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COL Wilmes -- Old dog, old writer won't hunt rabbits

Two cottontails dashed from the open shed door scurrying away to the pine trees and lilac bushes near the yard light. Wishbone has become to old and fat to chase them. The same goes for Wishbone's owner, who marvels that up to a dozen cottontails can be regularly seen not a stone's throw from the house.

An outdoorsman friend maintains that cottontails stay in the yard to avoid coyotes that he says have become more common. I haven't seen or heard a coyote yet, but that doesn't mean they aren't around. It could be that the rabbits are simply too scared to find out what exists beyond the yard.

People can be that way sometimes. We want our children to graduate from high school equipped with the cool confidence to tackle most challenges. This particular parent marvels while my children's timidity gives way to quiet confidence. Sarah, for example, flunked her driving test twice before she passed. She is a confident driver now, though her dad fears she may be overconfident judging by the amount of dust she kicks up speeding down the gravel road.

There are times -- when the winter coat and gloves are left at home -- when one wonders if she is ready to leave the nest. Ready or not, this is the last winter she'll spend here. It's doubtful she'll be homesick. Many times in the past a young woman would be expected to stay home until marriage, helping with family chores. Back then marriage came earlier and anyone in their mid-20s was considered at risk to become an old maid. While Sarah's time here is counted in months, Sam must wait five years yet. It was only last summer he became confident enough to mow the lawn by himself. The other day he mentioned that drivers training is coming up soon. The thought of that sends my mind racing off like the rabbits fleeing the shed.

Getting back to the rabbits, my wife has collected more than a half-dozen garden catalogs, studying them and selecting flowers, seeds and vegetables that the cottontails will no doubt relish this spring. This has led to the annual discussion about erecting a fence around the garden. I am not much of a fence-builder, unless it is electric. There is no reason not to be, having lived with a father and brothers who knew a thing or two about fencing. Stretching chicken wire and hammering electric fence posts isn't much of a challenge even for me. A garden fence should be something better looking than that. It will be added to the to-do list for spring, along with cleaning up the yard for graduation. It is all doable of course, but I am a bit like Wishbone, who would rather sleep on the porch chair than chase rabbits.

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"Dogs get weird when they get old,'' Sarah said.

The same could be said for her father, who isn't quite sure what to make of children who are rapidly becoming adults.

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