Note: This is the sixth in a series of super-short stories about animals.
After a few years of flooded yards and icy sidewalks because of the runoff from our sump pumps, my neighbors and I decided to do something about it. The city had installed a storm drain along our property line, so three of us rented equipment to dig a trench, and we buried some 4-inch corrugated drainage tubes to connect our sump pumps to the storm drain. (And by “we”…)
I had two pieces of piping left over, each about 8 or 9 feet long. My handy neighbor Randy suggested that I might want to keep them in case any of the pipeline leaked and needed replacing. Instead of putting it in my basement or garage like a normal person, I laid it in the sedum against the north side of our house. My theory was, it was not bendable enough to wrap up, so I didn’t want 9 feet of tubing taking up space in the basement. I figured I’d find something useful for it eventually.
Fifteen years later, it was still sitting there.
I noticed that small animals liked to run into it when I was mowing. Specifically, my two favorite backyard critters: rabbits and chipmunks.
Chipmunks were my favorite animal when I would visit the zoo as a child. (Yes, I am aware that they weren’t part of the zoo’s menagerie.) I was thrilled when we moved into our house and I first heard the distinctive “chip-chip” call of the chipmunk. Over the years, I told my kids that the same chipmunk, Chippy, would return to our yard every spring. (Which would be amazing, considering the lifespan of a chipmunk is 3 years. Don’t tell my kids.)
Chipmunks like to live underground, so they wouldn’t usually nest in my black plastic tubes. Also, they had to stay away from the rabbits, who loved the tubes. Sometimes I would spot three rabbits at a time going into the tubes; they were like little rabbit hotels.
Our yard is a bunny haven, as if we are cultivating dandelions and clover just for them. Add the fact that some neighbors trap and release them because of their destructive tendencies on plants, and bunnies know it’s better to hang in our yard. I’ve had to hop the fence in our vegetable garden like Mr. McGregor in the Beatrix Potter tales to get rabbits out, though. Then I see them lingering outside the fence, pretending to munch nonchalantly on clover, but secretly plotting their next assault on the garden.
Last summer, I thought that maybe I should get rid of the plastic tubes. They had outlived their usefulness; they had a few cracks and holes in the sides, so even if the drainage system needed updating, these things were no good. As I went to grab one, I wondered if there were any bunnies in them right then. I took one end of the first one and gradually lifted it, peering into the hole. Nothing, I shook it a little to see if anything came out the other hole. Nothing. So I tossed that one to the side.
I did the same with the other one. Lifted, peered, nothing. But it felt a little heavier than the other tube. I looked more closely into the hole, and I heard a little pitter-patter-pitter-patter, and all of a sudden, a small rabbit was running up the tube straight at me! I tossed the tube aside, but he sprang out and landed on my chest. “Hey! Hey!” I yelled as he ran up my front side to my shoulder; I spun around, and his body brushed my chin as he ran back down my front side, down my leg, and landed on the ground beneath my feet.
We both stood there staring at each other for a moment. I’ve chased tons of rabbits in our yard and never caught them; this was the first time I actually touched one. I don’t think he knew what to do, after being so intimate with me. I grabbed the tubes and left; he was gone when I returned.