I got a fishing license this morning. It’s good
for small game besides fish – coyote, beaver,
skunks, and groundhogs allowed year round.
A varmint is a problem beast, a nuisance
whose extermination is encouraged, an invasive
vermin offering potential guiltless pleasure hunting.
The last time I went hunting I killed a groundhog
with a .410 shotgun, perhaps the most inefficient
way to take a groundhog but I wanted a challenge.
I stalked the cow pasture then sat still spying
the quick starts and stops of attentive movement,
the rising heads, trying to estimate the stations
of den holes across the field, let them enter before
creeping a few feet closer, a statue when one would
pop up from another backdoor hole, freezing, then
moving again, closer. We danced like this for half
an hour until I was only fifteen feet from an entry,
sat cross-legged in green and brown, waiting
for the groundhog’s boredom to tempt it. I made
a noise. Why would anything be out here to hurt it?
A slow head popped up, then the torso half way
higher to see better, hindquarters stance of curiosity,
nose tilted up, I imagine smelling breakfast, cigarette
smoke on my breath as I exhaled partly and held,
offering the soft squeeze and explosion of shot
peppering up instant flecks of dirt and blood, no
movement then but the puff of dust vanishing.
I heard the whining belly full of babies before
pulling her out of her hole. I verged on a panic
threatening to rush me from the field with a cry
of absolute shame. But I forced myself to stand over
the body until all was finally quiet and the stretched
womb grew still. I turned and snapped the stock off
my shotgun with one strike on a stone and tossed
the weapon in the hole, toed the body in over my
surrendered gun and nudged the berm of dirt over it all.
Larry D. Thacker is a writer from Tennessee. His poetry can be found in journals and magazines such as The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, and Appalachian Heritage. He is presently taking his MFA in poetry and fiction at West Virginia Wesleyan College. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, the poetry chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train and the forthcoming full collection Drifting in Awe.