The only woodchuck I used to know was in a poem by Robert Frost. Then a woodchuck took over our backyard garden and disappeared through the same fence corner whenever I caught it feasting. Chuck looked just like the dictionary picture of a woodchuck, only handsomer, especially standing on hind legs to reach the beans.
Perhaps it was a descendant of Frost's "Drumlin Woodchuck":
My own strategic retreat
Is where two rocks almost meet,
And still more secure and snug,
A two-door burrow I dug.
I did see a deep hole in the ground, but if it was Chuck's, I found only one door.
In our city neighborhood we've been visited by raccoons, skunks, rabbits, squirrels, and possums, but none ever harvested as much as Chuck. Not just carrot tops, lettuce, beans, cosmos, and nasturtium leaves, but bites out of tomatoes and eggplant, too.
I called the Animal Rescue League. Mothballs were prescribed.
I strewed the garden, which looked as if it had been struck by unreal hailstones. The winter-clothes smell may have bothered Chuck. It certainly bothered us. Anyway, the plants began to grow again.
Then came rain – and Chuck again. I mothballed even more places than before.
One day I noticed that the tops of some tomato plants began to move without any breeze and, Sherlocklike, deduced that Chuck was busy down below. Yes, and he was off to his corner when he saw that he'd been spotted..
Chuck brazenly returned from another direction. From an upper window I saw him blithely trundling through the mothball minefields as if they smelled like Chanel No. 5.
I called the rescue league again. Try ammonia-soaked rags, I was told.
Fresh out of ammonia, I substituted watchful waiting. But now I didn't see him, although I can't say I missed him.
Then my spouse, who is the family gardener, noticed that the arugula was untouched. Maybe woodchucks don't like it any more than grandchildren do. Maybe essence of arugula would make a repellent.
I hoped I wasn't becoming like Frost's woodchuck when alarmed:
We allow some time for guile
And don't come out for a while
Either to eat or drink.
We take occasion to think.
But maybe that is just what Chuck is doing as I write. If he's taking the occasion to think, our veggies face an uncertain future.