The sky began to cloud over as the man watched the woodchuck shimmy back under his shed. The man loved that shed. It was the largest one he could afford and held two riding lawnmowers, several tomato cages, garden fencing, garden tools and his winter shovels. Even with all those items, he still had room to walk around, as long as he did not bump his head on the low overhead beams.
“That damn thing, will it never move out?” he whispered as his breath fogged the glass on the door.
The man jerked slightly as four deer ran across the yard. His eyes followed them and he became aware that he had fallen deep into his thoughts when they had startled him. He shook his head and then glanced at two bird feeders near the birdbath to check for visitors, and then to the corncob holder before looking back to the shed.
After his wife had died, he started feeding the birds and squirrels. He knew woodchucks were mean and felt no love for it. Today he had spotted it sitting on its hind legs under one of his apple trees, chomping away on a fallen apple like it had no cares in the world. When the man stepped to the door to watch the creature, it had stopped chewing for a moment, looked around and then resumed its meal.
A couple of days before the snow hit, the man had noticed teeth marks on the apple trees and worried for their survival. He watched to see what type of repellent he would need to buy to prevent future gnawing.
Descending deep into his thoughts again, he wondered if the woodchuck had saved a stash of apples for winter, or if it had dug the rotting fruit out from under the snow.
He also wondered if the nasty creature would chew out the floor of the shed. Replacing the floor would be a good idea for spring, just to be sure that his new zero turn lawn mower did not fall into the animal’s den.
He dropped his hands from his pockets and turned toward the kitchen. “I’d better start a list,” he said softly to no one as he walked through the quiet house.
Taking a notebook and pen from the drawer next to the stove, he leaned on the counter and began to write. “Check the floor of the shed, shoot the woodchuck, wrap the apple trunks and spray the trees…” His head lifted as he thought of other jobs.
Movement caught the man’s attention, so he dropped the pen and walked around the island to the window above the sink to peer out. The assumed bird was already gone, so he looked toward the shed again. Now that snow had fallen, he checked for tracks, but found none close to the house. Maintaining two acres was no easy task for a man his age, but it sure was pretty in the winter.
He let out a sigh as he focused his thoughts back on spring. He felt a peaceful joy when he contemplated putting new flowers around the tree he had planted with her ashes. He wanted her near him until his own death.
He sighed again and turned to pour himself a cup of steaming coffee. He then carried it to the table to resume his watch on the wildlife. He whispered toward the window, “It’s too bad we never had any children… someone else to carry on taking care of the land and orchard. There’ll be nobody to care for her tree… or to plant one for me.”