I admit it: there was a time I thought gnomes were cute. I've even blogged about them right here at Garden Variety. They've fooled a lot of us, and it's no accident. As I've recently learned, it's all part of the gnomes' master plan to lull us into a false sense of security before they take over the world.
Yes, you read that correctly. Those pointy red hats aren't a quaint fashion statement, but a potential weapon against us. Be afraid. Be very afraid!
Luckily, we aren't without resources. I just finished reading Chuck Sambuchino's handbook on gnome warfare, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, subtitled "Defend Yourselves When Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)." Sambuchino's book explains why gnomes are a greater risk than vampires and, yes, even zombies. He bravely exposes a side of the gnomes they'd like to keep secret, including their preferred methods of attack.
I bet you're raising your eyebrows right now, thinking Chuck is either overreacting or, well, nuts. Far from it—he is a visionary. Everyone sneered when Richard Dreyfus started building monuments out of mashed potatoes, but they weren't laughing when that alien mothership arrived, were they?
Remember "V"? And that Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man?" There's always one person trying to warn mankind, but do they listen? Nope. I'm not saying you'll end up on an alien spaceship if you don't read Chuck's book—of course not. Still ... have you taken a close look at those gnomes in your neighbor's yard? They have axes, shovels, and other sharp objects. I'm not trying to scare you, but don't they seem closer to your yard than they did yesterday?
Yeah, that's what I thought. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the Twilight Zone theme song playing.
Without wasting any more time (time that would be better spent warding off the coming gnome invasion), I'd like to welcome Chuck to Garden Variety! (If you have any questions, or news of suspicious gnome activity, please post it in the comment area below. And don't wait, read an excerpt here.)
Becke Davis: I am very excited–and not a little awed–to introduce Chuck Sambuchino, Class 1 gnome slayer and renowned gnome defense expert. Since computer gnomes have been known to attack this website periodically, I admit I’m concerned Chuck’s chat might be plagued by gnome-style guerilla warfare. I’ve taken his advice and dragged a garden hose over to my desk to protect my space. My feet are wet, but I feel safer already.
Chuck, I’m intrigued by your proven system: Assess, Protect, Defend, Apply. How many beta versions of this defense platform did you go through before nailing down these methods of gnome control?
Chuck Sambuchino: It didn't take long to put a system in place. I had to get my stuff wired together pretty quick because I witnessed several garden gnome attacks in the neighborhood as a child. At that point, I fully realized the danger of these little lawn warriors. I decided then and there that I wasn't going down in this fight; they were.
BD: It’s been rumored that you reside in “a heavily fortified residence in a secret Midwest location.” Since I also live in that area, I have to ask: is the Midwest at a higher risk of gnome invasion than other parts of the country? I hear they’ve got a weakness for Cincinnati-style chili, or maybe there’s another reason for the heavy infestation near the Ohio River ...
CS: It's no rumor. The United States Military has even come to me and asked about how one human being could/would fortify a residence so well. My abode is one step down from a nuclear fallout shelter. And yes, I believe the Midwest and South tend to have higher concentrations of garden gnomes. I'm not exactly sure why this is, except for perhaps more German heritage in these parts (and Germans are gnome-crazy!).
Actually, this brings up a funny story. I live in a Cincinnati suburb and the suburb right next to me has a sister city in Germany. A representative from that German city came over to the Cincinnati area bearing a gift from his homeland. The gift? You guessed it. A FREAKING GARDEN GNOME. Why didn't you just wrap up a big bomb and put a red bow on it?
My advice is to stop asking "Why?" to gnome-related questions and start smashing gnomes to smithereens before they come in through the pet door and stab you.
BD: Tell us about your life outside of your gnome-related activities. Do you even have a “real” life now that this book has made you the gnomes Enemy Numero Uno?
CS: Believe it or not, the gnomes stay miles away from me now. Word has gotten out that I have a black belt in kicking gnome ass. So very little of my time is spent engaged in actual combat anymore–it's all just instruction now. As far as my life outside of gnome defense, it's pretty simple. I play guitar and piano; I hang with my wife and dog; I exercise; and I try to write something every day.
BD: You’ve written the respected Guide to Literary Agents as well as nonfiction books. How do you balance your relatively normal career up to now with the life of a gnome-fighting superhero? (And why, oh why, aren’t you wearing a mask to disguise yourself in your publicity photos?)
CS: I am very proud to edit the Guide to Literary Agents, and the most recent edition is the 2011 edition (came out in Sept. 2010). Like I said, my actual time spent in backyards thrashing gnomes with a snow shovel is over. Sometimes, back in my action heyday, I did don a simple disguise to keep my identity safe. Now it's all a matter of educating the public. And I assure you, just doing that keeps me busy enough.
BD: My hair stood on end when I was reading your section on assessing risk since my house is right on a fault line, gnome-wise. They are so bold I sometimes would swear there’s one sitting on the shelf behind me, reading over my shoulder. What about you, have you had any close encounters of the gnomish kind?
CS: I have crossed blades with a gnome by the moonlight a few times, sure. You bring up a good point, and that is to recognize Garden Gnome Close Encounters. The first kind is evidence that they are moving around and shifting items, such as gnome footprints in wet mud. The second kind is sighting of an animate gnome. And the third kind is combat. If you've had a close encounter, I suggest making a comment on my website, www.gnomeattack.com
BD: I was surprised to see your observation that gnome attacks are more likely to occur inside than outside. My nanny cam has caught some chilling scenes of wild gnome parties on my deck when I was out of the house. I swear the raccoons are in cahoots with the pointy hat crowd! That makes me wonder: are there any predators, besides large dogs, that might keep gnomes at bay?
CS: Not really. Your best defense is a good dog, an alert homeowner, and deadly accuracy with a sledgehammer. Besides that, there's all kinds of things you can do, from mounting weapons on walls, installing a backup power generator, adding some motion-activated lights, and much more.
BD: What advice would you give to the unwary, or those who have a misguided affection for the little troublemakers and actually invite them into their homes and gardens? (Kind of like those who hope to tame alligators by feeding them ...) Also, what is the Defcon level, in your estimation? I’m guessing red, like their hats.
CS: I would say to them: Lay off the drugs! Your life is in danger! And then of course there is a percentage of the population who will just not listen to me no matter what. I just have to give up on these hardliners. After all, you can't argue with crazy. DEFCON levels are not by color, but rather by number, and if you see gnomes actually partying and cracking open a fine ale on your property, then I would say we need to crank the DEFCON level all the way up to the number 1, which is the highest level.
BD: Thanks for the clarification, I should have known that! Now that you’ve given the world a first line of defense against the gnome threat, what’s next? Those plaster ducks dressed in seasonal costumes? My neighbor has a couple of those, and I swear I’ve seen them giving me the evil eye.
CS: I have been asked by several people if pink flamingos are next, and the answer is no. They have pea-sized brains and are relatively harmless. As for what is next, I may have just come up with it today, as a matter of fact—but I cannot share it yet.
BD: Thanks so much for taking the time from your barbican-building and moat-digging to address this important issue. Your book is an essential for avoiding an attack by the white-bearded lawn warriors, and I highly recommend it.
I’m going to have to leave you–I just heard a strange noise in my air vent and my cat just dove under the couch. Is it an individual warrior or an insane melee? Will the diatomaceous earth hold them back, or should I reconsider the flamethrower after all?
I’ll leave you to sign off with any final words, or (gulp ... was that the pitter-patter of tiny boots?) maybe I should reword that ... Oh, no!
*The sound of hundreds of scrabbling feet nearly drowns out our blogger’s horrific screams*
Save yourselves!! Click ... the ... book ... link. Quickly–before it’s too late!
CS: People need to know that, despite this massive PR campaign you've seen recently that tries to convince you gnomes are friendly travel companions, I assure you they are murdering murderers.
If you know people with gardens, people who live in proximity to gnomeowners, or, god forbid, people who actually possess gnomes themselves, they need this book! Save their lives! And protect yourself well.
Becke Davis is the senior writer for The Landscape Contractor magazine, a member of Garden Writers of America and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written well over 1,000 published articles and is the author of five garden-related books in addition to being the moderator of B&N's Mystery book club.