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Archive for Sunday, September 23, 2007

Husband maintains long-running grudge against squirrels

September 23, 2007

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Uh-oh ... squirrels! Just when husband Ray agreed to feed half the raccoon population in southeast Douglas County, another mammal decided to raid the birds' sunflower seeds. You can't blame the little squirrel who scaled the deck in broad daylight to help himself to the seeds. I think he just became weary of waiting for the seedling nut trees Ray planted to produce.

I'm pretty sure this little guy won't eat too much. But the problem is that he will probably be like my small raccoon buddy whom I fed Kibbles 'n Bits - he couldn't keep a good thing to himself. Before long we had piles of raccoon poop all over the deck. You'd think they wouldn't want to foul up their dining room, and worse, ours.

Grams always said that squirrels were more entertaining than birds. Just outside her living room picture window was a sawed-off tree trunk about 4 feet high on which she affixed a spike spearing an ear of corn. Grams watched squirrels for hours, dividing her time between marveling at their acrobatics and crocheting afghans and tablecloths.

I always felt that Ray and I contributed to her enjoyment of squirrels ... mainly because the tree trunk existed because a windstorm toppled the tree onto our car when we were visiting her. Grams came into the bedroom that stormy morning with cups of her signature green tea and awakened us with the news: "A tree is on your car."

Before waking us, she took the precaution of calling the Ford dealer in her small town for his assessment. Neither he nor we could tell how much the car was damaged. The tree was so large and thickly foliaged that only the grill and back bumper of our little black Falcon were visible, and all four tires looked flat. But when a wrecker winched the tree off the car, the tires resumed normal shape, and the car appeared unscathed. Later we noticed a small dent in the chrome by the driver's-side window where a twig entered between the glass and the metal trim.

While we were impressed with the car's durability, we didn't keep it long. Ray traded it off before it was a year old because a Volkswagen passed it on the highway. "I'm not going to keep any car that a Volkswagen can pass when I'm trying not to let it," he exclaimed in disgust.

The replacement car - a used turquoise-and-white 1956 Chevy convertible - wouldn't have fared nearly so well if a tree fell on it, but no Volkswagen, and few other vehicles, could pass it if Ray didn't want them to.

But back to squirrels. Ray is still holding a decades-long grudge against squirrels because they pilfered black walnuts that he had painstakingly collected and stored in a burlap bag beside the driveway of our former Old West Lawrence home. "I noticed the bag was getting smaller," he relates with indignation, "then one day I saw a couple of squirrels rummaging in the bag and leaving with nuts, which they buried in the yard."

I tried to tell him that the squirrels were just doing what came naturally, but Ray thought they were shiftless and lazy. Self-respecting squirrels, he believed, would gather their own nuts and not rely on the work of a human.

I am hopeful that Ray may one day patch up his differences with squirrels. While enjoying a "Boy Scout breakfast" prepared at the crack of dawn by brother-in-law Dick on Colorado's Genesee Mountain, Ray saw a squirrel that intrigued him. While I think it was the novelty of seeing a coal-black squirrel, instead of gray or red, perhaps he'll be able to transfer his admiration for that squirrel to our homegrown versions.

He was hand-feeding the black squirrel when I remarked that it seemed particularly shiftless and lazy of the squirrel to allow a human to feed him. But Ray didn't see it that way at all. Nope, he'd already made a pet out of the small black squirrel he dubbed Ebony.

If I could catch the new little squirrel visitor to our deck just long enough to tie a ribbon around his neck or - better yet - if I could persuade Ray to give him a name, I think the squirrel would be home-free. In fact, I can guarantee it if the squirrel adopts as his role model a tiny ruby-throated hummingbird Ray has named "The King." The King sits on the brass rod holding the hummingbird feeder and chases off other hummingbirds that try to drink from it. Doesn't matter that he has had his fill; he jealously guards his food supply.

Let's hope the squirrel is as smart as the hummingbird and considerably less garrulous than my raccoon buddy.

Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing <a href="mailto:mhgink@netscape.net">mhgink@netscape.net</a>

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