After decades of living with Kay, I still want to impress and surprise her. Sometimes my efforts are rewarded with laughter and appreciation; other times, bewilderment, and still other times, the look if not the words of “I can’t believe you just did/said that.” Those are the times when honest effort becomes lame antics, and we males can be so good at lame antics. We are, if nothing else, consistent, and recently I tried to impress my wife with a skill that is not at the top of my bag of tricks.
For the second summer in a row we have had a woodland varmint leave its natural habitat and go rogue taking up residence beneath our garden house creating all sorts of havoc. Word of the fate of the previous resident must not have made it out into the wilderness, and the current occupant must have found the perks of the domestic location too irresistible. We grew suspicious of this intruder when we noticed fresh trenches dug beneath the garden house and a well-worn trail leading to the tomato plants and then on to the section of flowers and ferns. One morning when I came out to pick tomatoes for breakfast, I caught him gorging on the ripe, red orbs. We had a verified sighting. He dashed beneath the garden house the moment we made eye contact. Strike One.
A few days later when I returned from the gym, I went to the rain barrel to collect a bucket of water for the window boxes and noticed that our fountain was not working. I examined the pump and it was not malfunctioning. The breaker box inside the garden house had not tripped from a power surge. The electrical cord was plugged in and the power was on, so why wasn’t it working? I followed the cord from the outdoor outlet on the side of the garden house running to the fountain and found the spot where it had been chewed down to the copper wiring. I replaced the cord and informed Kay. Strike Two.
When I suggested it was time to consider the .22 caliber option, Kay expressed her doubts. Her memory was long, stretching back to last summer’s fiasco and our weekend guests having to endure the vile stench of varmint decay wafting from beneath the garden house. She reminded me that her brother Larry, a veteran of the woods and hunting, had said that groundhogs were tough critters and the only way to dispatch said critter was a well-aimed, direct shot that would drop the varmint in its tracks. This was her sweet but not-so-subtle way of telling me that I might not be up to this task, and she did not want a repeat of last year’s debacle with a yard full of revelers inhaling the toxic air around our garden house. Duly noted.
A brief time passed with no sightings, and we thought that the intruder had moved on, but while weeding one day behind the statue of St. Francis, Kay noticed that several of the plants had been eaten down to the root. From rubber-coated wire to succulent foliage, this groundhog had an eclectic palate. Strike three, I thought, and though piqued at the loss of her plants, Kay still did not feel the need for drastic measures, so there was a stay of execution.
But when only a couple of days lapsed and we came upon the ferns and mosses (Kay loves her ferns and mosses; don’t mess with her ferns and mosses), at the foot of St. Francis, browned and dead from groundhog urine, that was the final straw. Perhaps St. Francis might have granted the varmint clemency, but not my wife. Strike four, and my inner Kraken was released.
When Kay returned home from work a few days later I was beaming with pride.
“I have good news. I have bad news. And I have good news,” I announced.
Her expression went from curious to quizzical to wary as she awaited my report.
“Good news, our varmint problem is solved with my first shot, no less,” I began. (I felt like the Little Tailor of Grimm fairy tale fame bragging about his feat of “seven at one blow.”) “Bad news, he dashed under the garden house like his cousin before him. And good news, we have no guests staying over or dinner parties scheduled.”
What followed, however, was not the hoped-for adulation from my wife for an accomplished mission, but three strikes to my manhood.
“Chippie,” (Strike One: a pet name coined by my wife and spoken often as a term of endearment, but uttered this time with coated disgruntlement.)
“You are not a huntsman,” (Strike Two: a truth I could not deny, but I had hoped there might be some recognition of potential for the high status of hunter/gatherer.)
“Why didn’t you call Larry?” (Strike Three: spoken as if Larry, who does live right next door to us, was just sitting on his front porch, locked and loaded, and waiting for my call.)
Thank goodness there was not a Strike Four or I would have crawled under the garden house myself.
I came back with a swear word or two—a skill I am proficient in but not necessarily proud of—to which she countered by suggesting my response was uncalled for, and then softened it with, “You are so good at so many things, but hunting is not one of them.” I could not disagree and must admit that Kay is a much better shot than I.
It is in accepting the warp and woof of our marriage that makes life interesting. We allow each other to be the human beings we are and don’t meddle much in changing the other person into our own image. This gives us the freedom to really learn something from each other when the time is right. For instance, I have learned that I should make a list of those skills for which I have no obvious talent, e.g., plumbing, electrical, mechanical, etc., etc., to infinity and beyond. Huntsman shall now be added to the list.
So with the arrival of the inevitable smell of decomposition, we packed our bags and flew with our family to France for a two-week vacation. Manhood restored.