(Missed the beginning of this tale and want to catch up? Then start right here.)
It was the day before Thanksgiving. We had a big dinner planned at our place for the next day, with nearly 40 family and friends coming, so I had a must-do list a mile long scribbled on a legal pad, and another list two miles long in my head. (And I am not exaggerating.) I had a headache and was getting bundled up to do my chores (not that those two statements bear any relation to each other). Little Mack and I had set up the big live-trap the night before, and I had a fleeting curiosity about if we had caught anything, but I was too distracted by the responsibilities of the day to be curious for long. Plus, we’d baited the trap over and over and over, without catching anything. Maybe this varmint was just too smart for our trap.
Little Mack, eating his breakfast, saw me pulling on my coat. “Wait, Mom,” he said through a mouthful of granola and milk. “I want to go with you to check the trap.”
I took a look at him and groaned inwardly. He was in the middle of his breakfast, and still had his pajamas on. I tried to discourage him. I was getting hot in my jacket and gloves, standing in the warm house. “I’ll take a quick peek, honey, don’t worry–I’ll come get you if there’s anything to see. I’m all ready to go out and you still need to finish your breakfast.” (And get dressed. And find your boots. And your socks. Your favorite socks. And find your jacket.)
He took one last big bite of granola and jumped off his chair. “No! Wait for me! Please, Mom, please! We have to check our trap together!”
Of course I couldn’t resist my little boy’s pleas. I reached up to rub my forehead. I sighed. I was such a slave to my children. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. I helped my boy find his boots, the proper socks (“Only the black ones with the golden toes, Mom,”) a warm hat and a jacket, while I got more and more uncomfortable in my layers of warm clothes. I really didn’t think there would be anything in the trap–there never was anything in the trap–my head really hurt–I couldn’t believe tomorrow was Thanksgiving–I had so much to do–would somebody please let the dogs out?–Had I even eaten breakfast–no, no I don’t think I had–Finally we were both ready.
We stepped out into the early morning cold, and walked across the yard, chatting about the day ahead, headed towards the chicken coop. My daughter’s boyfriend from Hawaii was staying with us, and he was going to roast a pig in our back yard. We had 30 pumpkins to move that we were going to shoot (and blow up!) the next day. Oiy. So much to think about. Quite a few things to worry about. I was glad to see that the yard wasn’t already full of chickens, as it had been yesterday morning. So the Dreaded Varmint hadn’t forced his way into the coop last night, apparently. Dumb thing gave me a day off.
Then, as we got closer, I could see that the front door of the live trap was not standing open any longer. If it had still been standing open, I knew that I would have been able to see the edge of the door past the corner of the chicken coop. That’s the way we had set it up. But the door of the trap had been tripped, and was therefore hidden. The dogs were still in the house, so it couldn’t be Bea in it again. The rest of the trap was hidden by the coop, and I got shivers up my back when I realized that something was in that trap. Could have been one of our cats, of course, since we baited it with an open can of wet cat food. Probably that was it. Smokey, maybe, or Tristan. Those two fellas were always hungry. Silly cats.
Malachi had stopped to pick something up, and had fallen behind. He yelled for me. “Wait, Mom–wait for me! Hold my hand! We have to look at the trap, both of us together, at the very same moment!”
I stopped, though I could barely wait. I didn’t let on to him that I could see that we’d caught something. Something had gotten caught in our trap. Even if it was just one of our cats, the trap had worked.
At last we walked in front of the chicken coop together, holding hands, and around to the far side, to the trap. The front door of the trap was closed.
The Dreaded Varmint, Gentle Readers, was trapped inside.
(I toyed with the idea of stringing this tale out one more day, but you’ve been good and faithful followers of this story, and I decided against it, because I’ve grown attached to actually having readers. Ergo, I don’t want to lose you. So read on. And you’re welcome.)
Malachi leaped up in the air. “We caught him, Mom! We caught the Dreaded Varmint!” he yelled, hooting and hollering and high-fiving me all over my body. Then he stopped to bend down and gaze into the trap at the creature trapped inside. “What is it?”
Trapped inside our huge live trap was the biggest, healthiest, sleekest, fattest opossum that I’ve ever seen. We stood and looked at him for long moments, then we would stop to congratulate ourselves on our bravery and persistence and courage, and then we’d gaze at him for long moments again.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this particular opossum had killed Silk and Oakley, and a lot of the other chickens that we had lost this summer. On the other hand, I had a feeling that our place had been under siege by a host of varmints, driven to be more daring and cunning because of the drought. Creeks and farm ponds around us have all dried up (our little pond is now little more than a muddy puddle), and so I would imagine many prey animals–squirrels and bunnies and so forth–have had to move on to areas less, well, arid, to live. Canada, maybe. Or close to the ocean. So the local predators were (and are) pretty desperate.
But at least we caught this one, and by the looks of things, he had consumed more than his share of the dozen or so hens we lost this summer.
“What are we going to do with him?” asked little Mack, finally.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. Bryan had already gone to work, and wouldn’t be home until bedtime. I really needed to ask him to teach me how to use the shotgun. I hated to make the varmint sit in the cage all day long without food and water, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to feed him. I had already fed him enough, indirectly, after all.
“I know–” said Mack. “Let’s go call Grandpa.”
And that, of course, Gentle Readers, is what we did. And Grandpa–my dad–was out in less than fifteen minutes, dandy little handgun in his pocket. He gave little Mack and me a lesson on safe handgun usage, and then he shot the Dreaded Varmint dead. Mack and I busied ourselves moving pumpkins while Dad accomplished this brave deed, and then we shot pumpkins with Dad’s little handgun for a while.
It was fun. Satisfying, in a way, though perhaps not as satisfying as knowing that we’d finally taken care of the Dreaded Varmint. He had been the most formidable predator we’d ever had, and we had gotten him.
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