Monday, April 18, 2011

The Death of Sir William

Ever since we moved into our log cabin in the country, Mr. Brown Eyes has been waging a constant war against gophers. I would come home from work to find him in the yard, shovel in hand, watching at the entrance to a gopher hole, just waiting for the little rodent to make the fatal mistake of showing its ugly mug so he could smash it with the shovel. I would cross the lawn and kiss his sweaty cheek, wondering if maybe the little rodent was down in its hole playing its own waiting game, laughing to itself about this foolish human who thinks it's stupid enough to crawl out of its hole when death awaits above.

After minimal success with that method, Mr. Brown Eyes suggested doing away with the gophers by using propane and a match. When I turned down that idea, he started setting traps instead. He's gotten pretty good at it, catching a gopher with almost every trap he sets. Proud as a hunter with his kill, he'll dangle the dead gopher in front of me to show me how much bigger it is than the last one. And then he'll chase me around the yard with it, or strategically place it in front of the door to freak out my friends when they come over.

At the beginning, I was indifferent to the gophers. I didn't care for the piles of dirt they scattered through our otherwise green and grassy lawn, but I didn't feel driven to destroy them the way my husband did. That is, until Sir William Kirkaldy.

Sir William Kirkaldy was the first tree we bought to plant in our yard. Ok, Sir William Kirkaldy was actually one of my husband's somewhat nefarious Scottish ancestors. We learned about him right after we bought our little apricot tree on sale at the local nursery, and decided Sir William Kirkaldy was a good, strong name that an apricot tree could live up to. We planted it lovingly in our yard and watched it grow. I smiled when tiny green leaves started to bud on its branches; I thrilled when the buds burst into fragrant white blossoms. Pregnant at the time, I couldn't help but relate with Sir William, both of us blooming, about to bear fruit.

Then the unthinkable happened. One day Sir William was snowy with delicate blossoms; the next, those blossoms started to shrivel up and die. I held onto hope as long as the tree's tiny leaves were still green, but after the blossoms went the leaves, too, turned brown and withered away. Before my baby was born, all that remained of Sir William was a trunk and barren, spindly branches. I was devastated. Yes, over a tree. I had already envisioned myself sinking my teeth into sweet, homegrown apricots, making pies and jams and all the domestic things that women do with homegrown fruit. But it was not to be.

We chalked Sir William's death up as a mystery and went on with our lives.

A few months later, a blustery rainstorm ripped through the valley. When it was over, I noticed that Sir William (or what was left of it) was leaning. Mr. Brown Eyes went outside and, with very little effort, pushed our little apricot tree over. And that's when the truth of Sir William's death was revealed.

It had no roots.

The gophers had eaten them.

That was it. I wasn't indifferent anymore. By bringing my precious apricot tree to an early death, the gophers had made things personal.

Not that I go out into the yard with a shotgun and blow their heads off or anything. Killing the gophers is still Mr. Brown Eyes' job. But I cheer him and encourage him at every opportunity. All in honor of Sir William's memory. And if he brought it up again, I may just agree to the propane and match method now.

Ok, maybe not. I want to kill gophers, not blow up my house.

The gophers have grown to fear Mr. Brown Eyes and have begun escaping into our neighbor's yard. I like to think they fear me, too, especially after I killed their king. I lost an eye in the process, but he lost his head.

Ok, that was just a dream.

A really weird one, too.

But I do miss my apricot tree.

The war is not over,
The Brown-Eyed Girl

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