Is it dead Dad?

Years ago we built a beautiful home on a 3 acre lot in Maryland. There were trees in the front of the lot, a long drive way up a hill to the house. It was a great place because we were nearly the highest lot in the community. Regardless of which direction we looked, we could see for miles and it was a grand view.

We put a small vegetable garden back behind the house where we all had fun growing gourds, tomatoes, peppers and squash, lots of squash. We spent lots of time working our garden and loved the vegetables and the gourds we got from it.

The far side of the lot dropped down to a fence row that separated our lot from a railroad track. Periodically a long noisy train would rumble up the track.

We planted three rows of pine trees on the hill down to the tracks. Eventually they would grow tall enough to reduce some of the train noise and a lot of the wind that blew up that hill.

It was a great place to raise our 4 daughters.

There was lots of wildlife on this lot. We got to see an occasional fox, wild turkey and even a few loose horses. We experienced black snakes and squirrels and lots of rabbits. Really, lots of rabbits.

However, there was one animal that we had far too many of. These were the ground hogs. The wooded area of the lot was filled with tunnels that the ground hogs made.  The ground was always soft and I was having a hard time getting grass to grow anywhere around that area.

Every spring a new group of baby ground hogs were born. At times it was cute to watch them frolic on the lot. However, the cuteness wore off pretty quickly. We had four daughters who loved to play in the woods; however they were afraid of the ground hogs. This made the front area of the lot less enjoyable for all of us.

We had a family dog that did not like other wildlife on our lot. Fortunately we had an invisible fence installed that kept the dog from the wooded area where the ground hogs were. However, periodically a ground hog would come up the hill towards the house and get into the area where our dog was.  I’m going to try to keep this story PG-13, so let me just tell you, once our dog caught a ground hog, regardless of the size, after a pretty tough fight and a lot of noise, it would be all over.  More often than not, there would be nothing left of that ground hog.

It seemed to me that ground hogs are not very smart, and they don’t learn from the mistakes of other ground hogs, because every summer this happened on a weekly basis. At one point we thought the dog needed to go on a diet. So we cut back on the dog food.  He didn’t need us to feed him anyway.

One Saturday afternoon we were playing out front. We were tossing around a Frisbee and having a good time.  A couple of times one of us would throw the Frisbee too hard and it would fall near the trees and one of the burrows where the ground hogs were.

I was charged with fetching the Frisbee because no one else would go near the ground hogs.  Each time I ran down to get the Frisbee I would pick up a rock out of the driveway and toss it at the ground hogs to chase them away. It didn’t work.  The rock would hit the ground near them and it didn’t faze them in the slightest. Dumb ground hogs.

My wife and our four daughters were having a great time running around, taking turns trying to catch the Frisbee and laughing at me each time I tossed a rock at the ground hogs.

With one mis-throw of the Frisbee our game came to an abrupt end. The Frisbee landed near one of the tunnel openings and a small ground hog came out of the hole and stood up on it’s back legs. I picked up a small rock and this time, with great deliberate aim, I tossed it as hard as I could directly at it’s little head.

BAM! – I hit the ground hog dead-center of it’s head.

It fell down and never moved again.

Everyone stopped and no one said a word.

I looked at my wife, her mouth was open. Both of us were astounded at the fact that I hit it this time and that it appears that I had killed it. Worse than all of that, I just killed one of God’s creatures in front of all four pre-teen daughters.

Then the questions started, “Dad is it dead?”, “Dad you killed it”, “Dad – why did you kill it?”, “DAD IS IT DEAD?”

Then from my wife – “TEDDY BURRISS – you killed it!”

Leave it to me to teach my daughters lots of life lessons, I’m generally proud of this. But, some lessons are hard to learn, and some are really not much fun to teach.

Afterwards I tried to cover up the death of the ground hog with a bogus statement, “It’s unconscious, I’ll put it down by the railroad tracks and it’ll wake up later.” I’m sure my daughters were smarter than this. I felt good trying though.