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Said and Done

Woodchucks: A cautionary tale

Charlie Weeks, our New Hampshire neighbor, boasted one year that he had shot and killed more than 50 woodchucks that were stealing from his vegetable garden. Our faith in Charlie’s honesty thinned when Charlie added that he cooked and ate the animals that were robbing him.

We have some small experience with this, and we think our Recorder readers will agree it’s worth the telling.

Charlie had a sweet tooth that he pampered by feeding it those small packaged pies — apple, blueberry, cherry. He saved the metal plates that they came in, and after planting his garden, hung them up to ward off animal trespassers. A scarecrow was designed to let them know that human kind was close at hand.

Nobody laughed at Charlie Weeks. He had lived with his neighbors so long that he was simply accepted in his community as a taxpaying fellow citizen.

Varmint hunting had not yet become popular and Charlie wouldn’t have allowed it anyway. Cussing was about as abusive as Charlie got with his trespassers. He may, in fact, have been annoyed when he discovered that his beans were gone before they were grown. Charlie was one of those marksmen who aimed with his left eye while shooting right-handed.

Charlie’s back road was a happy hike to Sandy Pond where we did our swimming. Post card scenery was there left and right. We were often on that road.

On one occasion the family’s cocker spaniel made a dash into the roadside brush and scared out a woodchuck that promptly climbed a tree.

In a careless way I “shied” a rock in the general direction of the woodchuck. As luck would have it, the stone caught the animal on the side of the head and down it plummeted — dead.

Struck with remorse, I took it home. We’d eat it. That would make it right.

“Joy Of Cooking” was no help. It was “catch as catch can.”

We soaked and salted the carcass. We sliced and simmered its parts. We used mint and oil and garlic. We browned it and roasted it and tasted it.

And when we tried it, we knew where all of Charlie’s onions had gone, where Charlie’s leeks and radishes and peppers had all gone. We were eating the creature that had picked and eaten every spicy, bitter, tart plant Charlie had seeded into his garden. It was awful. We ate crow and quit.

Please! Let that be a lesson to you!

In semi-retirement after 58 years of writing for The Recorder, Paul Seamans of Gill will continue Said & Done on a regular monthly basis. Some of his columns will have been previously published.

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