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(HOST) This year, commentator David Moats got back to his gardening roots, so to speak, in a big way. And now, with a garden full of tasty shoots above ground, he’s faced with the age-old struggle between man and beast – and so far the beast is winning.

(MOATS) Since the first of spring, I’ve been in a frenzy. For a number of years I had no garden space, but where I live now there are lots of flowers and a big space for vegetables. When the snow began to melt, I watched it all emerge. I didn’t know what was there. I raked off the weeds and there were tulips, daffodils, irises. It was like seeing color for the first time – the delicate pinks and purples, the brilliant yellow.

As it got warm, I couldn’t wait to turn over the soil and get the vegetables in. By the time it was warm enough to plant them, the tomatoes I had grown inside had become kind of pathetic, turning purple and scrawny. But once they spread their roots into the soil, they turned deep green and shot up toward the sun.

Meanwhile, I’ve realized I’m not alone. I am now engaged in a war against garden terrorism, which has come at me in the shape of the elusive WMD – the woodchuck of mass destruction. He started in on my kohl rabis, then my lettuce and beets. Now he’s moved on to my beans. One evening, I saw a fox loping across the back- yard, and I wondered if he might launch a counterinsurgency, chasing the woodchuck into his hole. But no luck.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking across the lawn, and I found myself staring into the eyes of a deer about 10 yards away. She wasn’t scared. She just wandered around, munching leaves. The deer may have helped herself to some of my plants; to nibble some of the tall ones, it would take a woodchuck of unusual leaping ability. But even if the deer has sampled here and there, it’s the woodchuck doing most of the damage.

And as I’ve talked to people about it, I’ve found that even the most peaceable people assume a dark tone as they tell me with the grimmest realism that the only remedy is a gun. This is what I think of as an offensive posture – buying a .22, positioning myself at dawn in a sniper’s nest above the soldier beans.

But eventually, I decided I hadn’t exhausted all the options short of force. After some bloodthirsty daydreams, I decided to assume a defensive posture, and I bought some fencing. I’m instituting a new regime of homeland security to protect the freedom of my beets and my cabbages.

Still, I have the feeling this is just the beginning. As John F. Ken- nedy said, we must bear the burden of “a long twilight struggle… against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease….”

And the woodchuck itself, at least until fall.

This is David Moats from Salisbury.

David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

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