Fred burst out of the back door, grabbed a Nerf ball left on the deck by his grandson, and raced swiftly and wildly around the his yard and lush garden, then continued his chase around the side of the house hurling the foam toy that landed in the flower bed blooming brightly with fuchsia colored weigela, shouting obscenities at something that the neighbours couldn’t see. They saw Fred demonstrate this strange behavior at intervals throughout the day but especially in the morning when the grass was still wet with morning dew. Except for these occasional somewhat belligerent demonstrations, Fred appeared to be a calm and friendly man who always had a smile and enjoyed an exchange of jovial neighbourly conversation. He was a man in his late sixties and had several health issues and probably hadn’t taken his medications. What other reason could there be for his outbursts? For this reason they said nothing of his erratic episodes. After all, he was gracious and generous person sharing the bounty of his garden with them. Emmy, his wife, sometimes noticed the neighbours curtains pulled back and curious heads looking at him. But they truly didn’t understand what he was doing or his passion for horticulture.
Regularly at six AM, Fred was already looking out of the bay window that overlooked his small urban back yard. Emmy and Fred sipped their morning coffee watching for any sign of menacing wildlife that had since the first planting in spring threatened the well-being of their flowers and vegetable patch. But it was mid-July now and the display of the purple clematis blooming vigorously at the fence line brought a smile to their faces. It was their morning routine; they’d do a leisurely visual survey of their own little piece of paradise before going outside to weed or pick fresh organic vegetables for their meals that day. Everything in the garden was doing well, some too well. The zucchini were yielding far more than two people could ever eat. The beans, two varietals, one green and one yellow, were prolific; the lettuce, a gourmet mesclun mix, abundant; the kale dark green and curly waiting for harvest and to be blended into nutritious and detoxing green smoothies, the flowers as colorful and abundant as any seen at the Arboretum or Hamilton Biotical Garden or even at Butchard Gardens in beautiful Victoria. It gave great satisfaction to Emmy and Fred to see the fruits of their labor so successful especially after the tedious and sometime heroic efforts it took to bring the garden to this point. An early season drought had meant hours tending to water the parched plants but worst of all it was the creatures that seemed to come from far and wide that overwhelmed them by sampling the delectable tender plantlets. Critter control demanded particular vigilance and Fred was determined not to let his garden be overrun and ravaged by wildlife intruders.
This year, there was a particularly intrusive invasion, almost as if the animal kingdom had made alliances among themselves, eating anything that was tender and green. Chipmunks found their target and lingered at the white pedalled strawberry blossoms which at their treachery disappeared regularly throughout the day. A black squirrel with a scrawny mangy tail was burying peanuts in the flower boxes uprooting the newly planted magenta colored petunias. The cherry tree shook and vibrated as feathered invaders danced about the limbs pecking vigorously to steal the bright red and succulent treasures that clustered within. Up in the sky, a great blue heron circled and then landed by the little fish pond where two rather large and mature goldfish swam beneath the protected security of the hornwort and water hyacinth. Two stabs of his lightning fast dagger of a beak and the scoundrel was gone; so were the two remaining fish. These were the vagaries they endured. No wonder Fred succumbed to folly. It was a constant battle trying to keep the birds and critters away.
By far the rabbits were among the most exasperating. Those cute regular interlopers had a gluttonous appetite and anything that wasn’t fenced off with chicken wire was on the menu. After being sufficiently satiated, they hid in the neighbouring yards where foolish city types enjoyed their lovability, feeding them bits of carrot and lettuce; but Fred’s back yard was their favourite restaurant and they frequented it often. To Fred’s dismay, much of the young vegetation was nibbled to ground level giving his prized plants no chance of recovery and had to be replanted. As if two adult rabbits with voracious appetites weren’t bad enough, their numerous little offspring added to Fred’s misery. If there’s anything a rabbit likes more than lettuce and the tender shoots of flowers, especially the cherished dahlias, it’s to make more rabbits. Those lusty little fornicators proved to be prolific breeders and their copious young quick to forage for themselves. This year the back yard was overrun with bunnies, tiny little balls of fur that to most people brings a delighted exclamation of “Ah, how cute”. To Fred and Emmy, they were incorrigible vandals. So Fred hardily engaged in chasing them off his property, protecting and harbouring his plants by scaring, threatening, fencing, and if all else failed, chasing them off his property.
If nothing else, chasing rabbits proved to be good exercise, Fred and Emmy taking turns bursting out of the back door to chase the critters to a neighbouring property. The neighbours eyed with skepticism the vociferous pursuits of what they considered benign wildlife. The neighbours enjoyed their presence but their own vegetation consisted of tough and poorly kept perennials. The rabbits preferred a yard full of delectable treats. So they tolerated the chases and perhaps even enjoyed the romp. Those cocky rabbits were little intimidated and would hop ten to twenty feet ahead and look back to see if their chaser had the energy to persist. It’s seemed that Emmy and Fred could get little closer to the little vandals with each pursuit. Oh to have a gun, they thought. But then one day for some reason the rabbits were absent. Curious, they thought; but they kept a vigilant watch confident the bunnies would return. Then one morning they noticed a flash of a thick fluffy red tail. Fred suspected what it was; but surely such a predator would not venture into the city. One day later his suspicions were confirmed.
There it was in clear view. A fox had slipped into his yard from over the neighbour’s fence, rounded the shed, then circled the garden before disappearing into the thick privet hedge that bordered the end of the property. Not a rabbit in site. Had nature come to the rescue of his garden? Morning after morning like clockwork, the flash of red appeared and made his rounds. Fred never knew if the rabbits had moved away or if the fox’s shiny and healthy fur indicated that he found ample and suitable cuisine of his own. Either way, Fred no longer had to chase rabbits and the neighbours were relieved that Fred no longer rampaged around his garden.
“Heh Fred,” his neighbour said. “Are you feeling better now?”
“Feeling just fine,” Fred said. “But I’m not getting much exercise these days. Want to join me for a morning walk?”