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Scott Hollifield: Man vs. groundhog II -- this time, it's personal
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Scott Hollifield: Man vs. groundhog II -- this time, it's personal

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The ceasefire is over.

Readers without COVID-related brain fog may recall my column in late August chronicling a summer-long battle with Gary the groundhog over the vegetables in my garden.

Here is an excerpt:

“As the plants started to poke their heads out of the soil, groundhogs started poking around the plants. Also, known as woodchucks or whistle-pigs, these critters can put a mighty big hurting on a small garden.

“I noted several, but the one I dubbed Gary the groundhog seemed to be the leader of the pack — or whatever the correct term is for a bunch of groundhogs. I thought if I could deter Gary, maybe the rest would follow in his four-legged footsteps and stay away.”

If you didn’t read it or don’t recall it (spoiler alert), I contend the battle ended in a draw. We all got our bellies full and there is plenty of Mason jars packed with pickled okra and green beans in the cupboard for hard times.

Several readers said they enjoyed the column, some offering groundhog eradication tips and one including a groundhog recipe in case turkeys are hard to come by this Thanksgiving.

Here is what I didn’t know then: The battle was not over.

After picking the last of the peppers and cherry tomatoes, we pulled up what remained of the old plants and prepped the soil for next year. As I walked away from the now bare garden spot, I saluted in the general direction of the drainage ditch, Gary’s favorite place of refuge on those days when I chased him.

I spied him a couple of times in the yard after that, looking fat and ready for hibernation. At least I thought he was ready for hibernation. I don’t know much about groundhog life but I figured they either hibernate or fly south for the winter because I don’t see them around much at Christmastime.

Turns out, they do hibernate, according to Google.

A week or so after I last saw him, I was in the house at my desk, looking at non groundhog-related material on the interwebs, when I heard an odd sound. Odd sounds usually send the dogs into a yapping frenzy like the mailman is trying to break in and rob the joint, but they thankfully continued to sleep on the couch and dream about the day when humans return to their places of work and stop bothering them.

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Thump. Thump. Thump.

It was kind of a hollow, semi-rhythmic sound, like a hippie warming up for a drum circle.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

I eased out of the chair so as not to wake the yapping demons and tip-toed to the living room to look out the window to see what kind of shenanigans were occurring on the street where shenanigans are known to occur.

Nothing.

I eased back down the hallway to the kitchen and looked out the back door.

Nothing.

Then — Thump. Thump Thump. Only louder.

I opened the back door, looked through the storm door glass and then down at what appeared to be a monster chewing the lid off a 32-gallon plastic trash can beside the stoop.

“What the ---?! Gary!”

He bolted at the sound of my voice and scampered, still quick and spry for an overweight whistle-pig, for the sanctuary of the drainage ditch.

There were holes in the top of the trashcan lid and small section had been gnawed away.

“OK, Gary,” I said. “You can hang out in my yard. You can burrow in my ditch. You can even share the bounty of my garden. But you are not — I repeat not — going to destroy my 32-gallon trashcan before your long winter’s nap.”

The ceasefire is over. Let the best man (or woodchuck) win.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.

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