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Groundhog had one too many days of gluttony

August 21, 2007|By TIM ROWLAND

The good news is that I got the groundhog.

The bad news is that I got the groundhog.

Two of them, actually, leaving only an estimated 24,998 left in the field.

I would have nothing against woodchucks as a species if they would stay in the woods where they belong, eating sumac and playing tip jars, or whatever it is they do for entertainment.

But they insist on invading my personal space, digging under barns and garden fences. They don't nibble like rabbits, they gorge. You get the sense they have a Martha Stewart element to them, and if each single bean plant in the row isn't chomped down to the exact same level, it makes them uncomfortable in an artistic sense.

So something had to be done, and Beth knew exactly what it was. Next time we saw the fat little rodent gnawing on a sunflower, she casually handed me a shotgun.

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I have nothing against guns. If people want to own them, it's fine with me. If they want to shoot people, I will be happy to provide a list of prospects.

But I'm not entirely comfortable with them, either. I don't appreciate loud noises, such as gunfire, jackhammers and Chris Matthews. Being the man, however, I couldn't look soft in front of the chick. So, with a manly swagger, I gripped the weapon in a manly fashion and - after a manly moment to figure out which end of the shell went into the chamber first - walked into the pasture with a manly quickness.

I slammed the round home. I cocked the cocky thingie. I aimed.

I - this is where it gets awkward.

It was much like the scene in "Animal House" where D-Day and Bluto hand Flounder the gun and tell him to shoot the horse. I closed my eyes, turned my head and fired in the general direction.

The result was a cloud of dust and an animal that seemed to realize that an occurrence had just transpired, but wasn't sure what. He rolled twice from the percussion, then picked himself up and dove into the woods.

Beth tried to console me: "Wow, good shot. I don't think I've ever seen a groundhog quite that scared."

Since it rolled, I maintained that I scored a hit. Dubious, Beth headed for the woods. I stopped her.

"Don't do that; there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded groundhog."

Since the next day the groundhog, arm in a sling, was back under the apple tree munching fallen fruit, Plan B was a Hav-a-Heart trap. Quickly, we caught a youngster. The thought of opening the trap and shooting him didn't seem sporting somehow, so we relocated the beast to a nice mountain home. With views.

The next one, the surly, granddaddy, monster I-will-dig-under-the-barn-until-it-caves-in groundhog, was not so easy. His crimes clearly warranted a death sentence. He was big. He was ugly. And he smelled.

Our friend Walter offered to come over and dispatch any further catches, but he's a rugged, longtime farmer whom I am trying to impress. I can't have him thinking that I am a greenhorn - any more than he already does.

Hannah the English bulldog, who was snarling outside the cage, seemed willing to offer her services, as well. It should be noted here that Opie, the bouvier des Flandres puppy, is a very brave dog. But, by coincidence, the moment the BDF saw the wild, caged animal, he suddenly remembered a pressing engagement in the house, underneath the couch.

So, since we were on the way to the horse barn at the time, we decided to put the critter - the groundhog, not Opie - in the shed until our return.

Having decided to do what needed to be done, we got out of the car an hour or so later. I went for the shed and Beth went for the armory.

All it took was one glance.

"Uh, Beth? You don't have to worry quite so much about the gun."

Sure enough, he had expired on his own. And let that be a lesson to all of you who ignore those government warnings about overeating. He was so fat on our apples, he appeared to have had a stroke.

Speaking of stroke - as in genius, of - I buried him in his own hole. Meanwhile I looked up to see Beth - and this is such a woman thing to do, I can't stand it - cleaning the trap with paper towels and Windex.

Wouldn't want the next groundhog to be offended by his new surroundings.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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