In Which Death Walks In
It was a very strange day that started and ended with death. My husband wanted to go jogging in the gameland and I went along, for the sole purpose of photographing butterflies. One of my interesting discoveries of the morning was the perfectly preserved wings of a deceased red-spotted purple butterfly that I found lying by a big rock.
As a student of natural history in all of its forms, I sat down and photographed it for posterity. On live butterflies, you hardly ever get to see such detail, as butterflies are often in motion. In death, however, the details are much more visible: above is a photo of the underside of its wings. Here is a link to a blip-posting in which you may see the tops of the wings of such a butterfly.
And in the evening, such a sad thing happened that I can barely tell the tale. Remember the adorable groundhog who attempted to move in under our front porch? On this evening, I spotted it in the yard in front of my Mazda, and I grabbed my camera to go out, hoping to get some cute photos.
By the time I got to the front porch, of course, the groundhog had disappeared. But here is what it unexpectedly did: it ran straight down the drive way, out onto the road, and directly into the path of an oncoming car, which squealed its brakes, trying to stop in time. But then came the sickening thud that meant death had arrived on the scene. :-(
"They have killed our groundhog," I said sadly to my husband, and then I grabbed a shovel and removed its body from the road. Its poor sad remains are now resting in peace in our woods. Little fella, I am so, so sorry. We could not let you stay under our porch, but it was never personal: we never intended for you to DIE. So before we close this sad chapter, let me share some additional stories about our groundhog.
During the short time that we knew the groundhog, we developed a begrudging affection for the creature. But where did it even come from? When we discovered it in our yard, I queried a Facebook friend who is in the critter removal business about it. He said this is the time of year for dispersal of the young ones, when the mama groundhogs kick the youngsters out and makes them find places of their own to live. So our groundhog was a juvenile, in search of a new home.
And that was why the groundhog set up shop under our front porch. My husband had been complaining for a few weeks about odd smells around the porch. But we only discovered what was going on the day that I took the groundhog picture that I posted on blip. The day after that, during a juncture when the groundhog was outside of the hole, we filled it in with a small metal sign, bricks, and large gravel. Success!
However, a few days later, the groundhog was back. It had made a new hole right next to the old hole. It was beginning to feel a lot like the movie Groundhog Day, except that instead of getting the same DAY over and over, we kept getting the same GROUNDHOG over and over. In a moment of whimsy, I placed a No Trespassing sign by the hole. I put some old pots and pans under a chair on the porch, thinking I might bang them if I saw him approaching the porch again. My husband put a whistle by the door. "You plan to WHISTLE at the whistle pig?" I asked. (For the record, we never ended up using either the pans or the whistle.)
So again, we watched for opportunities to exclude it from the porch. Oh, and we plotted and we schemed, and meanwhile, we told stories, in which the groundhog was the star. And I shared the groundhog tale on Facebook, to much hilarity. I asked - what other ideas did people have for exclusion or deterrence? A friend suggested bubble gum balls. Bubble gum balls? For sure, the groundhog would LOVE that, and would learn to blow big, beautiful bubbles, and be the envy of all the other yard creatures!
My husband suggested putting detergent in the hole, to make it slippery and all messy. I just laughed. I said - "Wait till it rains! There'll be suds everywhere! And the groundhog will come floating out, scrubbing its back with a brush, with its rubber duckie floating on by, the groundhog singing Splish splash, I was takin' a bath!" My husband added: "And Tiny Tiger would be watching from the window, enviously, saying, 'Gee, I never thought he had it in him!'"
My husband also talked about putting lights out there, to annoy it. But I said no, the groundhog would just pull his arm chair out, light up his pipe, and sit and read his book, feeling absolutely marvy about the whole situation. Oh yes, this is how the groundhog became part of the lore and legend of our acre. We also began referring to it by its new nickname, the Silver Bullet, for its back was sort of silvery and it was quite fast-moving, for a groundhog.
Late on Tuesday afternoon of last week, I was just getting out of the shower, when my husband came running in breathlessly: "HE'S OUT!! HE'S OUT!!!!" I quickly dried and started putting on my clothes. "There's NO TIME FOR UNDERPANTS!" my husband shouted. And so on short order, there was a commando response to address the groundhog issue, that's for sure.
I ran out, and discovered yet a THIRD, rather HUGE hole under the porch steps, into which I tossed bricks and more large gravel. By the time I was done, I was covered in dust and spider webs and crud. Right back into the shower I went!!! (And as a homeowner, I must share this word of advice: do not underestimate the amount of time you may spend on the critters, both living and dead, who appear on your property.)
A few days after the second exclusion effort, I saw the groundhog again, and it gave me what might have been either a sad or a a disapproving look, before it disappeared into a brush pile at the edge of the yard. My husband, watching the bunnies the next night, told me we had "three bunnies and a groundhog" hanging out together peacefully. And that evening that the pair of fawns came and ran three laps all around the yard, gleefully, they nearly tripped over the groundhog and the bunnies. It was like Wild Kingdom here, and we were all happy. Those were the days. . . .
So we say farewell, for now, to the critters who did not make it on this day. We thank the butterfly for its beautiful wings. We apologize to the groundhog for any unintended role we may have played in its demise. We also thank it for the stories that it spawned, which were full of whimsy and joy: the blowing of bubbles, the commando raid, the splish splash takin' a bath, and that time in the arm chair with its pipe, enjoying a happy moment with a book. (If only it were still alive, it could become the star of a children's book, I think!)
Here is a soundtrack song for a day in which death walked in: John Mellencamp, with If I Die Sudden.
Added a few hours later: And in a strange twist of fate, the groundhog is back under the porch. Is it the same groundhog we had been seeing? Is there more than one? Did the dead one resurrect itself? Stay tuned for more updates from Groundhog Central. . . .
Added a few hours after THAT: And in another strange twist of fate, we have found another groundhog killed on the road sometime this afternoon. It is much bigger than the first one. I swear I had nothing to do with its demise. It was deceased when I got there! Why is life flinging groundhogs at us, why, why, why?