of those deep freezes.

Now, here's one insight that may not be obvious to you. NONE OF THIS STUFF GROWS ON TREES. It takes $40,000-$60,000 to actually go hog hunting. At a minimum. And I'm not figuring in the expense of buying or leasing the land on which to hunt. Or the dog cost (I mean they are part of the family, so how would you even value them?) Or the vet bills. So, 

IT TAKES RESOURCES TO GET RESOURCES

Effort, energy, and struggle, is how resources get earned & collected in families

IT'S HARD WORK 

Hog hunting families know this. Every member sees the hard work. It's clearly understood how resources appear; and it's not through the operation of magic!

Now, let's figure you bag one, but since they are such a pain to fool with, you take 3 or 4. The theory being that if you're going to mess with one, you might as well take a few more, particularly if you confine your harvest to a nice collection of shoats. Or maybe you catch ‘em, pen ‘em up & feed ‘em some corn for a few weeks, and then do your harvesting. Either way, let's assume they are magically scraped or skinned, gutted, and sitting there chilled on that stainless steel cutting table. Yea right. That was a brief but pleasant fantasy! The point is:

THE FAMILY HAS NOW . . . DEPLOYED ITS PREVIOUSLY COLLECTED RESOURCES and ALL OF ITS MEMBERS ABOVE THE AGE OF 2, so everyone can LEARN ABOUT INVESTING FAMILY RESOURCES in an uncertain world . . . FOR THE PURPOSE OF ACQUIRING SOME MORE HARD-EARNED RESOURCES.

At this point it's time to, in the words of the title to this blog post, cut up the hog.

There's only two actual sports in the world: hunting and fishing. It is my opinion that no other activities are actually “sports” because they lack one essential quality: those sport-ish appearing pursuits ain't got no calories to cut up. Hunting and fishing do, and the collective division of resources happens according to a clearly-defined rule. Whether it be fly casting for tailing reds down in the Laguna, or bait casting with soft plastics in the Chandeleurs, or making a bream or crappie run with your grandkids — the same fundamental rule always applies: FIFTY-FIFTY — everybody gets an equal share of the resources. I mean if someone in your boat lands a monster billfish, we even share the credit and everybody gets a picture, by themselves, with the trophy fish. It's a team effort and so everybody gets to claim equal credit. It's protocol. It's understood. Particularly in families. One might even say IT'S THE LAW! 

Now there are people in the world who say, "I want the loins, the hams, the butts (which every one knows ain't the hams!) the rest of the shoulder meat, and the cheeks (a real delicacy in my family); and you can have the belly, the ribs, the head, and I'll throw in the organ meat. Now you can lay out two piles of your common resources split up that way on your cuttin' table and even a five year old will reflect the wisdom of Solomon when they look up questioningly into your eyes and say, but that just ain't fair! That big pile of mostly fat, bones, and guts ain't worth the same as that pretty pink meat. Even a child knows about equality of apportionment among differentially-valued asset classes, even if they can't say it and wouldn't know what it means after having the words recited to them. But look, it's not the “talking” or “hearing” that's important here; it's what the EYES can SEE. And a child can see the disparity of value just fine. Everybody does. Cutting up the hog that way ain't right. It's a violation. It just don't follow the rule of FIFTY-FIFTY.

If you've been married 25 years and figure that as the “wage-earner” you are entitled to the house, the good vehicle with no payments, the boat, jet ski, 5th wheel camper, tractor, all the guns and the retirement money, leaving the other  partner with a crappy car and the contents inside the house? Well, I'd say it isn't going to happen. It's not FIFTY-FIFTY. Judges are required to make a just and fair division of marital property under Texas law. It's in the law books for goodness sake! They've got to do it! It's hard to get a property division to 55/45. And a person has really got to be deliberately trying to screw themselves, or as we say in my family, be a real piece of work, in order to come up on the short end of a 25/75 property division. This means if you are wanting a value-dense asset like a house or land with equity of $500,000, you better be prepared to push compensatory property with a value of $250,000 over to the other side of the table. If parties can't or won't do that at mediation, judges often order the property sold and they split the money — right down the middle, and to the very last penny. I admit that fault can be the basis for an unequal property division. But it doesn't turn a sow's ear property division case into a silk purse one. 

Judges' default position is to split that hog straight down the backbone. Each party gets an inside and outside loin, a ham, a slab of ribs, a shoulder, half the belly, and a cheek. To the extent it's going to be "unequal" or as judges say, a disproportionate marital property division — well, one side might get two cheeks. Or the organ meat. Seldom does one side get the loins and both hams. That's a violation of the rule of FIFTY-FIFTY

That's why I say property division in a divorcing family that hunt hogs goes more smoothly. The inherent covenants, codes, and customs of sharing hard-earned and commonly-acquired resources actually precondition them toward fairness. It's FIFTY-FIFTY. And every hog hunting family knows it!

About the Author

Kerry Hagan

Attorney

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