Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Never lash a mongoose with a weed whacker. It’s a no-win situation for all parties involved.
A new task was presented to me the other day-to weed whack most of the 5+ acres that make up this coffee farm. Undaunted, I latched onto the task because who doesn’t like being mildly destructive with engine-propelled plastic cords?
In my illustrious career of lawn maintenance and yard work forays I have made use of many weed whacker, both engine powered and electric. The latter are less enthusiastically employed for 2 reasons: first, you have to drag around an extension cord and do your best not to slice into it. Bad juju. Second, they don’t sound nearly as cool!
The machines for my use are engine driven, thankfully. But these machines supercede in coolness all others I’ve ever used. The ones I’ve used before were easily manageable for one person to carry around a yard. Now I had the big boys to play with. A harness is needed so that the weight of the machine is supported on your shoulders and your arms are used primarily for guidance. Huh-Huh, power tools! Safety gear was plentiful and for once in my life I made use of these emasculating devices: shin guards, gloves (which I ended up leaving behind), and a combo set of ear muffs/face guard. I felt ready for combat and set off attacking the overgrown foliage with gusto. All went relatively well for a couple of hours. Only one lime-sized rock avoided the shin guards and struck a blood-letting blow against my shin (damn guards kept sliding around to offer my calves protection from vengeful weeds) and my eyes remained relatively unscathed. Oblivious to the quantity of fluids I was losing, an idiotic grin never left my face and my enthusiasm was bolstered by the tunes in my ears (Offspring, Rage Against the Machine). It wasn’t until the second stop for gas that I realized my shirt was wringeable and a pool of sweat was gathering in my boots. A lag in energy hid itself behind a papaya tree and I continued on.
Hawaii is full of plant and animal species that are not endemic to the islands. Brought by traders and their ilk, new species were introduced. For example, on Hawai’i, the big island that I am calling home for now, rats stowed away and have thrived. In an effort to eradicate the rats, mongeese (if a goose joins a flock of geese, than a mongoose is but a part of a pack of mongeese. Spellcheck be damned) were let free to kill the rats. The problem is, rats are nocturnal and mongeese are not. Poor solution. Now the chickens and various other animals are constantly harassed and eaten by the little weasely guys. I see them all over the place but never closer than 10 feet away. Skittish creatures.
Moving uphill I razed the grass running down the center of the farm road and what ever grass alongside that happened to fall within the radius of my swings. Occasionally I would stray from the road, usually to check a papaya tree for luncheon candidates. Glancing up at one papaya laden tree (none ripe enough to swipe) I allowed the whacker to continue swinging and was surprised to hear above the sound of the engine and my music a loud high pitched yowl. Initially I was terrified that I had wounded one of the many many cats running around the farm who are adored by the owners. My greatest fear was that I had further mutilated the cat with a club paw and one eye (tangled with a dog). Tearing my gaze back to earth I watched a mongoose with a now shortened tail dash off into thicker undergrowth. Feeling sheepish I offered my apologies. As if he (or she) heard me, a head popped out briefly and teeth were bared ominously. Taking this as a refusal of my apologies cuss words flowed and I returned to work.
But those teeth stuck in my mind. And there seemed to be more than the usual number of mongeese wandering around. Contrary to their typical behavior, they were now pausing to look at me as though taking stock of something. Very unnerving.
As the day drew to a close, I found myself at the bottom of the farm, dreading the long walk back uphill to the house. My neck was sore from constantly swiveling towards sounds I thought I heard and movements I swear I was seeing in the bushes out of the corner of my eye. Reprisal was the word that ran on a closed loop in my brain and it had my a little geeked out.
Nothing happened. I made it back to the house without incident. That day. One activity was observed that in hindsight was a clear warning of things to come. Rounding a bend I caught sight of a mongoose and a dove exploding out of some taller weeds and head off hurriedly in opposite directions. Let me say that again. They burst out from the same clump of weeds. There is no reason two sworn enemies should have been in conference together. Chuckling at the absurdity of the notion I dismissed it as an illusion.
That dismissal would haunt me very soon.