Stumbling across one of these little bastards nibbling away at the phlox in my garden last evening, I have every red-in-tooth-and-claw sympathy for this poem:


Gassing the woodchucks didn’t turn out right.
The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange
was featured as merciful, quick at the bone
and the case we had against them was airtight,
both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone,
but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range.Next morning they turned up again, no worse
for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes
and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch.
They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course
and then took over the vegetable patch
nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots.

The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrillingbr>
to the feel of the .22, the bullets’ neat noses.
I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace
puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing,
now drew a bead on the little woodchuck’s face.
He died down in the everbearing roses.

Ten minutes later I dropped the mother.  She
flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth
still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard.
Another baby next. O one-two-three
the murderer inside me rose up hard,
the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith.

There’s one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps
me cocked and ready day after day after day.
All night I hunt his humped-up form.  I dream
I sight along the barrel in my sleep.
If only they’d all consented to die unseen
gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.


–Maxine Kumin

Alas, I had neither gas bomb nor pellet gun, but only a stick.  I chased the furry little cuss about a bit, for some reason imitating a bear, until he got to his bolt hole under the fence and scarpered.  I’ve seen the signs for some time now, various carefully-selected plants razed to the level of about two feet or so.  I was puzzled at first – the damage was too high to be caused by rabbits, and I couldn’t see any sign of deer getting in.  Now, alas, I have all the evidence I need. 

 When we were visiting the Mothe up in Maine, I came this close to sneaking Dad’s old BB gun into our luggage for the return trip.  It was only a last second vision of the trouble Mrs. R would cause about it upon eventual discovery that stopped me from carrying through.  I wish now that I had been of firmer resolve.  How on earth I’m going to fortify the garden against these pests with anything short of a ten-foot-deep moat full of piranhas is beyond me at the moment.