As George and I are wont to do on summer evenings, we were sitting under the big maple tree in our front yard waiting for the moon to come up. Sophie, the cutest dog in the whole wide world, was with us. She’d just finished flushing out and killing her third groundhog in three days and was worn out. But suddenly, she sprang to attention and began to growl.
A young man I’d never seen before walked toward us. He was covered in sweat. “Is this the way to CB Trucking Company?” he asked.
I told him yes but that it was a couple of miles down the road. “Not an easy walk in flip-flops,” I added, pointing to his feet. “How far have you come?”
“My ex-girlfriend put me out of her car up by the interstate.” He went on to tell
me that she’d done so because they passed her husband in another car and was afraid a fight might ensue when he saw the two of them together. “That guy will beat a person up for no reason,” he explained. So he jumped out of the car and skedaddled into Mike’s Market, formerly known as the Get-It-and-Go, to buy a Dr. Pepper and lie low for a few minutes. “A buddy of mine left his car at CB Trucking and I’m headed there to pick it up.”
“I can’t wear any other kind of shoes right now. I broke my foot a couple of weeks ago.” He pointed to his left foot, which did indeed look swollen. I didn’t ask if it
had happened while fighting his ex-girlfriend’s husband, who—I also learned—was a cop in a neighboring county before he got fired.
At that point George, who had listened to the whole conversation without saying a word, offered to drive him. He headed for the garage to get the car while the young man kept chattering away to me, which was actually kind of amazing for someone who’d just walked four hot, hilly miles with a broken foot.
“I saw a groundhog right down the road there,” he said, pointing. “A big one.”
At that, Sophie’s ears perked up. Anyone who thinks dogs don’t understand human language hasn’t spent enough time around Sophie.
“Yeah, we’ve got lots of them around here,” I said. “They’re a pestilence.”
“Not if you like to eat them. You ever eat a groundhog?”
I shook my head. “No, but this dog has,” I told him, wondering why the heck it was taking George so long to fetch the car.
“I’ve got an uncle who eats groundhogs all the time.”
“Well…I guess if a person’s hungry enough, any meat is better than no meat.”
“It ain’t because he’s hungry,” the young man said. “He just likes the taste of them.”
Sophie wagged her tail in agreement.
Finally, I heard the crunch of tires on gravel. The young man wished me a good evening and climbed into the car with George and off they went. A few minutes later, as we were once again sitting under the big maple tree waiting for the moon to come up, I asked George what he and our new friend had talked about on the way down the mountain.
“We didn’t talk,” he said. “I kept the radio turned up real loud.”
To which I replied that it’s a good thing he’s not a newspaper columnist. It’s not every day somebody’s lucky enough to meet a fellow whose uncle loves the taste of groundhog.
(June 9, 2013)