Like most self-absorbed Americans, I like to take a few moments this time of year to reflect on the past 12 months. I like to examine the victories, analyze the defeats and visualize the year ahead. As I think back on 2012, however, there's really only one thing that keeps popping into my head: My terrible struggle with nature in the form of an annoying little rodent.
I'm afraid these past 12 months, for our family, was the Year of the Vole.
That's right. The vole.
What is a vole, you ask?
Good. I'm glad you asked, because if you asked, that means youÕve unlikely spent 38 minutes spraying water into a series of vole holes in your backyard like a crazy person. If you don't know what a vole is, then youÕve probably never used a garden rake as a samurai weapon. I do know what a vole is, and so IÕve done both of these bizarre things. I've also thrown bricks at my shrubbery and basketballs at my sidewalk, all in the vain attempt to eradicate my yard and my life of this devilish creature.
So, again, what is a vole?
If you combined the earth-moving skills of a mole, the skittering abilities of a mouse, and the landscaping-destroying powers of a coked-up Labrador, then you begin to have an idea as to what it means to be a vole. I hate them. I never had a beautiful lawn to begin with, and by the end of this summer, what was once unimpressive had become a true eye sore.
By July the perimeter of our house had become so pockmarked with vole holes, trails and collapsed tunnels, I stopped even pretending to care what the outside of our home looked like.
Eventually we contacted a professional, who recommended we use glue traps. Rat poison would also work, he mentioned, but all this occurred during the height of our son's "Tastes of the Earth" world tour, and so we nixed that idea pretty quick. At least if the resident toddler had the audacity to taste an actual glue trap we would probably notice before he digested very much of it.
Thus, we secured the glue traps and placed them in what we thought were fairly strategic locations: Next to their vole holes and along their runs. The problem with putting the traps in the grass is that grass is green, or at least was green until the worst drought in a century made it less than green, and the traps were white. I donÕt know if voles have good eye sight, but apparently it's decent enough to very rarely scamper over a solid white glue trap amidst a sea of parched lawn.
Traps set, I watched in anticipation from my bedroom window as the voles consistently escaped capture. This was actually fairly entertaining; much more so than watching television, because, after all, when I watch TV, I have no vested interest in whether anyone gets stuck in glue. Unfortunately, very few were caught.
Instead they would scamper out of their holes, piddle about their paths, meekly walk up to the trap, sniff it and then dart back into their holes in terror.
Again, as to whether the voles smelled the glue or saw the trap, I don't know. We caught about three animals in all. I'm pretty sure these poor creatures either all lost a bet or voluntarily removed themselves from the colony in order to keep us from getting serious and calling in the big guns, and by big guns I mean someone with a vole rifle and an empty afternoon.
One thing I do know, however, is that sparrows, apparently, can neither smell glue nor see it because I ended up rescuing two of those idiots from the same trap. This was pretty traumatic for both me and the birds and should, in my opinion, balance out some of the bad karma I've generated over the years for eating fried chicken.
In closing, the varmints disappeared around the end of August. Either the drought was too much for them or they become so annoyed by my Wile E. Coyote routine that they simply moved on. Whatever. I don't care. I just know that it is winter now and my yard looks like the remnants of an immense G.I. Joe military campaign.
I gave up making New Year's resolutions a couple years ago because I realized they were just a good excuse to gorge myself from Thanksgiving on. However, after this year's vole encounter, I'll probably consider at least one main goal for 2013: Find spray paint that matches my lawn.
Josh Robison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.