Note: This "Grounds for Insanity" column was published in the 06/11/12 edition of The Goshen News, this writer's paper of record. There won't be any Goodyear-tread boots anytime soon. I'm just sayin'.
Where they’re coming from, I don’t know. The other question is how long they’ll stay, and so far, none of them are talking.
“Them” is the members of the animal kingdom that have taken up residence in our sprawling back yard. From the looks of it, word went out at the annual squirrel convention that our doors were open. They’ve converged here, and all day they race, rocket like, from tree to tree, tails streaming behind.
Then there are the rabbits. When the Good Lord said to Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” they thought He was talking to them. They got right on that, those proliferative little boogers, and now Peter Rabbit and all his descendants are loping about like they own the place.
Not wanting to miss the party, a family of raccoons has moved in. They’ve chosen the culvert by the neighbor's pond for their base of operations. Joining them to represent the bird contingent is a local cardinal who is known as Cardinal Schrock, official family bird, for his steady presence here.
Of course, the trees are filled with his friends who insist on singing loudly as the sun comes up. While they cover dawn patrol, the frogs on the pond take it from there, filling the twilight with their deep-throated croaks.
“It’s a wildlife refuge here,” I thought to myself, observing the activity one day.
Wildlife refuge, huh? What else was it when you had raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and – oh, yes – four boys roaming about the property? Crickets chirped, a car roared past, and someone stole another cookie as I pondered the question.
If this was a sanctuary for critters, what did that make me, I wondered. Weren’t those places run by wardens? And weren’t they usually sturdy fellows in green uniforms, name tags carefully pinned on the shoulder? Didn’t they tromp sternly around in sturdy boots with Goodyear tread on the bottom, jouncing over rutted trails in sturdy Ford pickups?
Well, I had no green uniform. There was no sturdy Ford, and there sure as shootin’ were no boots with Goodyear tread. All I had was this year’s new orange sandals, and they weren’t made for braving the trails. Which put me, in the end, barefoot and unarmed in the middle of a wild life. Without a name tag.
Things had ratcheted up when College Kid moved home for the summer. He appeared one day, ravenous, a semi load of possessions in tow.
“Good grief,” I thought as familiar landmarks disappeared, buried beneath piles of clothes. “Where’s my purse?”
Yes, where was it? Where were the keys? And where, for goodness’ sake, was the preschooler? Oh, there he was, shadowing his big brother. I could tell it was them by the size and shape of the jean pockets protruding from the fridge. So they were eating again. That figured.
To clarify my position on the refuge, I looked it up and found what I’d suspected; I was a bona fide game warden. The only thing missing was the weekly check from the DNR.
“Patrols assigned area to prevent game law violations, investigates reports of damage…to property by wildlife, and compiles biological data. Travels through area…on foot to observe persons engaged in taking fish and game, to ensure methods and equipment used are lawful and to apprehend violators.”
Well, now. If those folks hadn’t nailed it. I was ever alert, looking to prevent violations, investigating reports of damage to property or other wildlife and compiling biological data. With my mom radar, I’d watch for persons engaged in taking provisions, apprehending the violators.
“Investigates reports of…violations and issues warnings and citations.” That was number two. Hadn’t I written warnings and citations to the point of carpal tunnel? Why, yes. I had.
“Serves warrants, makes arrests and prepares and presents evidence in court actions,” read number three. “Bullseye!” I shouted. How many nights had I presented evidence of the day’s criminal activity to Mr. Schrock, local judge, jury and executioner? More than I could count, and more than he cared to remember.
“Seizes equipment used in violations.” The pile of Airsoft guns, Nerf guns, foam darts, and toy handcuffs in the closet testified to the truth of number four. So did the fireworks carefully hidden in the basement. “Bombs bursting in air” made a moving statement in one's national anthem, but when one went off behind you, there were certain other things that moved.
“Collects and reports information on condition of wildlife in their habitat, availability of food and cover and suspected pollution of waterways.” Whoo boy. There was plenty of pollution, alright, and in the waterways, too, from six dirty feet schlepping in from the garden, making tracks in my bathtub.
I don’t know which official’s been shadowing me or listening in on my daily bulletins to The Mister, but the only thing they missed was what always comes next: “Take me away,” I’ll plead, “and step on the gas.” Then, in his not-a-sturdy-Ford Tundra and my orange sandals, we flee the grounds to take refuge from our own busy wildlife.