Chromolithograph from Boston Public Library, 1861-1897
MAY AND THE WOODCHUCK
One day, May was sitting outside at her picnic table. She had a stack of papers that she was editing for a book. She was marking the pages with red, blue and green permanent markers to show which parts needed words changed, and which parts needed to be removed or added, to improve the book.
May took a break to stretch her back and find some nice vegetables to eat for lunch. Her garden was just near by. First she picked some mustard greens and green beans. Then she checked to see if any zucchini squashes were ripe. As she reached under the large prickly leaves, she saw that someone else had been visiting for lunch first. A big bite had been munched from the end of one zucchini. “Woodchucks.” thought May.
Woodchucks could do a lot of damage to a garden. She put down the vegetables she had gathered, on her table beside her manuscript, and went off to her shed to find a live trap. She would trap that woodchuck and take him away, to keep her garden from being eaten.
May set up the wire cage trap, just beside the zucchini plants. She put in half an apple from her root cellar, and began to make lunch.
In the afternoon, while she was sitting at her picnic table editing, she heard a rattle and a bang.
“OK Mr. Woodchucker.” she called aloud. “You'll have to do your eating somewhere else.”
Now May lived far back in the woods, beside a farm. A logging path led past her garden and deep into the trees. May didn't have a car to take the woodchuck away in, but she was strong, so she picked up the trap with Mr. Woodchuck and started down the path in the woods. She went up and down hills, over small streams and around clearings. When one arm got tired, she switched the trap to the other. She was carrying Mr. Woodchuck as far into the woods as she could go.
At last she came to the end of the path, beside a steep gully that led to a stream below. She sprung the trap's hinge and let the woodchuck free.
“Go find a new home.” She told him. “And don't come back to eat in my garden again.”
The woodchuck was scared from his close encounter with a human, and ran scrabbling down the steep hill towards the stream below. May walked home briskly, enjoying the shade of the trees on the hot summer day.
A few days later, May was weeding in her garden, and she noticed there were fresh nibble marks on her zucchinis. They looked like the work of a woodchuck, so she set the trap again. She was just sitting back down at her picnic table to do some editing work when she heard a rattle and a bang.
“OK Mr. Woodchucker,” she called. “I'm coming.”
In the live trap was a woodchuck. It was the same size as the last woodchuck. It was the same weight as the last woodchuck. It even smelled like the last woodchuck. Perhaps it was the same one? How could May make sure this one did not come back again? She had no car to drive it miles away. She could only walk it through the woods.
Then, May had a great idea. She would embarrass the woodchuck. She walked back to the picnic table, selected a green permanent marker and opened it at the back, where the inky part was protected in the plastic. Then she poured and squeezed until there was a nice patch of green covering the back hairs of the woodchuck.
“There.” she said at last, when there was no more of the marker pen left to drip. “Now you're a nice green woodchuck. You can tell all your friends that this is what happens if you come into May's garden.”
May picked up the woodchuck and walked down the path in the woods. The woodchuck sat quietly in the caged trap. When she finally arrived at the edge of the gully to tip it out, it didn't want to leave. It walked out slowly, obviously feeling that it looked odd.
All summer, May kept her eyes open for signs of woodchuck damage, but she had no more problems that year. Late in the fall, when the leaves were carpeting the logging path, May happened to see a woodchuck in the woods. When the woodchuck saw her, it slunk into the bushy undergrowth by the side of the path. She thought she saw a tinge of green on its back.