One of my greatest joys in life is glancing out my home office window and catching a glimpse of one of the many suburban critters with which we share our property. Although small, our simple acre, with its abundant oaks and stately pines, provides habitat for a wealth of suburban wildlife, not the least of which are groundhogs. Interesting creature, the groundhog. Low to the ground, almost cylindrical in shape, and at first glance appearing to be lazy and uninterested. In my diligent observations, however, I have found that to be far from the truth. Ever alert, these captivating creatures are quick to dart for cover the moment my curious shadow breaches the sill of my office window, some 50 yards away.
And beautiful – so beautiful. Each one possessing what appear to me to be the slightest differences in outward appearance, but to them undoubtedly differences as great as those between Marilyn Monroe and Danny Devito. I name them, of course, without regard to age or gender. Iggy (perceived as male) and Izzy (his bride) – only slightly discernable by the length and darkness of their flattened tails, which appear to be just a tad bit short for their dachshund-like bodies.
I get to know them well, over the weeks of early summer, as they spend their hours harmlessly foraging; helping to rid our manicured lawns of unwanted clover and chickweed. “Our” yards I say, because Iggy and Izzy actually spend the majority of their time in the yard of my next door neighbor. In order to protect his identity, we’ll just call him, “Hitler.”
Hitler planted a garden. Right smack dab in the middle of his back yard. Like a square, green, puss-infected zit on the forehead of the Virgin Mary. And then, to add insult to injury – he fenced it in. Ah yes – the fence. The purpose of which, of course, was to exclude Iggy and Izzy from his smorgasbord of beans, tomatoes, and other assorted delicacies of the groundhog (and human) kind. An exclusive offering to which the likes of lowly groundhogs were not privy. Like a country club that does not allow common riff-raff, Iggy and Izzy were swept to the side like the former inhabitants of a gentrified city.
Except – that they weren’t. In addition to being ever-alert and lightning quick, groundhogs are evidently also resourceful. Not to mention, they can dig. Being the resourceful excavators they are, it did not take long at all for Iggy and Izzy to help themselves to the bountiful buffet, which must have appeared to them to have been laid out especially in their honor. But alas, their excavating escapades would ultimately lead to, what I sadly refer to as – the groundhog wars.
Having lost the battle, but determined not to lose the war, Hitler devised a plan. A plan which included the purchase of one very fine, brand-spanking-new, galvanized- constructed, spring-loaded, groundhog-catching trap.
What ensued over the next few weeks was a game of cat and mouse the likes of which would be the envy of Tom and Jerry themselves. The placement of the trap … the correct choice of bait … under a tree? beside the den? To camouflage or no? What must have been an endless string of trial and error, did in fact, sadly, end with the capture of Iggy, whose defeated mass was allegedly relocated to a nearby state park in an attempt to quiet the guilty conscious of one disappointing neighbor, a.k.a. Hitler.
I am happy to report, however, that despite the continued, dogged efforts of my unenlightened neighbor, at the time of this writing, Izzy still frolics nearby (to the extent that groundhogs frolic), enjoying the late summer offerings of clover, chickweed, and yes, to my delight, the occasional green bean.