The only neighbors we have at the Yellow House (aka The Compound) are about a zillion prairie dogs. Or as I’m fond of calling them: “The Goddamned Prairie Dogs”. They are the reason we can’t have nice things like a garden; or allow ranchers to graze cattle or horses or harvest honey or hay. They eat everything down to the dirt and in some places the dirt seems destroyed so nothing grows. They are called: gophers, voles, and–my favorite–whistle pigs.
But in May, I decided to forgive the prairie dogs because they are keeping the buffalo grass in check. Meaning they eat most of it so all we have is bind weed. And a dearth of bees. But this forgiveness isn’t the hand of friendship or a nod towards tolerating all God’s little creatures.
That doesn’t mean you can’t ask to bring your legally registered firearm to the property and practice shooting small moving targets. Just don’t fire towards the road from the front of the house. I hear our McMansion neighbors get twitchy. The drivers on the county road would probably appreciate it if you weren’t aiming a rifle at them, too. Don’t bring your assault rifle, that’s just silly and overkill. So to speak.
You have to admit, it would be fun to put together a red neck hunting breakfast…we could have those deliciously evil biscuits in a can, bacon, bacon grease gravy with sausage…and once our friends’ cholesterol and glycemic index are at all time highs they could dash around outside and shoot the prairie dogs.
Next to: “Don’t point the gun at your brother.” I never thought I would say to anyone: “Mr. C, Can you go around to the front and shoot the prairie dogs? They are destroying the only spot of yard we have.”
“Laura, I can’t shoot in front of the house.”
I bristled when he told me this: “Why not? It’s your property?” I was about to give him a lecture about his crumbling civil rights and how he needed to seize every opportunity to exercise what few civil rights he had. But that would be preaching to the choir. This is when I discovered our neighbors wouldn’t want to see a Paul Bunyan shaped man aiming a shotgun in the front yard.
Begrudgingly, I agreed with him. We do need to be good neighbors. At least we can shoot to kill them if we are outside of the city limits and they are pests. Isn’t it lucky we can do what we want with vermin according to the county? I wish I had known that when I lived in Denver. I would have seceded from the county just to shoot those damn rabbits.
The little buggers taunt me when I pull into the drive. There is a whole family that gathers at the gate and waves me in and out like the Beverly Hillbillies. “Hi! We killed more grass and made more holes for you!” Just to annoy me a couple of times Mr. C would stop and have mock conversations with them.
This winter, I tried to learn how to use the .22 but I couldn’t raise and twist in a back brace. I’ll have to wait for his return this winter. Otherwise, when things are slow with my paid labor, I could stick the gun out the office window and fire at will.
But have you priced ammunition? Whoa, crazy expensive, it’s got to be a conspiracy against gun owners. Each shot must count at those prices. I had to come up with another way to control the critters.
You can put smoke bombs in the holes but if we bought enough smoke bombs to fill every hole; we would be (a)more broke than if we had bought all our friends bullets for their .22’s and (b) People would think the property was on fire so the fire department would pay us a visit.
The other fix is putting oranges down the holes. The gophers can’t get out of the hole so they start to eat their way out. Something in citrus doesn’t agree with them and they die. It’s like garlic and vampires I guess. Or if you served me a salad of radish greens because I was destroying your property. But I hate wasting food so putting oranges down isn’t a great solution as far as I’m concerned. I’ve done it only after discovering the bag of oranges brought home for a healthy and delicious snack turned out to be just a snack and not a very delicious one at that.
Maybe my detente with the prairie dogs is because summer always makes me feel generous and expansive. Or maybe I feel a tad sorry for them after what happened in May during the big monsoon rain. Or maybe my “pity” is really me worried about my Karma after what happened to Mr. C.
In May we had a big rain; it was like we were being assaulted with water balloons. A few minutes after the water started pouring from the sky I looked out the window to see if the road was impassible yet. I didn’t have anywhere to go but I was curious. I noticed all the outbuilding doors were open. A few hours before, Mr. C was tinkering with a tractor to see if he could start it. When I mentioned the open doors he remembered the tools he left outside. I felt bad asking him to venture out in the soaking rain. But he did it willingly because that’s just how he is. I watched him trudge through the mud to the buildings; he was hunkered down against the cold rain without a hat or a proper jacket.
I turned back to my kitchen tasks and lost track of time until dinner was ready. That’s when I realized it was almost dark and Mr. C was still outside in the driving rain. My first guess was he had ducked into the barn and was waiting the storm out. Just about the time I was going to find muck boots and a jacket I hear his stamping foot steps and smell the outdoors as he hurled himself through the door.
“Wow! It’s bad out there.”
He was soaked through and my first thought was: “Sheesh, I’m going to have to take care of him with a man-cold aren’t I?” I didn’t say that out loud. That would be mean. Like drowning prairie dogs.
“So I am walking to the barn and I notice the prairie dogs are floating out of their holes, the rain is coming down so hard.” He then raised his hands up and did a treading water motion. “This one looked bad so I kicked mud into the hole. That’s when I got the idea I could do that all over the property so I just lost track and was walking out there, pushing mud in the holes.”
So gentle readers, mercy killer? Or sadist?
He was my hero at that moment so I made a silent promise I would be kind and gentle to him if he had a damn man-cold for a few days.
About six nano-seconds after Mr. C was warm and dry from his shower. Brother comes upstairs from the basement and calmly asserts there is water pouring in one of the windows. We all move downstairs and stood for a few seconds in gaping amazement as water really was pouring in from a window well, down the wall and onto my stored furniture. Fantastic. I’m completely useless to this process of moving furniture because I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. I watched Brother moving the big things and I lamely get towels and a mop. Mr. C goes outside, in the continuing driving rain and starts to—I kid you not—bail the water from the window well. Icky water comprised of dead leaves, spider parts, and frogs.
The water continued to fill the window well as fast as he could bale so he creates a sump pump (have I mentioned he is a retired rocket scientist and a “useful son-of-a-bitch?) And keeps that on until the rain stops.
Brother is moving furniture; I’m sorting out linens off the bed and doing very little meaningful work in my helpless state. Gapping at the mess wasn’t really that helpful.
Mr. C booms into the room after he hooked up the sump pump and announces:
“If I didn’t believe in karma before, I do now.”
I stop my marginally helpful task and stare at him. The rain has addled his brain. This man is an Atheist and believes we are in charge of our own destinies without the intervention of an invisible force like karma. I had heard him mock karma just that morning.
“So I go outside and notice the reason why the window is filling with water is because the downspout has come apart. Next to the downspout is a prairie dog hole. So I kneel down to start baling after I put the downspout together. What I do? I put my bare knee in dog poop. First thing. I get the water out of the window and then I notice the downspout is separated again. I know this is going to sound crazy but the first thing I think is the prairie dogs are getting me back for filling in the holes earlier. . .”
I do believe in karma and it gave me pause. It still gives me pause. That’s why there is a bag of terrible oranges in the fruit bowl I can’t bring myself to either throw away or shove into the holes in the front of the house. This karma is why I haven’t put together a big gathering of our shooting friends who have volunteered to come over and practice. It’s also why I wave at the damn prairie dogs who gather to watch me pull into the drive off the road.