We purchased our first home in 1984 in Concord, California. The home was built in the 1960s and the kitchen was overrun with pale blue appliances. This isn’t part of the story.
It was a great starter home and we put a boatload of “sweat equity” into that puppy. The previous owners opted to use the .23 acres of land in the back to become self-sufficient from the needs of the world. They used to gather old wood shingles from homes that were being re-roofed and burn them in their woodstove for heat in the winter. They never turned on the furnace in the entire time they lived there. They had 6 chickens, which we kept for a short time. Fresh eggs ROCK. Until I was too grossed out to watch them eat their own damaged young anymore. This is also not part of the story.
All available dirt in the tiny yard had been used to grow stuff to eat. In one circular area, which had at one time housed a dough-boy swimming pool, the previous pioneers had planted corn. Lots of corn. Another area was home to various vine vegetables. We chose to tear it all out and modernize it with…lawn.
We didn’t have unlimited funds. Heck, we had near zero funds. So, we raked and smoothed and babied and turned and topsoiled our patches of dirt and planted lawn seed. We watered and weeded and sang to the tender shoots, night and day. Every morning, the first thing I did was tend to my precious minions, hand pinching little two-leafed weeds by the hundreds from the soft soil.
Squirrels LOVED this dirt. It was just right for digging and burying with minimal effort. I hated those squirrels. Brazen little creatures.
One such morning I arrived in the backyard to find a squirrel merrily digging in the circular patch of young, defenseless seedlings. I made all kinds of intimidating noise in its direction, stomping and “HAH”ing right at it. It merely looked at me. I ran at it, making myself as big as I was capable of being (much smaller than now, but still intimidating I’m sure). With a bored glance in my direction, the squirrel loped off to our wooden fence and lazily climbed up to the top. And GLANCED AT ME. If it could sigh, I bet it would have.
I WAS LIVID.
I picked up a stack of golfball-sized rocks (left over from the aforementioned raking and smoothing) and I HUCKED that first one as hard as I could, right at it.
Okay, so now let’s pause and review the problem with this scenario. Remember the size of this lot? TEENY. And the house on the other side of our fence was JUST as close to the fence as ours was. In this moment we can see that the rock throwing was ill-advised.
And the most remarkable thing happened on the first throw. I HIT THE LITTLE BUGGER! I sure did. It stiffened and dropped to my side of the fence. I ran up to it. It lay there twitching and jerking.
Now I had a problem. I didn’t actually want to HURT the squirrel. I just wanted it to go away. Forever. And it wouldn’t stop jerking around.
I started to panic.
I was shaking and very upset as I went to our next door neighbors, Bob and Jesse Mae, a really nice Evangelical couple from Oklahoma who already thought we were damned because of our Mormonism, but were determined to “save” us despite ourselves. I knocked.
Bob came to the door. I was still shaking, and visibly upset. I said, without explanation I might add, “Do you have a gun?”
I would give a hundred dollars if I could see Bob’s face again as it was in that moment. I think he always thought I was on the edge with all those boys in my house, and in this moment I’m pretty sure he thought I was asking his help to kill one of them.
Sounding as calm as he could manage, he said, “Sweetie, why do you need a gun?”
By now tears had started to flow. I told Bob my story.
He tried to hide his slow smile, but there it was. He said, “Honey, just go back in your house and I’ll take care of it.” I didn’t listen. I was still very concerned about this squirrel who was in obvious pain and needed to be put out of its misery. I followed him to his shed, where he pulled out a shovel.
He then went into my backyard and found my victim, now lying very, very still. He lifted the blade of the shovel, holding the handle high overhead, and in the moment before the blade was to drop and cut off its head, the squirrel hopped up and ran away.
And that is how freaking good I am at throwing rocks.