“The only good groundhog is a dead groundhog,” declared attorney Sidney Jackson III across the fence to his neighbor Ruger Hardebaugh.
“Feller moves out to the country, he ought to take what nature gives him,” Ruger said. Ruger leaned out past the expansive bib of his overalls and spit tobacco juice out onto Sid’s newly mown hayfield. Ruger’s one-eyed malamute, which looked somewhat more wolf than dog but was too old to threaten on either account, leaned away to avoid the spit.
“I can abide nature,” Sid said. “But not groundhogs.”
“Ain’t no groundhogs in the city,” Ruger said.
When Sid bought the farm from the Steiner estate, his only pause was neighboring up against Ruger’s squabble of sheds, hutches, and outbuildings, which housed a menagerie of pigs, goats, and chickens. The animals roamed freely and were already at home in the Steiner fields. Sid’s erroneous assumption that Ruger’s errant critters would be content culling leftover farm crops evaporated as soon as Sid put in his vegetables and sweet corn. After he found two of Ruger’s goats standing on top of his Mercedes, Sid installed a high-tensile, electrified wire fence. Even then, Sid would return home to find the animals on the loose again.
“Them fences just don’t stand up,” Ruger replied when Sid questioned him.
“Looks like it was cut,” Sid said. “Any idea how that could happen?”
“Them fences just don’t stand up,” is all Ruger would say.
After Ruger’s farm animals were fenced out, the groundhogs seemed to magically appear. Sid had nothing personal against groundhogs. Although by lineage, they had the personal ethics of rats, they were nevertheless marvels of natural selection. They could excavate a burrow, complete with nesting lair and two entrances—several hundred pounds of dirt and stone—all in a single day. With large incisor teeth and powerful paws, they seemed capable of moving anything Sid put in their path, especially any obstacle under the deck close to the house. Appearing slow and ponderous, they were skittish and ducked into the woods or down a hole at the first sign of danger. They also seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing when Sid wasn’t home. Invariably, Sid would return to find a new burrow or one of his prized perennials eaten to the roots.
Sid’s live-in girlfriend, Charlene, lobbied to let them be.
“What can they hurt?”
“Just look at my lettuce,” he said.
Sid had first met Charlene when he was separating her coworker Sissy Spielman from an abusive husband. Sid had called Charlene as a character witness and to substantiate Sissy’s injuries. The opposing counsel made the mistake of cross-examining Charlene.
“You didn’t really see anything, did you?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“What exactly did you see?”
“I saw Sissy at my door all bruised up, crying.”
“You didn’t see Mr. Spielman do that?”
“Not that time.”
“When did you see him hit Mrs. Spielman?”
“Never saw him hit her.”
“Then how do you know it was my client that injured her?”
“Sissy was at my house hiding when he showed up, drunk as a skunk, begging to see her and crying that he wouldn’t hurt her again.”
“Did you call the police?”
“Waste of time. I just threw the son of a bitch off my porch and told him if’n he ever touched Sissy again, I’d personally slice off his tallywacker with my butcher knife.” Charlene then smiled broadly up at the judge. “Excuse my French, Your Honor,” she said.