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Chuck Nyren Headshot

Country Quandary

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I am bucolically befuddled. As a newly minted ruralist, a rube's rube, not only my senses but my sense of justice are in chaos. Ahhh, for the simple life of the city!

I spend a great deal of time on the back porch. No railing is needed, for the deck slams into a 30-foot high slope. There's a garden there. I don't look down at the flowers, the flowers look down at me. Bees buzz around trying to find better seats. They're never happy where they are. Every so often a hummingbird flies in, checks out the entertainment, and leaves.

And I'm Oedipus. Or Hamlet. Or, more likely, some Neil Simon character -- here merely to amuse Mother Nature's theatre-going public.

Those are the easy days. Rougher ones include wrenching inner challenges to deeply held beliefs. It's Paul the Chipmunk who has been the catalyst for these self-doubts.

Paul is too much fun. At first skittish at the sound of me (he doesn't see very well), it wasn't long before I was simply an obstacle. He'd stop, sniff, and nimbly negotiate my big toe. After a few days it dawned on me that most of his activities involved rummaging for food, so I balled up a section of bran muffin and threw it at him. He nudged it with nose, packaged it in his mouth, and scurried away. Paul was happy.

The next morning he started bugging me. Practically perched on my foot, he looked up and waited. I assembled another treat, bent over -- and before I could give it to him he jumped up and knocked it out of my hand. I guess he thought I was a tree whistling in the wind.

In the afternoon it was an apple on the veranda. I saw Paul scrounging around in the garden, trying to balance his diet. I cut off a piece of the fruit and placed it on the far end of the patio. Eventually he found it, snapped it in his mouth, sat down, settled it in his paws, and started chomping away as if he were tackling a slice of watermelon. What a show. I was being entertained for a change.

Apples not having a thick rind, Paul seemed a bit surprised when his repast began to collapse. Carefully, he folded it over, turning it into a sandwich-like snack ...

A rat shoots out from under a rock. I grab a shovel and try to beat its head in. The thing is too fast for me. All I end up doing is putting a dent in the shovel.

And scaring the hell out of Paul. He was gone. Did I ever feel bad. The poor fellow was probably quivering in a hole somewhere, saying to himself over and over, "Boy, you can't trust those walking trees."

But for me it was time for philosophical inquiry. "Here I am, feeding and caring for Paul -- yet as soon as I see a rat I want to bash its head in. Hey, we're talking about Paul's cousin! Maybe they know each other, hang out together. Who knows. It's just that wailing on one and not the other is like seeing a beautiful dog, petting it, getting it a dog biscuit -- and then having some smelly mutt show up and taking a baseball bat and ..."

Heretofore secure in my liberal political beliefs -- was I becoming a rodent racist? (To my horror, I find I even have very strong opinions about mice. Less intent on genocide, I'm more of a separatist. Live and let live -- just so they don't move in.)

During my days in the asphalt jungle, it was so much easier. You killed anything with four or more legs that didn't meow or bark. Now I'm impelled to discriminate. If the tail is cute, it lives.

Soon, no doubt, I'll be forced to pensively wrestle with other moral dilemmas - like bumblebees vs. yellow jackets, for example.

Ahhh, for the simple life of the city!