Waiting and springing

March 28, 2008

For a few days, the weather smelled and looked like spring. I moved some dirt. We tidied around the fences, in an effort to prevent the illegal aliens (also known as bunny rabbits) from crossing into our territory.

One morning Mrs. Random yelled, “Oh my G–!”

“What?” I demanded in alarm.

“I saw the first bunny. It was lurking out by the woodpile.”

I took down the air rifle. I loaded a pellet. I cocked the rifle. I fired the pellet into a stump. The stump promised not to invade the garden and eat carrots this year.

Yesterday, I got home from work. Mrs. Random said, “It rained all day. I couldn’t work in the garden. I cleaned house all day. The house is almost ready for the family to visit this weekend.”

I looked at the house. Every spot had been removed from the already spotless house (except for my spot, which is very spotty).

I said, “I am sure when Random Granddaughter comes to visit, she will think I will remember what a neat spotless house Grandma had when I came to visit her as a child.

Mrs. Random said, “Hmph.”

I said, “Where is the green eggs and ham book? I may not be allowed to fix myself green eggs and ham when RG comes to visit, but I will at least read the book to her.”

“It’s upstairs,” my wife said.

I imagine RG’s mommies will tell her on the way over to show good manners. I imagine she will forget as soon as we all sit down for lunch. (She is just visiting for one day, so there will be no dinner table manners adventures.)

We have lots of dirt for her to dig with her birthday present shovel if she digs it.

I imagine our family will carry on despite table manners traumas.

MASSAPEQUA PARK, New York (AP) — Animal rights activists are hopping mad because they can’t find the wascals who’ve been dumping domestic wabbits all over the place.

Long Island can be a dangerous place for wandering rabbits, experts say.

People have been dropping the furry creatures on roadways, in parks and near school grounds on Long Island’s South Shore with increasing regularity in recent months, animal control experts said.

Earlier this month, a man was seen dumping 20 rabbits in a box at a train station and driving away, said Nancy Schreiber, a Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group volunteer.

“It sounds like someone is raising rabbits and trying to get out of the business,” said Gerry McBride, who handles criminal complaints for the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The SPCA is trying to figure out who is responsible for dumping the cuddly critters, and the Rabbit Rescue Group is offering a $5,000 reward.

The rabbits often can’t fend for themselves in the wild and end up starving to death or being killed by raccoons or diseases.

Many of the rabbits found by the rescue group have been infested with fleas or ticks. They’ve been treated, fed, cleaned and put up for adoption.

Follow-up to exurban savagery.

Probably the main reason I have not used a .22 rifle is that I have been following the lead and guidance of The Friendly Neighbors, who use an air rifle.

Also, apparently rifle hunting is not legal on our island. I am not sure how this can be, and why the NRA has not thrown everybody not in support of unrestricted gun use off the island into the ocean.

In addition, at one time my daughter worked in a medical research lab and had to off rabbits as part of the research. As a conscientious person, she carried out this task as directed, but as a gentle, kindly person she was distressed by the responsibility. Now, as a mom of a three year old girl, she has apparently had a resurgence of her gentle, kindly, “fuzzy bunny” self and is not entirely enthusiastic about her dad’s emergence as a blood-thirsty rabbit killer, or so her mom tells me. I suspect she would not be all that much of a fan of dad increasing his firepower.

I have been a bit concerned that a rabbit I shot be really dead, as mentioned in several messages. I move them around a bit to make sure they seem clearly lifeless, but I have been drawing the line at trying to take a pulse or detect breath on a mirror.

Although the Friendly Neighbor is big on using a scope, I have mixed feelings about it. At times a rabbit is wandering around where I can focus on it with the scope and aim at it, but often the rabbits are bounding out from under my feet, and the only chance I would have to get one of them would be to fire off a quick shot.

As I think Pete indicated, a rifle with just a sight might be more useful for quick aiming and firing. For that matter, a pistol would probably be better for quick shots at a bunny that’s visible for a few seconds. Unfortunately, air pistols don’t pack enough punch to really damage the bunny. Mrs. Friendly Neighbor indicated that her air pistol mostly irritates the rabbits. Now while it’s obvious that irritating a bear by shooting it with a pistol is probably not a good idea, I am not sure how dangerous it is to irritate a bunny with a pistol, but why take a chance?

Besides the two rabbits I clearly shot, and I think were clearly dead, I had a pretty good shot at one rabbit the same day. It bounded into the thick underbrush of the woods, but a couple days later, my wife detected a bad smell coming from that part of the woods, which we thought a fairly clear indication of dead bunny.

So at the moment, the score stands at two clearly dead rabbits, one probably dead rabbit, and several frightened rabbits. We have not seen any rabbits for a few days.

Mrs. Friendly Neighbor said to us, “After you get a few rabbits, they seem to get the idea you don’t want them around, and stay away for a while. But they always come back eventually, and you have to start shooting them again.

However, in the meantime, the zucchini are clearly avoiding any sudden moves and watching me very carefully. However, their strategy is to double in size overnight, while staying in one place.

My strategy is to take the zucchini to work on the mainland and leave them in the staff room with written instructions to co-workers to take take them home quickly and eat them at once while we still have a chance to survive their onslaught. Seems to work so far, as all the zuchinni I left have disappeared, though they may only be lurking in the corridor waiting for a chance to jump me and bring me down as a pack.

2V I Shot the Bunny

August 28, 2007

(Sung to the tune of Bob Marley’s, “I Shot the Sheriff.”)

The following story is rated R for extreme violence. Sensitive people are advised to skip to another blog.

When a Masai boy in Kenya notices a lion killing off cattle (or less politically correct, when he simply notices a lion), he uses a spear to kill the lion so he can complete his rite of passage to become a man.

When I was 12 years old, I held our aggressive Muscovy duck while a neighbor chopped off its head. However, I am out of practice at getting in touch with my inner savage. Now that I have reached the emotional age of 13 at the chronological age of 63, it’s time for me to get in touch with my inner savage again and take another whack at the rite of passage business.

Although we have no cattle pasturing and no lions roaming on our five acres of woods, we do have rabbits preying on Mrs. Random’s organic vegetables, bringing her quickly in touch with her inner savage. First I helped her kill a rabbit with rocks, and finished it off by stomping it with my boot. The next day, by herself in the garden, Mrs. Random killed off another bunny by herself.

Both of us grossed ourselves out by getting in touch with our inner savages. As is typical of civilized humans, we decided to make it easier to kill by using a weapon of remote destruction, namely an air rifle that shoots pellets.

The day after our first futile effort with the air rifle, my wife said, “There’s a rabbit in the front yard.”

I loaded and cocked the air rifle. The rabbit was nibbling weeds in our front yard. As it was not in the garden, perhaps I violated the Rules of War. Nevertheless, as it was about 30 feet away, it was at the distance to focus it in the rifle scope as I leaned my arm on the porch railing. Convenience trumped civility. I leaned my arm on the porch railing. I sighted carefully, took a breath, squeezed the trigger. The rabbit moved a couple of feet, and then stopped, apparently mortally wounded. I reloaded and fired several more times. The rabbit collapsed. I examined it. It looked pretty dead. I tossed it into the woods for the convenience of the crows or the coyotes, whichever scavenger was more convenient.

I suppose we could have cleaned the rabbit and eaten it. I have been told that the wild rabbits are infested with viruses, and are not good for humans to eat. It is more convenient for my inner squeemer to believe that.

Later the same day, I saw another rabbit, closer to the garden. Circumstantial evidence made it easy to infer evil intent. As Cameron noted, rabbits sometimes move very fast. However, rabbits have two responses to danger: flight or freeze. The rabbit moved into a pile of brush left over from a chainsaw outburst and froze. It might have been hidden from a coyote looking from the side, but it was visible to a human looking from above. I came to the conclusion that rabbits are sort of prey on training wheels for beginning hunters.

It took several shots before it stopped writhing and twitching. I am not sure of the etiquette of savagery here. Is it more appropriate to stomp it again, although I find myself reluctant to do this again, or is it acceptable to shoot several pellets into it until it stops writhing?

Perhaps Michael Vick can provide me with some guidance.


2V Setting the Scene

August 26, 2007

The Fortress

I finally figured out about 3% of using our new digital camera. OK, .3%. The scene you see is the anti-bunny fortress, known in more innocent days, as the “garden.” You can’t see the background where a squad of terrorist bunnies are plotting their next suicide attack.

I haven’t really figured out how to prepare my pictures properly for inserting them into WordPress, but now that I’ve gotten old, I no longer worry as much about looking stupid. I’ll slowly get better, or I won’t live that long enough to get better, in which case I won’t worry about it very much at all.

When Mrs. Random and I went over to the Friendly Neighbors for air rifle instruction, my wife expected that she would get a chance to practice with the rifle as well.

However, Mr. FN mentioned two disturbing facts:

  • His wife is a better shot than he is.
  • The air rifle scope has to be adjusted for a person of a certain size (height and arm length, primarily)

He and I are about the same size. (About 5′ 11”.)

My wife and Mrs. FN are about the same size. (About 5′ 1”.)

My wife considers this diagnosis and prescription as representing some sort of sexist bias against her being allowed to shoot.

There are two phenomena of modern life my wife (a short person with a modest bosom) does not consider the least bit amusing:

However, Mrs. Friendly Neighbor agreed with her husband’s diagnosis on the scope setup. “I can’t use his gun,” she said. “It’s all wrong for me in how it is set up. It is impossible for me to aim it with the scope set up for his height and reach.”

In the face of these twin arguments, my wife subsided, though I can tell she still thinks somebody is having her on in this regard, as the Kiwi expression goes.

The Friendly Neighbors also mentioned that Mrs. FN owns an air pistol. At one point their rifle malfunctioned, and had to be shipped back to the manufacturer for repairs. During that bleak period of bunny menace, they were entirely dependant on her air pistol for defense against the bunny hordes.

“By the way,” Mrs. Friendly neighbor told my wife and me in an unemotional way. “They’re not ‘bunnies.’ They’re rabbit pests. When we shoot enough of them, they get the point and stay away from our garden for a while. But after enough time passes, they come back again, and we have to start killing them again.”

Next: The Randoms go into battle for the first time.

Aunt Naomi, the ballerina, from a bohemian Jewish Chicago family obsessed with alternative health care, married Donald, product of a California pioneer ranching family in the high desert near Hemet, an engineer who worked for the power utility in Los Angeles.

Donald and Naomi settled in Fullerton, another small town in Orange County, California, only a few miles away from Brea.

Naomi opened a ballet studio. Donald eventually became a chiropractor. One of their two daughters, Joanna, learned Chinese in Taiwan and became, with her Taiwanese husband, the millionaire co-owner of the multi-national manufacturer of baby strollers and children’s furniture, Graco. I consider her success an example of the virtues of bringing hybrid vigor into your family tree.

After Grandfather Harry, dentist turned naturopath, died, perhaps because he had not given himself enough colonics to keep himself healthy forever, Grandmother Agnes moved to California to live with her daughter, Naomi.

As a pacifist, Agnes believed she would turn the world away from war by writing children’s plays that contained no conflict and no violence. By watching and performing in such plays, the next generation of children would become, Agnes believed, a new kind of human who would eschew violence. As you can see, Agnes was ahead of her time. Perhaps a few million years ahead.

Once a year, Naomi would rent a theatre to put on a recital of the children in her ballet studio. Ballet studios put on recitals just as companies pay dividends to investors. Parents invest in ballet lessons; they receive their dividend payment when they see little Caroline cavort on stage in her tutu.

Grandma Agnes wrote and directed a play that served as a “frame” for the whole recital. Thus Naomi, a very good daughter, humored her mother.

Although I could not (and still cannot) dance a lick, I was drafted into performing in the play as one of the two non-dancing characters. As the play opened, my stage sister and I were walking in the woods. Behind the stage scenery trees, presumably invisible to us though quite visible to the audience, were many little fairies in tutus along with the Queen of the Fairies, the most advanced “ballerina” of the dance studio, a teenager who had graduated to “toe” shoes and could display some actual dancing ability.

My stage sister exclaimed, “Oh, what beautiful woods. I bet fairies live here! [Rustling and suppressed giggling among hidden fairies.] I wish I could be a fairy and dance through the woods! Wouldn’t you like to be a fairy dancing through the woods, too, Random?”

At this point, I delivered my big line of the play. Twirling around in an exaggerated pastiche of fairy dancing, I exclaimed, “Oh, sure, I bet I would look really cute as a prancing fairy!” (As this was still the innocent 1950s, this line was not greeted with the embarrassed laughter it would produce today.)

The Fairy Queen royally emerged from the stage bushes and trees, sternly chastising me for my disdainful and disrespectful attitude toward fairies. To teach me the error of my ways, the various inhabitants of faerie land would perform for my sister and I. For the next two hours I stood at awkward attention watching fairies, elves, sprites, and other magical creatures perform. (Fortunately for my aching legs and uncertain bladder, there were a couple of intermissions.)

Small children who were not really able to dance, a group that included my younger brother B and my younger sister D, portrayed brownies who tumbled. My brother performed his somersault, and then noticed that our sister was standing petulantly still.

“Do your somersault!” he sternly chastised her.

“I can’t! My back hurts,” my sister retorted in a loud voice that carried through the entire theatre.

My aunt, an experienced impresario of small children performing over their heads, quickly rushed on stage with a gracious smile/moue toward the parents of affectionate complicity and gently but firmly ushered the floundering brownies off stage.

Eventually, all the denizens of faerie gathered on stage for a grand finale of magical dancing prowess. The Queen of Fairy Land demanded of Random if he now appreciated the wonders of life as a fairy. The eleven-year-old nephew of the owner of the dance studio, bored out of his tiny brain, mustered as enthusiastic an assent as he bring himself to simulate and then joined in the bows to the thundering applause of the assembled parents.

After we our final retreat from the stage, my grandmother gathered me to her ample bosom and with regal aplomb, congratulated me on my dramatic prowess. I think that was my last appearance on a stage as an actor, though my brother, an accomplished amateur musician and ham, later performed in several neighborhood theatre productions as a combination actor/guitarist.

Yes, I know no guns appeared in this chapter. Agnes would have wanted it that way. They do appear in the next episode as we make our way to my uncle’s ranch near Hemet.

Yes, I know everyone wants to know if any rabbits have bitten the dust. Well, I tell my stories in my rambling way (a bad habit I learned from Jean Shepherd), so you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Though, I will say that if you keep a pet bunny, and it appears on the grounds of the little house in the medium-sized woods, it should wear a bunny license and be on a leash, if it knows what’s good for it.

0A: Peaking Early

July 29, 2007


A while back I wrote a blog post about “peaking.” In some types of athletics, competitors peak at very early ages; gymnasts and ice skaters are example in terms of Olympic athletics; some mathematicians and musical performers peak at an early age as well.

I mentioned that my granddaughter was a “world-class” competitor in the little-known competition known as “bad table manners.” However, I noted that she had apparently peaked before the age of three. She’s still pretty bad, but she has been known to say, “Please” and “Thank you,” from time to time (though usually only after prompting) and she can handle a spoon and a fork with some skill, though she often hides her competence. It’s sad but true: at the age of three, she is over the hill.

Recently I wrote a piece about a romantic gift I gave my wife. It was entered into the sentimentality division (not usually one of my better events). However, the judges were impressed. For example, Cameron said,

“I’m very impressed, Random! That might be hard to top!”

I think that nails it. At 63 years of age, I peaked too early. I am now over the hill.

However, old competitors can go a long way on guile and deceit. Consider baseball players such as Roger Clemons, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds.

I will shortly return to my tale of rabbit hunting. I am returning to the competition for vicious, blood-thirsty killers, an area where stealth, deceit, and lack of sentimentality provide older competitors with an edge. (Especially, if they have a knife concealed somewhere on their person.)

3H Quarry in my Sights

July 19, 2007

I decided to return to sporting goods store #1, try not to be overcome with dizziness again, and purchase one of the air rifles from them. I entered the store late on Friday night. The store was fairly quiet and empty, but eventually I located N, one of the young men who had attempted to help me several days earlier.

We zeroed in on air rifle #1 (on sale for about $100 off the regular price) and air rifle #2 (which had a scope and fired special pellets that go about 200 feet per second faster than rifle #1’s pellets).

N thought the sale price was no longer in effect. I suspected it was. My (quiet) conclusion was that the sales people at the store had about 60 zillion different items to keep track of, from rocket-propelled grenades to running shoes for four-year-old marathoners and were not always completely on top of each particular item on sale at any given time. As a canny shopper, I realized it was up to me to bully the sales people into believing an item I wanted was on sale. Given that I had little idea what item I wanted, I felt that we were now on an almost even level as we splashed around in the massive wading pool that represents modern consumer life.

Having looked at the store’s web page, I had observed rifle #1 displayed with a scope. I pointed this out to N who was contemplating a model of rifle #1 on a rack with no scope.

A young man of enterprise and initiative, he ripped open an unopened box. Lo and behold, there was indeed a scope. N exclaimed in surprise.

“How could this be?” I asked.

N replied, “Whoever put up the display model was too lazy to attach the scope,” he said. This struck me as so likely to be true; I could only beam in appreciation of his candor.

I then concluded, thinking out loud, “In the unlikely event I actually manage to hit a rabbit, it probably will not care about 200 fps. These are not Rambo rabbits that escape unscathed through a fusillade of projectiles. Also [putting on my savvy consumer expression] anything that is slightly different from the most standard model is less likely to work properly.”

[The flaw in my brilliant analysis is that no consumer product—special or standard—is likely to work properly. But one must do the best one can in dire situations.]

He then ran the rifle’s code through the cash register to see if it was still on sale. The cash register, without any bullying on my part, reported the rifle still on sale. I love obedient cash registers.

N then foolishly [too young to know better, obviously] asked if I would like him to attach the scope to the rifle before I left the store. If there is one thing I have learned in 63 years, it is: if a person with more mechanical adeptness than I [which includes most of the population of the known world] offers to do a mechanical task for me, I smile and say, “Yes.”

He then spent quite a bit of time attaching the scope. Although I could tell by the careful and methodical way he performed the task that he knew what he was doing, I could also tell it was a task involving quite a bit of patient competence.

As he worked, we chatted a bit. He mentioned something about going to college while he worked at the store. Gradually his life story emerged. N had been born and raised on a farm in Wisconsin. (I explained that I had lived in Wisconsin for a couple of years when I was in high school, so we had found a slight area of common ground.) He had grown up on a farm, hunting and fishing and living the down-home life of middle-America roots that might have turned me into a normal person..

I asked N what had brought him to the Pacific Northwest. He explained that his father had lost his job in the industrially depressed Midwest and moved to another job on the West coast. N accompanied his dad and enrolled in a junior college. He was planning to transfer to the university fairly soon.

“What are you studying?” I asked.

“I’ve always liked English,” he answered. “I like to write. I think I would like to be a writer.”

As an English major myself, I was charmed. This scion of country life and master of mechanical skills I lack is a budding creative writer, perhaps another Hemingway.

He finished attaching the scope. I thanked him, collected a can of pellets for ammunition, discreetly placed the weapon in the trunk of my car, and headed for home.

When I first started thinking about buying an air rifle, I called the two medium-sized hardware stores on the island where Mrs. Random and I frequently shop for hardware. In fact, it is quite amazing how often we visit hardware stores since we moved to the island in search of a simpler life. I never knew how many nuts and bolts the simple life takes. I suspect the simple life has become more complicated since Thoreau’s time.

However, neither of the two medium sized hardware stores on the island near us sells air rifles. It may be that knowing I am a regular customer, neither of these stores considers it safe to offer weapons for sale. (However, one had already sold me a chain saw.)

About the time I was heading out to large sporting goods stores on the mainland, Mrs. Friendly Neighbor had called to tell me that a small hardware store on the island sells weapons, including air rifles.

Mrs. FN said the guns in this (previously unknown to me hardware store) are kept in the back, and that I might have to ask for them. (Perhaps this is something like the video stores that keep the naughty videos in the back?)

However, when I entered the little hardware store and asked about rifles, a pleasant gentleman about my age said, “Oh, no, some one must have given you old information. I don’t sell guns any more.” In fact, the gentleman explained that not only did he not sell guns any more, but that he didn’t hunt any more, and that in fact, he had become a vegetarian. What is America coming to when old hunters and gun fanciers become vegetarians?

However, when I explained that I was searching for an air rifle to shoot rabbits, he said, “Oh, I have air rifles.” In fact, he had some air rifles in a display case right under the cash register counter at the front of the store.

The gentleman agreed that rabbits are quite the pest on the island. He said that the rabbits living on the island are not good to eat. I did not ask for an explanation, though this information worries me a bit. If there is something in island life that makes the rabbits unsafe to eat, is there something in island life that makes me unsafe to eat? I would not want to harm a predator that was dining on me. Anyway, although he is now a vegetarian, and although the rabbits are not good to eat, the proprietor saw no problem with hunting rabbits with an air rifle.

Unfortunately, the air rifle he showed to me was one that involved pumping and allowed for loading lots of BBs.

Mr. Friendly Neighbor uses a spring-propelled air gun that shoots one pellet. Mr. FN had taken down a rabbit with one shot with his gun. Mr. FN spoke skeptically of guns that require pumping and that fire BBs. Mr. FN lives near me and helps me in a gracious, patient, and kindly manner. If I bought a gun other than the gun he recommended, he would not say anything sarcastic or disparaging to me, and he would probably try to help me with it, but I don’t think it would be either gracious or sensible of me to not follow his advice, and then expect him to help me when things go amiss.

I thanked the man in the hardware store for his help and left the store. [To be continued]