May 09, 2012 - So there I was in my backyard, in my domain. Don Rush, Master of His Domain and fashion maven: sky blue, white and tan bowling shirt, khaki shorts and faded forest green rubber boots up to my knees. (If there's a picture next to the definition of the Suburban American Male, I'm sure it would resemble the visual image I just supplied to you.)
I had just tilled and raked level the rich, dark soil in the little corner of my backyard that, for the last 12 seasons has provided fresh vegetables for me, my family, neighbors, rabbits, groundhogs, deer, slugs and other assorted freeloaders that tend to make my blood pressure tick up a few notches.
After I rolled the roto-tiller back into the garage for another 12-month slumber, I grabbed the cold cup of black coffee I had brought out earlier in the morning and walked back out to gaze in wonder at the masterpiece of agricultural miniaturizing I had just created.
The rake I had left next to the freshly tilled soil, tines up, I stepped on and deftly caught the handle before it could whap me in the face.
I hate to admit it, but I thought to myself, "Damn, I'm good."
I sipped my coffee as the sun warmed my face. I looked back to my right and saw "Bob" the squirrel. (By the way, every brownish-orange fox squirrel is named "Bob" at Casa d'Rush since one of the lads named the first Bob a decade ago.) Though, I was contemplative I wasn't still.
I turned and watched Bob as he scavenged the yard -- not 10 feet from me -- for stuff to eat.
I know he saw me, he stood up on his hind legs and looked at me. Then, he calmly went back to his business of looking for nuts or whatever it is that Bobs -- I mean squirrels -- eat.
I turned my back to Bob as indifferently as he turned his on me. (I'm sure that showed him, dang it.) I took a sip of coffee and then looked down to my left.
On the east edge of what will be my vegetable garden, the boys and I stacked crushed hunks of concrete to make a short, decorative wall that extends the garden about two feet. There's no dirt in there yet, but by this weekend there will be. (If you must know, I'm planning on planting herbs in there.)
I looked down and saw a small tuft of brownish/grayish fur -- a little smaller, but just as round as a golf ball. I bent down and it didn't move. I laid the rake down (tines down this time) and got down on my knees to get a closer look. My nose got about two feet from the ball o'fur when it looked at me.
It didn't scamper or scurry away. It looked sorta like a field mouse, but wasn't. It looked back down and started eating on some grass or something.
Whatever it was, it wasn't scared of the 230 pounds of masculinity within arms reach of it. It turned and moved a little and I saw it had a short tail. The wheels and gears inside the steal trap of a mind I possess started moving. Slowly, the encyclopedic knowledge stored in my cranium opened.
Not a mole, but rhymes with mole, the thought processed. Starts with 'v'. Vole.
"You're a vole," I vocalized. "Why aren't you scared of me? I am a man. Man equals predator. Man is on top of the food chain. Voles are not. Boo!"
Without so much as a squeak of acknowledgment, the little rodent moved lazily into a tunnel of grass.
I stood up and looked over the freshly-tilled soil, and then the recently mowed lawn. Bob had moved on. Why wasn't anybody scared of me? Don't all critters fear Man, and since I am of the Man tribe, doesn't that mean they should be afraid of me?
What's wrong with me? Where has my he-man, masculinity gone?
Maybe next time I am in the yard I will forego the Suburban American Male wardrobe and go for army fatigues, black boots and face paint. That'll scare 'em (if not the neighbors).
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org