Last Friday, I left the safety and sanctity of my little room to look for Steve. You will understand in a moment why I refer to a 10-foot-by-17-foot room equipped with a chair, two lamps, a laptop computer, and a twenty year old television as a refuge. I found Steve, the man who promised to love, honor, and aim before he shoots, walking around the house with a shotgun. Remembering the lively argument we had enjoyed that very morning I said something like, “Please don’t shoot me.”
He is a forgiving man and agreed that while I could be incredibly annoying this was not, so far, a shooting offence. No, his primary target was Mr. Ground Hog. It seems Mr. Ground Hog had been making a big pest of himself. He was getting into the garage. He was getting into the flower beds. He was burrowing under the ground as ground hogs apparently are wont to do. I have lived a rural life for over sixty years and I swear I did not know that is why ground hogs are called ground hogs. To be honest, I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. Most of my thought processes revolve around wishing for world peace and wondering if my new jeans make me look fat, not necessarily in that order.
We had been trying to gently discourage him (the ground hog, not Steve) from his pestiferous ways. Do you know what ground hogs do when you are gentle with them about trespassing on your porch and deck? They take this as a sign of weakness and begin to use your porch and deck as their own private restroom, that is what they do. All subtlety is lost on a ground hog.
So that is why, on a sunny autumn afternoon, my husband was skulking around the house with a loaded gun, waiting for the ground hog to appear. He looked just like Elmer Fudd, right down to the plaid shirt.
In the interests of gun safety, I want to make it clear Steve had no intentions of shooting the ground hog from inside the house. There are windows and doors and walls and things like that to consider. He was just trying to catch a glimpse of the thing so he could go outside and blast it into ground hog confetti.
Thus the game began. When the gun was at the ready there was no ground hog. Just as soon as the weapon was safely stored, however, the ground hog would appear from somewhere and dash across the porch. Dash is probably a pretty strong word. This guy sort of waddled. And he knew—-he knew—we were watching for him. Once I stood at the door, unarmed, and here he came. He did his little waddling act and then stopped, turned around, and looked at me. This look was full of meaning. One meaning was “You stupid humans. Millions of years of evolution and an opposable thumb and you still can’t catch me. P.S. I have a brain the size of a pea.” Another meaning was “It’s a good thing I have four toes because if I had five toes, I would be holding the middle one up right now as an indication of my distain for you.” The third thought was, as we discovered the next morning, “I think I will go use your deck as my own private restroom.”
Well, this went on for several days. I would be on ground hog patrol, looking in all his usual hiding places. When I spotted the varmint, I would call to Steve, my gun-totin’ partner, and he would leap into Elmer Fudd mode. He even started to talk like Elmer. What we found out (Here Mr. Gwound Hog. Here Mr. Gwound Hog.) is that ground hogs respond to being called just about as well as cats do.
We live a simple life: a country house, sane hobbies, nice friends…nothing exotic. But now we were cast into a scene of Elmer meets the Terminator. Something had to give. Finally on Sunday as we were peacefully trying to descend into a football-induced torpor, Steve jumped up and grabbed the gun. There is very little in life that is less restful than gun-grabbing.
Just like in the song “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” out in the sun two shots rang out. Unlike in the song, nobody or nothing fell. Steve had missed and the ground hogs lives another day. He is making us verrrwee angwry.