It was a very hot summer in the small town of Gatewood. So hot, that few of the elderly people’s faces were seen outside until the sun was about to set. Many of the people had lived in this quaint little community for their entire lives. Gatewood was made up of one grocery store, one post office, two gas stations and a very small police station. Everyone knew each other and all their children by name. There was an elementary school just on the edge of town so the yellow school buses were seen every day except in the hot summer months.
One resident in Gatewood was Mr. Schwab who had made his home in this little spot. He had been born in Indiana but decided that he had enough of the winter months and chose to live in North Carolina. Everyone in Gatewood called it “God’s Country” for it was just far enough from the mountains not to get much snow and far enough from the ocean not to get too many hurricanes. Mr. Schwab lived alone since his family had married and moved away. He was a small framed fellow who walked with a cane everywhere he went. His walking problem had not been diagnosed since he had little use for the medical professionals. So you could see him shuffle along going about his business almost everyday.
Now Mr. Schwab always wanted to be a Gardner and in Gatewood he had the perfect opportunity. He lived in a small wood framed house with a big back yard some of which he had tilled into a perfect little vegetable garden space. He and his neighbor had worked very hard since April to till, plant and weed the gracious spot. They both had big plans for all the fruits of their labor. They planted butternut squash, summer squash, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, radishes, red beets, okra and lots of tomatoes of various kinds.
Day after day Mrs. Griffin and Mr. Schwab worked removing all the weeds from the garden. They tied up the tomatoes so they could grow tall and strong. The rains came and the sun burned hot upon their backs as they worked day after day tending the precious ground. Soon the rows begin to grow and green sprouts could be seen. Blossoms came and soon yellow squash began to grow. Big green tomatoes hung from the tomato plants. Long green cucumbers nearly a foot long grew in bunches. Green beans hung in clusters from the bean vines and the lettuce looked as if it had been painted there. Everything was going so well. Then something happened that disturbed the entire garden.
Mrs. Griffin had huge willow oak trees in her yard with massive trunks. Her entire yard was shaded by these awesome trees and she loved her beautiful trees. She loved to watch the birds fly from limb to limb and build nest among the branches. Then there were the gray squirrels that jumped all about in the trees. They were so friendly they even came down the trees to drink from her bird bath she had planted in her flower garden. She and her husband had grown attached to the little varmints until now and had named them Artie and Bingo. You see each day Mrs. Griffin would walk to the vegetable garden to check on the plants. Each day she would find half eaten green tomatoes tossed about here and there. Then the radishes began to be dug up and the lettuce torn. Even the handmade scarecrow did not frighten away the squirrels. It was harvest time for them and they were enjoying the little garden immensely. The squirrels had to be stopped or they would destroy all the tomatoes. Neither person would be able to enjoy the fresh home grown vegetables if the squirrels were not stopped.
Mrs. Griffin was retired and she decided to watch during the afternoon while Mr. Schwab watched from dawn until midday. Both of them had gathered a pile of rocks and they decided to take aim at the busy bodies who where eating up their veggies. So from sun up to mid day Mr. Schwab rocked the squirrels and from midday to sunset, Mrs. Griffin rocked the squirrels. It was a rocking good time in the small college town.
Now the squirrels were totally shocked when they came walking out of the garden with a big green tomato in their mouth. PLAT …A rock hit him right upon the noggin.
“What the heck is going on here?” Artie the frisky gray squirrel chattered to his buddy Bingo behind him.
“Oh golly gosh it’s Mrs. Griffin and she is practicing throwing balls I do believe. I’ve never seen her throw a rock before. I’ve seen her play ball with her grandchildren but never anything like this! It looks as if she has taken leave of her senses.” Bingo the chubby squirrel following close behind Artie piped.
“Jump! Jump quick or she knock your brains out with those rocks!” Artie Screamed as he held the green tomato tightly in his grip.
It didn’t take long for the squirrels to figure out that mornings were not a good time to collect vegetables. They decided to wait until Mrs. Griffin went inside to prepare her lunch and take her nap. Then they would quietly scamper down the limbs and collect their days grub.
Slowly and very quietly the two gray squirrels jumped from limb to limb until they were directly over the garden. From this position they could see the plump tomatoes hanging from the vines. The light green lettuce looked as crisp as could be and the red radishes were just begging to be pulled. They looked this way and that. Mrs. Griffin was no where in sight.
“Let’s hurry! I’ll get the tomatoes and you make a run for the lettuce. Gather as much as you can carry! We may not get but one chance if she comes out that door!” Then Artie chattered quickly as his eyes kept watch on the door.
The limbs brushed against each other making a swishing sound as the squirrels jumped from one to another making their way to the garden. Plop! The squirrels hit the ground running at top speed.
Then Artie wasted no time plucking a huge green tomato.
“Whoa! This is a big baby. I think I’ll have a bite before I head back.” He smiled taking a big bite with his sharp front teeth.
“Holy Divine I just got shot!” Bingo Screamed loudly. “Oh Lord! My behind is killing me. Somebody is shooting out here. I’m out of here!” He screamed as he rubbed his behind quickly.
“It’s Mr. Schwab! The two of them are in cahoots I do believe. He has a BB gun I do believe and those things hurt like crazy! I don’t know if I can run fast enough with this half pound of tomato. I guess maybe I had better toss it and jump for the lowest tree limb.” Artie gasp swallowing the bite of tomato seeds and all.
“I got you! You dang little critter get out of my garden. If I see you out here again I’m gonna fill your butt full of lead.” Mr. Schwab shouted angrily. “I’ve worked much too hard to see all my veggies carried off by squirrels.”
So it came to be that the gray squirrels soon became aware that the little plot of land was strictly off limits for them. They missed the fresh vegetables a great deal but it was not a total loss. You see Mr. Schwab and Mrs. Griffin each took a turn providing nuts, corn, and such for the little critters. Some days they even left a few cracked radishes and a few leaves of bug eaten lettuce.
“Everyone deserves to eat just not out of my garden!” Mr. Schwab winked as he tossed some nuts near the trunk of the big willow oak tree.
So everyone lived happily, even Artie and Bingo the gray squirrels who chatter ever so loudly now all day long. Yes they still came down the tree trunk to drink water out of the bird bath but now with both eyes peeled. No one likes to get stoned especially on the gluteus maximus!
Question: Why did Artie and Bingo have rocks thrown at them?
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Copyrighted June 2011