23. Turkishly

If  you wait for a creative idea to land on your shoulder and whisper, “I am here” in your ear, you’ll be waiting a long time. Every once in a while you may get one like that, but for the most part you need to get  in the woods and call turkeys to you. They often come to see what’s in your shotgun.  And blam! you know what you’re having for dinner. Creative ideas are not turkeys, but they do need to be called in sometimes from over the ridge, through the brush, and onto the page.

The other day my wife mentioned something about renewing our wedding vows. We’ll be married 33 years soon, and she thinks it’s a good idea. She thinks both ideas are good– the institution of marriage and the renewal of marriage vows. I acted like I hadn’t  heard her clearly, and said, “Renounce our vows?  Why would I want to do that?  And what would that sound like? “For better or for best, minus sickness or in Hell, in good times not bad…” Actually the only folks I have known who felt compelled to renew their vows had trouble in their marriage– an affair, a serious debacle, a traumatic brain injury with a skillet. I could not  recall any such event, so I was not thrilled at the prospect of vowel remediation, which sounds like speech therapy. I told her I would marry her again, no doubt. I’d love to sign up for another 33 years with her, which would bring us to 89 years of age.  It’s like renewing a lease, not too threatening really. If it’s about vowing my love and fidelity to my wife again, I’m fine with that. I just want it known that I am doing so without duress or coercion.

The other thing that happened this weekend was I shot my first groundhog of the season. It was a good sized one, maybe 7 or 8 pounds. I didn’t lift it to weigh. He was up sniffing the air above the high grass outside his hole. His burrow, the one he took over, lies beneath the vegetable garden at the back of my yard. It has two holes big enough to drive a groundhog through. Anyway, I brought my .22 rifle out and tried to remember which way the safety clicked. I raised the barrel and fired a round into the grass below his head. His body flipped into the air, with his feet briefly where his head had been. I hurried over to that end of the yard but saw no carcass. In just a minute his head popped up out of his hole. Pop~! that was that. He conveniently crawled up and out of his hole and ceased all function. He would not be eating lettuce and cabbage and carrot tops this year.

In previous years I had tried to deal with groundhogs in less lethal ways. I blocked their holes. That’s a joke to a groundhog. They can dig like machines and clear out any stones that I packed in. I also tried cyanide smoke bombs to no avail. I poured gas and paint thinner into their holes and lit it. Nothing. I put a garden hose in the hole one year and let it run for hours. Finally a mother skunk ran out of the hole and was skewered by a pitchfork. It was not pretty. The skunkettes perished in the flooded burrow. Please, someone call PETA and turn me in. I also waited on several occasions with my machete and tried to chop at groundhogs that ran between my legs and into their holes. Futile. Throwing rocks also did not produce results. I felt like a giraffe trying to lick the back of its head…clumsy and unnatural and awkward. Untill the . 22.

The first summer that I got the gun, I shot 8 groundhogs. It was a thrill to stand on my deck in the morning and sight them in the garden. My heart would race a bit and I’d get excited as the furry rustlers would chew into fresh greens coming up from the cool soil. POW! and the ballet of the death spiral would commence. Not pretty but necessary if you  are going to eat what you plant and water. There is no real good way to eliminate these varmints without shooting them. Last summer was hard for some reason. Perhaps word got out that my yard was under surveillance. I only  saw two hogs all summer and both of them went to the great rodent burrow in the sky.

Now a fellow I know named Ron is a real groundhog killer. He hunts them on several farms on the other side of town. He has permission and is retired, so he has free access to hundreds of acres and unlimited time to hunt. Ron takes folks like me out hunting with him. He’s serious. He uses a scope and a tripod and a big gun– a 220. It sounds like a cannon compared to my little .22. Ron bags around 100 hogs each  summer. But there are plenty more to go around. Some animal cleans up the carcasses at night– a fox, coyote, owl, something, because they are not there the next day.

What does groundhog shooting have to do with renewing one’s marriage vows? A strange but appropriate question. Getting the .22 was my wife’s idea. For years she had feared that if there was a gun in our house, somehow I’d use it to kill her or the kids. Not sure how this was supposed to work, just that it was. Only when a bigger threat showed up in our vegetable garden did I get authorized to purchase the killing tube. Finally I owned a rifle, a weenie rifle, true, but still, I thought it was great. Most boys get a rifle at 12. I was a little delayed…by 40 years or so.

Why not renew my marriage vows? If I can shoot ground hogs when I am retired like Ron, who is also happily married, then what the heck. Call me a turkey.

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