Chipmunk Gets A Post

After writing about the one-on-one time with my son Harrison, it was funny reading the comments and emails I got in regard to that post. Most of them were to the effect of, "...such a good dad, and HOW DID YOU CATCH THAT CHIPMUNK!!!" Due to the overwhelming response I thought I'd explain the circumstances surrounding its capture.

I would love to regale you with a story of hilarious slap-stick antics in the vein of cartoon cat-and-mouse high jinx or a wild Crocodile Hunter-style parody where every other word is Crikey. However, the actual truth of the matter just wouldn't sustain the jokes needed to make these gimmicks work. Simply put, the chipmunk caught himself.

My parents have quite the "estate," complete with all manner of gardens yielding beautiful flowers, fresh vegetables and sweet fruits and berries. Given all the work put into the grounds, my father, in particular, is quite protective of the grounds, and thus, any manner of wildlife brave enough to face their own demise is more than welcome to partake of the property's good bounty. My father typifies the archetypal image of the mean farmer menacing the cuddly woodland creatures who just want to fill their furry bellies, like in the story of Peter Rabbit. They're only following their God-given instinct to feed on free food and dress in cute little coats and aprons.

What they fail to realize is that this particular menacing farmer is literally a trained special forces soldier and not just some cartoonishly drawn, crank waving a hoe around every time he discovers an adorable animal sampling the cabbage. Imagine the groundskeeper from Caddyshack (See clip below) meeting the lovable characters of Over The Hedge (Yes, they had the Verminator, but he was too "high tech" in my father's estimation. "Killin's a personal thing, son," he'd say. "If you can't look 'em in the eye then it don't mean nothin'.").

Given my father's passion, it's not unusual to find the charred, smoking carcass of a raccoon lying on the ground, the victim of homemade napalm; or the bloody remains of a opossum skewered by the sharppened bamboo of a punji-pit booby trap. Other measures include tin cans dangling from a roped off area in the garden where the corn grows. When they clang together in the middle of the night, the sound is usually followed by my father's voice enthusiastically declaring, "vermin' in the wire!" and rounds being chambered into a high-calibre rifle. Dad, even likes to employ psy-ops techniques against his enemy, blaring Barry Sadler's Ballad of the Green Beret at full volume from 8-foot speakers in the wee hours of the morning. Mom and the neighbors seem to have grown accustomed to it, but it scared the hell out of me and boys for the first few days of our visit.

When I mentioned earlier, that the chipmunk caught himself, I was referring to the fact that he managed to tangle himself in a large netting system devised by father to keep "infiltrators" out of his large blueberry bushes. Apparently, our wayward chipmunk friend became so excited at the sight of these marble-sized berries that he hit the netting at an 100 mile-an-hour dead sprint, kind of like a toddler hitting a screen door, but instead of bouncing off, the chipmunk rolled forward and tried to keep going. Eventually it was completely immobilized by the time my boys happened to come along.

"Dad, there's a trapped chipmunk!" You'd have thought it was King Kong by their enthusiasm, which, I suppose makes sense given the rarity of both 50-foot gorillas and chipmunks not in motion. I scooped up the little guy, and instructed Noah to get me a pocket knife so we could cut him loose. Noah return three seconds later. "Grandpa said he wants to have it when you get him out of the net," he said as he handed me the knife. I didn't think that to be a good idea.

It's not that I believed dad would do anything cruel to it. In fact, he has a healthy respect for worthy adversaries who display the cunning and skill to survive in the face of danger. The other night he explained the maneuver tactics of one chipmunk who'd earned the right to live another day. "No show-boatin' like the rest of his kind," he said, sipping his beer on the back porch where we sat talking together. "This guy had to be part of their SF elite - three second rushes using cover and concealment the whole way from the yard to the woods. Never let me squeeze off a shot. Hooah!" Then he turned slightly and gave a quick salute as if he knew that same chipmunk was listening to us from a nearby bush and was at that moment saluting back at dad in a the time honored show of mutually held admiration.

If that chipmunk had been part of the rodent elite, then the one I was cutting free had to have just finished new recruit training. Running head-long into the enemy is something only carried out by those inexperienced enough not to know better or those insane enough to take on my father's dead-eye aim. Faced with turning it over to provincial warlord and turning it lose, I felt something like the village chief torn between my obligations to the ruling entity and my convictions in fairness and opportunity. If this little guy was indeed a worthy foe, then he should earn it, and if not? Well, then may God have mercy on his tiny, pea-pickin' soul.

After a few pics for prosperity's sake, I let the chipmunk go. "Why'd you let him go, dad?" Harrison was perplexed as to why anyone would let such a prize go free on purpose.

"Because, son, everybody goofs and gets caught. Sometimes they just need a fighting chance." I know he may not have grasped what I was saying, but maybe he'd remember this moment at the right time one day in the future.

A few minutes later Noah announced that Grandpa was mad at me for letting 'the prisoner' go. I was still trying to figure out if my father meant to interrogate the little guy or infect him with a virus that could be carried back to the chipmunk society and cripple their localized community. When I saw my father later that evening, he just looked at me.

"Being a liberal's made you go soft, boy."

Ya, I thought, I guess it has.

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