Capturing A Woodchuck

Written by: Leo Lawton

It was a bright and sunshiny afternoon. World War II was ongoing, but that had little effect on four young lads on a dairy farm in northern New York. Bob was about 11 years of age, while Ron was around 9, Dell was 8, and I was about 6.

The hay had been removed from our ten-acre-meadow leaving just freshly mown stubble. As the four of us roamed the farm looking for some trouble to find us, we spotted a woodchuck nibbling from the newer green shoots poking up among the yellowed shafts of the removed crop. Engrossed in the new-found panorama surrounding it, the woodchuck without doubt had spotted us long before we laid eyes on it. That had little deterrence on the four of us though. Almost in unison we shouted with glee as we headed for the woodchuck sure that we could capture it for a nice pet. In our minds it was as good as in some sort of a pen we would build for it.

Before we were half way to it, Mr. Woodchuck dropped down a convenient nearby hole and disappeared. We had interrupted his afternoon meal, but accomplished little more than that. As we stood around the hole in the small dirt pile surrounding it we contemplated our next move. It was Ron that came up with the brilliant plan of filling the hole with water, which obviously would flood the woodchuck’s home forcing him to the surface where we would grab him. It was as good as in a pen already.

Bob and Ron each found a pail, filled them with water at the hand pump, carried them about a tenth of a mile to the hole and dumped them in. Little changed beyond a general dampness near the surface. Back they raced to the pump for two more buckets full. Down the hole went the water from the filled pails with approximately the same results as the first trip. Dell and I were the designated watchers to make sure the woodchuck didn’t escape somehow while Bob and Ron were at the well. With no visible effect from the action so far off they went after more water. Sooner or later that hole had to fill. After several more trips, each slower than the previous, Bob and Ron were getting tired so Dell and I were delegated to go after the next two pails full. Being somewhat younger and smaller we of course took longer. Bob and Ron seeing a good thing decided they were still tired so Dell and I returned for a second trip. This took even longer than our first one, so things were pretty much slowing down.

I don’t remember now if it was Bob or Ron, but one or the other decided we should get our hand-made wagon, load two ten-gallon milk cans, fill them with water and dump them in. Surely, that much water would get the desired effect. After a couple of trips with that rig it was a general consensus we were gaining nothing so we gave it up, at least until the next day.

As we trudged slowly back to the house I turned, and I swear that woodchuck was holding his stomach and laughing back on the hill.