Rick vs. the Groundhog
Groundhogs are plentiful in Pennsylvania. We have Punxutawney Phil, the most famous one in the world a scant 80 miles away. They are all over the place, and while not overtly dangerous, they dig holes in the fields and can cause accidents with tractors. Even so, I adopted a live-and-let-live attitude toward most of them. All except this one that lived under my barn.
Our farmhouse was built into a hillside. So that the the back of the house was actually at ground level with the second story. Next to the house, I had a neighbor level an area and pour a concrete pad 40 by 30 ft. My plans to build a garage never materialized, but it was a good place for the kids to play basketball and street hockey. Above the pad was an old Model T garage that I used for a barn. I kept feed in the bottom and the tractor and other equipment in the top. Under the barn lived the biggest groundhog I’ve ever seen. He was the size of a medium-sized dog and was pretty fearless. I would catch him on the concrete pad sometimes as I crossed to my pickup truck to go to work, but he was wary, and would always scamper back to his hole as I came near. Until one day.
On the far side of the barn is a pear tree. Not a good Bartlett pear tree, but some kind of pear you might use for ballast on a ship, or for building the foundation of a wall you wanted to last for thousands of years. Even the tractor couldn’t dent them. They would be all over the hillside under the tree, a menace to navigation. Totally inedible. The groundhog found them delicious.
So as I came out of the house this one morning, I saw that he had pursued an especially large pear across the pad and down the hill. About as far away from his hole as he could get. Before he knew it, I was between him and safety. There were hockey sticks laying around on the concrete, so I picked one of these up and played defense against his crossing of the pad. He put on some impressive moves, but I was like Gandalf on the bridge, “This rodent would not pass!”. As time went by, he started to tire, and eventually I pinned him with my stick to the concrete. There was also a length of rope on the pad which I fastened into a noose and deftly slipped over his middle. I cinched it up tight and lifted a 20 lb groundhog off the ground. He was really mad, but I had positioned the rope perfectly and all he could do is claw the air.
Now what do you do with a groundhog on a rope? I tossed him into the back of my truck and drove off. I looked back to see him working hard trying to get the rope off. About 5 miles away, I stopped the truck at a little pull off in the road. I snatched up the end of the rope and managed to free him without getting mauled. I watched as he scampered into the bush and sang the chorus from “Born Free”. Truly a worthy adversary.
Of course, by the time I got home from work, a new groundhog had taken up residence under the barn.
Circle of life.