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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shaky Tail Squirrel

We have a squirrel at our house. Well, maybe saying “a” squirrel is like saying “a” mouse--very rarely is there just one. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of the “Lone Squirrel”, have you? For the sake of this story, though, we’re going to talk about “a” squirrel, and assume it is a “him” although in truth Shaky might be a “her” or not always the same one, as there is a nest of them in the huge old tree that stands not 20 feet from my house.

Shaky got his name because I most often see him sitting on the deck rail across from my front door looking into my living room and shaking his tail. I have no proof that he is actually looking into my house, but it surely looks that way when I am sitting in the rocker and spy him there. Most likely he is looking at his reflection in the window of the door. There have been occasions, however, when he has thrown himself (o.k., jumped) against the door and clung to the screen for a minute or so before jumping down and scampering away. Trying to get in? Can he smell the peanuts my husband is snacking on? Perhaps the scent of peanuts is a kind of “squirrel nip” and makes him crazy. One summer when Anna, my oldest daughter, was about four I sent her and her friend Kevin outside with peanut butter sandwiches. They shortly came running back inside to report that as they were eating, Shaky crept over and sat under Kevin’s chair and just wouldn’t be scared away. Again, the scent of peanuts…………

In the summer, when I have my potted plants hanging from the hooks on the deck rail, Shaky likes to sit in them, hidden among the flowers and leaves. I suppose it’s a nice cool microclimate in there. Sometimes I catch one of the pots swinging when there’s no breeze. Then I know he has just vacated his hiding spot to hop across the grass and sit on one of the lower branches of the tree. He barks at me when I walk outside. Occasionally I’ll hear a “thump!” against the bay window and I’ll know that Shaky has misjudged the distance while trying to jump from the deck rail to the roof, has hit the bay window and fallen into the butterfly bush. Crazy squirrel.

In late August and until I take the potted plants down, Shaky spends lots of time hiding acorns in the plants. I wonder if he finds them once we stack the pots next to the shed out back for the winter? Once we put the jack - o - lanterns out for Halloween, Shaky has something new to eat and play with. He gnaws at poor Jack - O’s face and hat, and flips the hat around. I suspect he also climbs inside and sits there inhaling the scent of fresh pumpkin, although I have never actually caught him doing so.

One year I planted approximately 100 flower bulbs in the fall, hoping for a beautiful display in spring. Wouldn’t you know it, Shaky dug them all up--probably grateful for the free feast. Only a few tulips emerged in the spring. I don’t plant bulbs any more…..

My father had a running fight going with the squirrels for years. He would put baffles on the bird feeders in an effort to keep the squirrels away, but they would either jump down from the roof or trees, or find a way to climb up the pole and over the baffle. They would even chew on the plastic baffle until enough of the edge was eroded away that they could manage to climb over it if they tipped it. My father tried greasing the poles, using metal baffles, shooting them with a water gun, sprinkling the bird seed with cayenne pepper at the suggestion of my mother, and even giving them their own feeder stocked with corn cobs. Despite all of his best efforts, my father never managed to discourage the squirrels from eating at the bird feeder.

My next door neighbor dislikes squirrels so much that he put out a humane trap in an effort to relocate them. When his oldest daughter was in her early teens she would free any squirrel that ended upside the trap. If, by chance, any were still in there when he came home, he would take them to the other side of the lake and free them (well, that’s what he told us he did. How true it is I cannot say….). The population never diminished and I believe the trap is buried under other unused items in the back corner of his shed.

In the winter Shaky can be found scampering through the snow, or sitting on the fence post with his tail curled over his back against the weather. On sunny days he can be found sitting on the deck rail, shaking his tail and looking into my living room………

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