Meadow Voles lead exciting lives, what with the hawks, snakes, badgers, coyotes, pointy deer feet, stoats, herons, owls, and parasitic hitchhikers they might have to deal with on a given day. And then they have to react to whatever crazy project the local humans might have going on– such as the depicted ditch burning. Now that I think about it, the poor little guys are kind of at the center of a wheel of things that either eat them, or threaten to potentially smoosh them (although I don’t think deer actually do much vole-stomping). It’s a good thing Voles aren’t vengance-minded– they could compile quite a list of grievances against a lot of folks, “folks” here meaning basically “everyone else in the animal kingdom,” not just their human neighbors.

Some explanation of “ditch-burning” might be helpful for readers who aren’t from a rural area. It’s not a intended to be a rodent-hazing process, as the comic may unintentionally imply– it’s to clear dead vegetation from the ditch banks. This minimizes obstructions to the flow of the water once the water is “turned on” at the beginning of the irrigation season, and helps prevent unwanted blockages and back-ups. It’s basically a big multi-acre version of cleaning out gutters, where fire is used to expedite the process. As the fire slowly travels down the course of the ditch, you can usually spot field-dwelling rodents heading for less-burny cover, and occasionally you’ll see one that got subjected to a good spraying with the water hose too. The conflagration might seem very dramatic, but I think the critters are almost always successful in escaping the flames, since it doesn’t usually race across the field like a prairie fire or something. If it does, then the last thing you’ve got on your mind is the well-being of a mouse. Ditch burning does get out-of-control from time to time, and while it probably looks ridiculous to the outside observer, life on a farm or ranch involves a surprisingly large number of situations were a great big fire was a bona fide “good idea at the time”.