Parker, Glenn and I were innocent of any fancy equipment or philosophies when we set out on our expedition. As it turned out, we did not need them, for Parker took to woodchuck holes like a woodchuck will to a sweet-corn patch. She dived down the first hole we showed her and came up a few minutes later at the mouth of an interconnecting tunnel. She had earth on her nose and a pleased gleam in her eye. Then, as we followed, she began to work down the fence row, diving and surfacing in the loam like a porpoise in the sea. The only disappointing aspect of this operation was that Parker was the only creature who came up out of any of the holes.
"I know there's chucks in there," Glenn complained. "They sit around stuffing themselves on clover all day. I see them when I'm plowing."
External evidence confirmed this claim. Many of the holes had fresh earth and woodchuck table scraps at the mouth. Occasionally, while Parker was underground, we would hear an ill-tempered rumbling. Even so, Parker would come up alone, with a worried, apologetic look on her face. Finally we decided that since it was getting late the woodchucks must all have been sacked out and Parker had been far too much of a lady to rouse them.
Eventually Glenn raised a young rabbit that bolted down a hole in the bank of an old quarry. We picked up Parker and ran to the spot. This burrow had two entrances and we put Parker in the one we thought the rabbit had used. Almost at once there was a satisfying commotion. Shortly, both animals emerged, but there must have been some underground confusion, for the rabbit came out of the hole Parker had entered and the ferret popped up from the far exit. They stared at each other for a brief moment and then the rabbit jumped. The bunny was clearly adolescent, but it already outweighed Parker about two to one. With sort of the rabbit equivalent of a straight arm, the quarry simply ran over the vicious ferret. When the dust settled, Parker picked herself up and looked around groggily after the fashion of a T-formation quarterback who has been blitzed. The rabbit was long gone. It was a humiliating experience for both Parker and me. We got no sympathy from Glenn, who howled hysterically, "She's a tiger, a tiger. Please don't let her get me."
In attempting to rebut the various slanders that have been circulated about ferrets it would be unrealistic to claim that all of these little animals are as ineffectual as Parker was on this occasion. I admit to remembering a great white ferret who was once dropped down a wide-mouthed hole. There was an almost instantaneous explosion of action. Two fox pups followed by a vixen came boiling out of the den, with the hob ferret in close and ferocious pursuit. Most ferrets do chase things-it is their nature- and catch them, too. A ferret worked frequently can probably take as many rabbits in the course of a year as a man driving to conservation meetings can kill with his car. Even Parker might have become an efficient ferret if given a little practice. It was just that at the time of her maiden hunt she was more accustomed to dealing with dish towels than game. After this first and last field trial, she was retired and lived out her days in the kitchen, operating from the security of her refrigerator den, where no rabbit could get at her.
In time, as all creatures must, Parker came to her reward. Though she was mourned, she has not been replaced. What with all the assaults recently being made on law and order, I did not want to contribute to the breakdown of public morality by keeping a bootleg ferret, and I did not have the time or money to license one. However, my recent visit to New London renewed my craving for these weasels. Deciding to live dangerously, I inquired about buying one in this Cooperstown of ferretry. I had no more luck than Parker did with the rabbit. Rumor has it that there is one retired ferret rancher near New London who keeps half a dozen of the animals for old times' sake. But this man will not admit to such carryings-on and so, lacking a search warrant, there is not a ferret to be had in what was once Ferretville, U.S.A. There is nothing left in Our Town now but Chenango Charlie and the girls' choir and those nice old ladies on their porches.