Sometimes we hear an animal tale that defies our standardized ideas of what one of our alleged lower fellow creatures are indeed capable of. This is one such story.
Spring that year was exceptionally wet with puddles and small ponds appearing where none had been before. And the summer followed suit. Everything was a soggy mess, with mud, mud and more mud. Being outside for any length of time just wasn't any fun! So I found myself coping the very best I could by becoming what I termed a 'porch potato'. After having my fill of being wet and mud coated, I would retreat to the screen porch where at least it was merely damp. Comfortably perched upon my cushioned wicker armchair, I could still enjoy observing the goings on of the wildlife that graced us with their presence.
For the rest of nature, of course, it was business as usual. The birds were noshing at all the feeders, bunnies in the goose and corn feeders, a squirrel, tail held up like an umbrella over the top of his head, scoffing sunflower seeds. Everyone still needed to make a living despite the rain. To my mind, the rest of nature never seemed to be bothered at all by the inclement weather the way we spoiled humans are.
But one day, I happened to glance over in the direction of the driveway where the utility and kayak trailers were stored, covered over neatly against the ravages of snow, rain and sun with bright blue plastic tarps. And there was a woodchuck tugging on one corner of the smaller tarp on the utility trailer. With a modicum of annoyance I clapped my hands loudly and told him to get out of there. Figuring that was the end of that, although puzzled as to why he would do such a thing, I put the matter out of my mind. After all, no animals had ever bothered with one of the tarps before.
A short time later, I glanced out there once more, only to find that pesky little chuck again tugging at the corner of the same tarp. I couldn't believe my eyes. What was wrong with this guy anyway? Clapping and scolding once again drove him away, although he did glance over his shoulder at me with a look that definitely resembled disgust. Now I was really confused. Why on earth was he behaving like this? (Do woodchucks get rabies?)
None-the-less, I more or less forgot the incident and went about my own business of the day. Surely I had made myself perfectly clear and he would not return to do his mischief again. But much later, when I happened to glance in that direction again, something just didn't look right. Then suddenly it hit me! The blue tarp was gone from the utility trailer. What the heck? The wind was calm, so where could it possibly have gone? It was then that I remembered the woodchuck. Could he perhaps be the culprit? I just had to investigate further.
Heading outside, I looked around in vane for the missing tarp. It couldn't just vanish! It was then I caught a glimpse of blue out of the corner of my eye. And there was the missing tarp, halfway down the hill, wedged amongst the sticker bushes and small tree trunks. Darned if that determined little chuck hadn't somehow gotten that entire tarp off the utility trailer and all the way over to there all by himself. But he must have had to abandon the mission when the tarp became so impossibly tangled. Still I wondered what would make him do such a crazy thing. Standing there dripping wet, I pondered the scene before me. Could this little guy have reasoned that he needed the tarp to make his home below the sodden ground more comfortable? Wasn't he just a dumb animal without the ability to think such lofty thoughts? Was I bestowing upon him an intelligence that he was incapable of? Or was I witnessing a very smart animal that put me and my superior human mind back in my place? Maybe we humans are not the only ones capable of reasoning. There was really no way to know the answers and so I finally gave up and went back inside.
That event took place a year or so ago and still I find myself wondering what really did occur that day. Never having come up with an alternate solution, made me ponder anew each time a woodchuck appeared in the yard. And I wondered what he was thinking about as he went about his day so peacefully.
Once again, the combined rains of Winter and Spring have caused the streams to overflow their banks and water is ponding and puddling everywhere you look. There has been considerable flooding in many areas. The ducks are the only ones having a terrific time of it. Off in the overgrown meadow, under the big clump of assorted wild berry bushes, where the woodchuck has his burrows, there is a small scrap of bright blue tarp. It is sticking conspicuously out of one of the chuck holes. I suppose that was as far as he could get it. I'm not quite sure where he nabbed this one from, but have to admire his persistence.
This whole matter has definitely given me new respect for this little neighbor of mine! I sincerely hope he succeeds in getting that piece of plastic down into his home. He must really have need of it! And, after all, wouldn't it be a terrible ending to a gallant tale of determination if his efforts have all been for naught?