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Russell would be missed around ranch. He had just entered his ninth season, helping us to keep varmit population in check and scaring wits out of trespassers by hissing and shaking his tail at them.
Over years he survived a blizzard of caliber .223, .38, .308, 11 buck, .45, rocks, bottles, bulldozers, lawnmowers, dunebuggies, and dirt bikes, but it was sauce, disguised in a FAT MOUSE BURRITO, that finally got him! He was best security snake I ever had.
Elmer, golden eagle, couldn't believe his good fortune either when he spied Russell from 2,000 feet. They had grown up together, but were mortal enemies knowing that someday one or other would eventually succumb to fangs or talons.
Elmer was suspicious because by this time of morning Russell should be resting under a rock or in wood pile at back of garden. Elmer, who fancied himself as a hot shot flyer, cut power and lowered his flaps as he circled above cold, hard body of Russell who was stretched out stiff and rigid on lawn, looking like a three foot long rolled taco.
Elmer wasn't as sharp or as aggressive since he lost territorial dispute with Sheriff's ASTREA helicopter last spring. Most of his feathers have grown back, but he still has dizzy spells from time to time. Ah, but that is a story in itself for another time.
Elmer suddenly swooped, throwing caution to wind, making a fast snatch and grab on rolled taco that once was a very handsome red Diamondback buzz tail.
Twenty minutes later, while cruising at 5,000 feet, Elmer's eyes began to cross and a fire suddenly erupted in his tail section when he began to feel full effects of combination plate lace salsa.
The end came swiftly, as he spun into lawn near garden shed. At last possible second he managed to spread his wings enabling him to crash land near riding lawn mower. He tore up 30 yards of grass, leaves, and mud before coming to a halt upside down.
The impact saved Elmer's life. The force of it knocked air, Stumpy, Russell, and salsa right out of him.
When Elmer regained consciousness, he managed to hobble over to pond, with aid of a broken tree branch under one wing, to put out fire in his beak.
Coy, coyote, at first thought he had seen a meteorite because he had never seen an eagle up close before. He could eat anything, and often did just to survive, but this bird looked and smelled bad. "Yucka!"
Elmer threatened to brain him with his tree branch crutch if he came one paw closer. Coy decided he wasn't THAT hungry anyway. He did an about face, scratching dirt and grass from lawn all over Elmer like any sensible animal covering up a mess, before trotting off across lawn.
Elmer eventually recovered to become a reborn vegetarian and anti-helicopter activist.
Mother nature (aided by my gardening skills) required a full season to purge lawn and garden of awful evidence that claimed two critters and nearly a third. Gerry wanted to move half-completed house to another site, to avoid large, blackened and charred area of dead ground that was now part of our front lawn. I stood firm, though. Two years of construction workers tramping back and forth over our landscaping was enough. Besides, half-life on salsa is fairly short.
Meanwhile, yup, back at ranch, Snuffy adopted a new roommate, Augie and they moved into newly completed greenhouse. Gerry insisted that dead area be covered over and greenhouse was just thing to bring life back to that part of landscape. Augie's sort of a clutze so they compliment each other. Rastus, Russell's cousin, moved into garden to take over Russell's old job; and Pancho's was closed.
The Fire Chief told Pancho they would let old stand burn to ground next time, after putting down sixth incendiary fire in as many months. On top of that, insurance company tore up Pancho's policy; and Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation. It was too much for Pancho who returned to land of his ancestors, Aztecs.
And our house? Well, even though we managed to cover up damage of salsa environmental attack with a brand new greenhouse and refurbished lawn (ain't sod great!), house is still unfinished. Not to worry, though, our ranch is a work in progress that takes me away from hubbub of my landscape business... so I can get involved in hubbub of doing same landscape and construction work for myself that I do for others all week long.
Well, that's tale. My neighbor is indeed a real landscape contractor with a large grounds maintenance company. I've been to his ranch a few times and can confirm that place exists as described, greenhouse, lawn, grounds, unfinished house and all. But as he related this story to me, on that hot, summer day, he had a strange twinkle in his eye. So, is it true? I can't say for sure, but after a chance meeting with Rastus by riding lawn mower, I'm willing to believe it.
Rich Showalter is a Contributing Writer for ProGardenBiz Magazine, an online magazine for professional gardeners and landscape contractors. Once Upon a Time... A Gardener's Daydream is a regular feature in ProGardenBiz Magazine. Visit ProGardenBiz to find out how you can get a free subscription, start-up guidance, business ideas and inspiration at http://www.progardenbiz.com. __________________________________________
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Rich Showalter is a Contributing Writer for ProGardenBiz Magazine, an online magazine for professional gardeners and landscape contractors. Once Upon a Time... A Gardener's Daydream is a regular feature in ProGardenBiz Magazine. Visit ProGardenBiz to find out how you can get a free subscription, start-up guidance, business ideas and inspiration at http://www.progardenbiz.com.