Ode to the lowly Whistle Pig.

My fellow TCC members. Most of you have gotten used to the fact that some, if not most of our stories, are a bit on the odd side. When I say most, I mean all and let’s be real, all of you possess an uncommonly high degree of common sense elsewise you wouldn’t be here.

But for the time being, let’s all lay aside our Heavenly bestowed overabundance of smartitude and talk about one of the more mundane and somewhat boring of God’s creatures. The lowly Whistle Pig (Groundhog for the uninitiated).

Firstly, they fry up rather nicely and taste a lot like squirrel, which tastes a lot like rabbit, which in turn tastes a lot like chicken, which in turn tastes a lot like…(vicious circle best saved for another story).

Aside from their crispy goodness, I have never stopped to consider their uncommon knack for problem-solving, comradery, and common sense. That was until just a few short years ago when I purchased an old farmhouse, complete with its very own (well-established) Whistle Pig community.

They were cute enough to begin with; mornings were spent with a hot cup of coffee while I watched their comings and goings. My neighbor joined in on my little nature watch, sitting on his rear deck watching the wonder of life unfold before our eyes. I soon discovered each critter possessed a unique personality and character, and soon the leader became evident. All was good at the old farmhouse until that fateful day, a friend came to visit.

He listen patiently as I shared the details of my Whistle Pig neighbors until, at last, he was able to fit a word in edgewise.

You do realize those things will destroy your house, don’t you?

What? I couldn’t believe my ears.

He went on and on, filling me with terror as he shared tales of my foundation sinking, my neatly kept lawn full of holes. By the time he was finished, I was certain those cursed rodents had to go.

Que the “Caddy Shack” theme song.

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I now had a mission, a Holy calling, so to speak. I was gonna rid my property (and save my house) of those evil varmints.

I began humanely, of course; I procured a few live traps from I don’t remember who, and placed them near the entrances to their burrows. Once set, I gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back, secure in the knowledge I was doing the proper thing in sparing their tiny lives.

That didn’t work; as a matter of fact, I’m sure they were sitting down there in their little hole in the ground, snickering and laughing at my expense. I was certain my neighbor was doing the same.

As I told the boys at the local hardware store of my plight, I was inundated with countless homespun, surefire methods to rid myself of my ne’er-do-well squatters.

Mothballs works every time; trust me, they said, that’ll get ’em. Mothballs it was handfuls of ’em, under the house, around the house, down the holes. I even went as far as to open a box and place it next to their front door (hole). I then warned that neighbor of mine, get ready, I said, they’re coming to live with you in just a couple of days.

Did it work? NO.

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The little jerks even stole the box I had set down; to this day, I have no idea where that daing box went. Once again, they sat there in that little hole of theirs, laughing at me; I was certain of it. The daddy groundhog went as far as to parade back and forth in my backyard, rubbing my face in my failure.

The rage began to boil inside me: ” If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” Sorry, borrowed a bit from Moby Dick there.

Leg traps, yea, that’s it, brutal, yes, but I was losing myself in my rage. Leg traps it was.

I retrieved some old fox traps from a friend’s barn; I chuckled to myself maniacally as I cleaned and oiled the medieval things. It was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop me; I cursed them each one as I set the gruesome traps. Some errands needed running, and I smiled as I drove into town confident my problem was near an end. Did it work?

As I pulled into the drive, the rain was heavy, but it didn’t phase me. I leaped from my truck, making a bee-line to the traps. In the pouring rain and darkness, I saw a lone figure lying in the grass; I had him. My heart raced as I closed in, only to crash in utter defeat; a rather pitiful old Tom-cat stared back at me. What had I done?

With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I removed the cat’s leg from the horrible trap and lovingly carried him to the porch. I gently dried his fur with a bath towel and doctored his bruised paw. The old cat gazed into my eyes, and I felt the love, we were having a moment that cat and I, then suddenly, THWACK.

With a soul-curdling howl, a left hook landed hard on my cheek, and the claws dug in, almost instantaneously followed by a right hook. His rear feet dug into my chest as he catapulted into the yard and disappeared into the dark, leaving me battered and bleeding on the porch.

I slunk into the house and collapsed into a chair like a wad of chewed gum, completely defeated, and certain my house was doomed to a groundhog burrow. (Exit stage left)

The rain was over and the sun was bright come morning; I watched through the kitchen window as my neighbor took his usual spot with his usual coffee. I had accepted my fate, the birds were singing, and all was right with the world, But there he was.

The daddy Whistle Pig simply stood there with his back turned to me, the rodent equivalent of giving me the finger. The rage exploded within my heart; I grabbed the closest thing, (a large knife) and bolted through the house, nearly knocking the front door from its hinges. Around the house I ran, coming to a stop at the corner.

His back was still turned as I crept towards the beast. Why had he not turned? Surely he knows I’m here. My neighbor stood in his housecoat, noticing the drama playing out before him. My skin tingled, my ears screamed. Why had he not turned around?

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At ten paces, my shaking hand lifted the knife above my head, ” from Hell’s heart I stab at thee, for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee” ( Melville again, but it works). Then it happened, he turned, and with a scream lunged at his pitiful human attacker, (Melville ringing in his head as well).

I sidestepped his advance, and we both ran for the house; I knew where he was going and screamed as I chased him, knife held high above my head. We rounded the corner, his hole was in sight, but I was losing the race. I noticed another groundhog poke his head from the burrow, empowering his nestmate. I dove at the rodent in a final lunge just as he ducked into the hole; he was gone.

I lay prostrate in the wet grass, complete in my defeat. I lay there until I heard a faint sound, a clapping. I lifted my head to see my neighbor, my former friend, clapping his hands and smiling from ear to ear. He stopped and lifted his coffee cup, I was not certain if the toast was for me, or my opponent, either way, message received.

Sometime later, I sold that house, complete with its Whistle Pig community. I drive by every now and then; it’s still standing. I can’t help but wonder if they are still there. I’ve never had another groundhog issue, but my new house does have some noisy dogs next door; I don’t mess with ’em. Instead, I’ve read Melville a few times, ol’ Ahab and I got a lot in common.

Dear reader, most of this story is fact; some of it, well, maybe I added a little spice. I’m gonna leave it up to you to discern what parts have been sprinkled a bit. In the end, I don’t think it matters much; the lesson is the same (if there is a lesson). I sometimes think that, without our knowledge, we become our own Ahab, and in the heat of the moment, it can be very difficult to see who we have become.

But…that’s just my opinion; feel free to make it your own.

As always, we thank you for spending a bit of your precious time with us and are honored with the sacrifice. Please hit the like button and share with at least one person if you liked it. Comments, well, let us know we are doing just a bit of good. God Bless you

The tale of the “Tarr Baby”

I’ve been thinkin’ of late; what with all this bad news circling and swirling about. If a body isn’t careful, it may seep into your mind like poison, darkening your thoughts and dreams. Even your very outlook on this precious gift of life; the very life given each of us by a just and Holy God. I was thinkin’ how easy it is to focus on all this “bad,” all the while forgettin’ about the damage it does. Hopes and dreams broken on the ground, relationships tattered beyond all hope of mendin’. Then a story came to me; a story about two lifelong friends, tighter than ticks in a dog’s ear they were, had each other’s backs through thick and thin. Stood proud at each other’s wedding; Godfather to each other’s children, even a world war couldn’t separate those ol’ boys, yep, they were two peas in a pod. That is until the Tarr baby came.

Elmer Cox and Jew Hicks; remember those names. Cool-weather days were spent in the same one-room schoolhouse; hot summer evenings passed as they hunted craw-dads in the cool creek. When they became men, they stood at the others side as they each wed lovely women. And when Uncle Sam came calling, both honored the call.

When they returned, Elmer picked up his daddie’s work as a blacksmith and Ferrier. Jew did the same, taking over the family farm. Practical jokers, the both of ’em. Innocent enough at the beginning, and each had a good laugh, but time and age escalated their little battles. Each joke became more serious, and each response escalated the stakes; until that day.

One frosty spring morning, Jew fired his ol’ truck up and headed to town; it wasn’t long till he noticed a horrible odor. The smell became so bad his eyes watered, and his throat began to burn. Unbeknownst to him; Elmer had filled the truck’s radiator with horse urine, and the scent was well beyond human comprehension. Of course, this made Elmer so mad his neck scorched the rear of his collar. He swore through his tear-stained eyes and urine-burned sinuses there was gonna be payback.

A couple of frosty mornings later, Jew was loading his forge, getting ready for the day ahead. He filled his shovel with coal and threw it onto the fire when the most horrendous explosion filled the shop. Smoke and fire filled the small building, and Elmer was certain he was about to meet his maker. Unbeknownst to Elmer, Jew had poured a can of black powder into the coal bucket; there was gonna be payback.

Well, as you might expect, news of this little war of attrition spread like wildfire. The talk of the valley it was. Who would make the next move? What might it be this time? Each time the story was shared, the teller would add just a little spice until, at last, the tale took on a life of its own, completely unrecognizable from the simple tale of practical jokes. A Tarr Baby was born.

Elmer fumed and fumed; he puzzled and puzzled, befuddled, it came to him. Horse piss, he told the men sitting around the coal stove. More horse piss, ol’ Jew needs a bucket dumped on him when he rides that tractor of his past the shop.

Those “friends” of Elmers couldn’t wait to get down to the store and tell everybody with ears what ol’ Elmer was gonna do. The tale grew and grew; it was no longer a bucket of urine, but a bucket of whatever the teller had in mind, just to make it worth tellin’. The Tarr baby was growing fast.

When word got to Jew, he was at the end of his tether.

“What are ya gonna do?” they would ask.

“You cain’t let this go unanswered,” they would say.

I know what I’m gonna do, Jew said. You just wait and see.

The next morning Jew climbed on his tractor, slid a shotgun down next to the seat, and headed off to his fields. The “friends” gathered at the store saw him as he chugged past.

“This is it,” they cried as they all jumped into their trucks, anxious to follow Jew and see what happens when he passes Elmer’s shop.

As Jew rounded the corner; he lowered his hand to cock the trigger.

Elmer was waiting on the roof; he strained to hear the ol’ tractor as it chugged ever closer to his shop. Then, just as Jew turned the corner, Elmer jumped to his feet, ready to cover his friend with urine.

But Jew was ready; he lifted the shotgun and pulled the trigger; birdshot sent his former friend flying off the rooftop and crashing into the weeds on the other side.

Elmer survived being shot, though the birdshot took years to work its way out of the hundreds of little wounds. Of course, the sheriff was called, and the town began to take sides. Rumors flew through the air like June bugs, and gossip grew like cancer with each telling. Funny thing, the word “gossip,” you can almost hear the hiss of a serpent when you say the word; it’s truly a filthy word.

Before long, everybody in town became polarized, the was no middle ground. Who started it? What started it? Some even went so far as to insinuate adultery. You were either on this side or the wrong side, and few would change their mind.

Tarr Baby definition; a Tarr Baby is something that the more you play with it, the more you get on you. Let me say that again; the more you play with it, the more you get on you.

You see, when we get polarized on a subject, any subject, pick sides, refuse to listen, my way or the highway. We only tend to get more on ourselves; we become our own victim by default. Tar is very difficult to get off, and sooner or later, we succumb to its weight to our own peril.

We live in a time when our money is fake, our government is rotten to its core, our elected leaders have larceny in their hearts, our rights are being stripped away, and our worth as Americans is constantly under attack. Yet here we are, playing with a Tarr Baby while the important bits go unnoticed or unattended.

As a whole, I believe we can learn a lot from Elmer Cox and Jew Hicks. A lifetime of friendship, ruined over a bucket of horse urine, birdshot, and rumor. They became so lost in the gossip (did you hear that hiss) that they forgot who their real friend was, they lost sight of the strength of unity. Something so simple, so mundane killed what survived even a world war. Think on that for a while.

The Tin Cup Clan thanks you for your valuable time. I realize many will read this without so much as a like or most importantly a share, but this time, share it, please.

Oh, and by the way; turpentine removes tar, just in case you should need to know that.

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