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Woodchuck heading for high country

June 30, 1999

License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations. Man, free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy, and in this case my enemy is a varmint. And a varmint will never quit - ever. They're like the Viet Cong - Varmint Cong. So you have to lie back on superior intelligence and superior firepower.

And that's all she wrote. - Carl Spackler in "Caddyshack"

The woodchuck awoke Sunday morning to discover the rules had changed.

Oh, he'd been having a pretty free time of it. Living high on the groundhog, you reason.

I had noticed he'd eaten the cabbages down to the ground, but I didn't say anything. Then he stripped the broccoli down to a single stem, making it look as if I'd planted a long row of drumsticks. I didn't say anything.

Next he had a go at the beets. The only edible part of a beet, in my view, is the top, and on this issue the groundhog and I must have similar opinions, because that's the part he got. But even then I didn't say anything.

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It was interesting in a way. He would scurry from his hole past the beans, past the tomatoes, past the onions, past the squash and past the zinnias to get to the broccoli/cabbage quadrant.

I thought that showed a lot of self-restraint for a rodent. You have to admire a groundhog who knows what he likes.

But then he made a key error; he scarfed down the cantaloupes. That made it personal.

I solicited and received all sorts of advice, from mothballs to peanut-butter baited traps to antifreeze-soaked apples.

Let it never be said that the word "overkill" is part of my vocabulary, because after hearing all these opinions I selected all of the above.

It was sort of the carpet-bomb approach to woodchucks. I walked up to the cashier with eggs, Dr. Pepper, antifreeze, peanut butter, Zip-Loc bags, mothballs, rubber bands, apples, a squirt-bottle and cayenne powder and she gives me one of those looks that says, "what you do at home at night is your own business, mister, just leave me out of it" and then I packed it all into Old Copper and set out for the blueberry ranch.

Morally, I was aided in my plan in that women don't find groundhogs cute. Squirrels? "You can't hurt a squirrel, they're so cute". Rabbits? "You can't hurt a bunny, they're so cute." Deer? "You can't hurt a deer, they're so cute." Groundhogs? "Eh, do what you have to."

It's the four and 20 blackbirds paradigm. Had they been indigo buntings, I guarantee they never would have been subjected to the indignities of pastry filling.

So Saturday night I mobilized. I affixed the vegetable garden with more booby traps than the 1968 Mekong Delta. If that critter had hit the trip-wire just right he'd have been hurled to Winchester.

But based on some forensic crime scene re-creation on my part the next day, he never made it past the apple slices. I confess to chickening out with the antifreeze. I didn't want to kill him, just make him real sick.

People familiar with my cooking suggested I soak the apples in some of my homemade vichyssoise, but I went with windshield washing fluid. From what I can gather it's a little poisonous, but so diluted it would do no worse than a bad stomach ache. The antifreeze jug had a skull and bones on the label; the washer fluid had a skull and bones, but there was also a little happy face next to the antidote.

I don't know what windshield washer fluid tastes like, but based on paw prints in the garden it must be pretty awful, because that groundhog left the county in three jumps exactly.

Now I can't wait until he comes back. If he liked the wiper fluid, he's going to love the moth balls soaked in Dr. Pepper.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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