published Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Kennedy: Say your prayers, chipmunks

The chipmunks in our yard have made two tactical errors. They have attacked two things that my wife and I hold dear: My cars and her hostas.

For a long time we were in denial. How can something so cute be so destructive, we thought? We have, after all, seen all the Alvin movies; and we know that chipmunks speak English, breathe helium and sing Beyoncé songs.

For a long time we preferred to think we had moles in the yard because it's easier to demonize an animal with a pointy nose. I can weaponize a pitchfork and go berserk on a mole mound. Chipmunks, on the other hand, have little pug noses and appear to run on AAA batteries. They're like free-range Beanie Babies.

I realized that my wife was serious about chipmunk eradication on the drive to church Sunday morning when my 11-year-old son called out from the back seat.

"Dad, pull over!" he shouted.

"What? Why?" I asked.

"Just pull over. I want to get that dead possum in the middle of the road. Mom said she would give me $5 per carcass."

"I'm pretty sure she was talking about chipmunk carcasses," I said. "I know she's not going to give you any cash for a pile of possum guts."

"Oh," he said.

Sometimes I wonder about that boy.

I didn't doubt for an instant, though, that my wife had put a bounty on chipmunks pelts. Gardening is her way of diffusing stress, but one winter a bunch of chipmunks apparently ate the roots off all her hostas and she about went bonkers.

Alvin, hate to tell you this, buddy, but that new, two-lane tunnel extension at the end of your burrow might just be the business end of my wife's shotgun.

I personally became a combatant in the chipmunk war one day when a manager at the Toyota dealership summoned me to the service desk.

"Mr. Kennedy, look at this," he said, holding my car's cabin air filter in his hands. "Looks like you have a visitor."

In the middle of the paper folds was a little hollowed out spot. One of our chipmunk friends had evidently climbed into my car and turned my air filter into a memory-foam mattress. What's more, the little critter had left nut shells in the AC fan assembly, which now rattled like a bingo-ball cage.

I felt my face go red.

I was immediately reminded of Bill Murray's eloquent monologue in film "Caddyshack" just before he blasted a gopher hole with explosives: "In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Sartre, 'Au revoir, gopher.'"

Yeah. Au revoir, chipmunk.

I immediately thought about calling Billy the Exterminator or The Turtleman of Kentucky. I actually contacted a local varmint catcher, but he was too busy to help immediately.

Instead, I girded for war. I went to a hardware store and bought chipmunk traps, chipmunk repellent and a chipmunk sonar device that is supposed to plug into a wall socket and drive the little critters crazy with ultrasonic sounds -- it's the chipmunk equivalent of the Bee Gees' greatest hits. I talked nicely to our neighbor's cat and told him that he could sun in our driveway any time.

I'm think I'm ready, now. So bring it on chipmunks. Punks.

Or as my shotgun-toting wife might say, "Hosta la vista, baby."

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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