Dad and the woodchucks (and his beloved garden)

If you had a gigantic garden in the country, like my father did, you would soon realize that certain universal problems would play a role in limiting  a successful crop yield.

The first garden problem were the insects that were attracted to certain types of crops. Dad spent a great deal of time and money spraying awful chemicals over the entire expanse of his garden. Many of these chemicals, like DDT  were, at a later time, outlawed because of their devastating impact on the environment.

The second garden problem was the lack of rain, or drought. I vividly remember several summers in the 1960’s where lack of rainfall was a big problem for all farmers in our area. Dad’s garden was so big that you couldn’t just run a garden hose around it. Fortunately he had a couple of wells, so he was able to set up several sprinklers at one time to address the problem.

The third problem was the most challenging. Critters. Especially woodchucks. Woodchucks left tall plants, like corn, pretty much alone. But they devastated low growing vegetables, especially tomatoes.

Dad took a three pronged approach to fighting the woodchuck menace. The first prong was our dog Ginger.  Ginger was a relatively small dog, but extremely powerful and fast. Whenever she spotted a woodchuck, she would take off after it, catch it, and kill it. As you might imagine, my father loved that dog.

Woodchucks are fairly big animals, and some of them were bigger than Ginger. But that didn’t matter. She always was able to capture and kill the woodchucks, until she grew old. She then realized that she did not have her ‘killer’ anymore, and left them alone.

The second prong of the woodchuck attack was the construction of an electric fence around the tomato patch. My father would chuckle with glee every time he heard the woodchucks squeal after getting caught in the fence.

The third prong involved my father actually shooting the woodchucks with his 22 caliber rifle.  Many a night at the dinner table, my father would slide open the kitchen window behind my head, aim his  rifle, and nail a woodchuck that was about 100 feet away. Like my dog Ginger, Dad never missed. He continued to do this until he was well into his eighties.

I used to get a bit nervous when I was mowing the lawn in Dad’s line of fire from the kitchen to the tomato patch. I considered wearing a bulletproof vest or a sign that said ” I am NOT a woodchuck”.

An interesting thing about Dad’s gardening obsession was that he gave most of his vegetables away.  We could have eaten much more inexpensively if we bought the vegetables at the store.

During the non growing season, Dad had a hard time keeping himself busy. He did so, but not with the sense of purpose that he had during gardening season.

Dad and Ginger are long gone, but the woodchucks survive.If you see one, plug him with your 22.  Dad will look down and smile.


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