Squirrel Wars Part I: The Battlefield
Once upon a time, I liked squirrels. I didn’t love them, but I liked them. We had a large oak tree in the yard of our North Carolina home. It was perfectly centered in front of the picture window of the living room. We loved to watch the squirrels scurrying to and fro and we even fed them. Yes…we fed the squirrels. It was my husband’s idea, but I went along with it because as I said, I liked squirrels. He built a simple feeder of wood with a nail to hold corn. He would use a ladder to place a single piece of dried corn on the cob on the nail. One cob lasted 2-3 days. How cute they were when they were eating!
The feeder was attached to the tree, so when we moved we left the feeder behind.
The weekend we went house hunting in Florida, we were thrilled to see this sign at the entrance of the subdivision where we found a house.
|Isn't that cute!|
The idea of having squirrels (and deer) as neighbors was so endearing. I was very happy. There were lots of trees in the yard of our new home. That’s where the squirrels lived. They were nice neighbors. They never visited us, never made much noise, and they kept their distance. We had a fence around the backyard and our black lab would have gladly welcomed them, but they apparently didn’t like dogs. The front yard wasn’t very inviting so maybe they had the wrong impression of us. Afterall, we didn’t put up a squirrel feeder. All in all, it was a great neighborhood.
It didn’t take long for us to realize the house was too small, so a year later, we moved here:
|Big, yellow house|
Look at that porch! And those trees! Our “neighbors” will be so jealous. There was no fence, so we were sure they would come to visit and they were welcome to roam free in our yard anytime if they were so inclined. Well, it didn’t take long for us to realize that the neighborhood was very different at the big yellow house. In fact, it wasn’t actually a neighborhood at all to the squirrels. You see, they thought the big yellow house belonged to them. Actually, not really the whole house, just the porch. At first.
I was so thrilled with that long, beautiful porch that the first thing I did once we were settled inside, was to place two large planters on each side of the front door. Off to the side of each of them, I placed two white chairs. On the far side was a rocker and a bench. Perfect! I bought a four pack of impatiens for each of the planters and carefully arranged them so that as they grew, they would begin to cascade over the sides just like in the magazines. I was so proud.
One morning, a day or two later, I decided to drink my morning coffee on the front porch. I wanted to admire the view and read. The first thing I noticed when I stepped outside was that two of the precious little impatiens were not in their planter. The soil surrounding their roots was still intact, shaped just the same as when I first removed the plants from the plastic pack. There they were, on the ground of the porch. Strange. I thought I had planted those in the planter. How could I have left them there, neglecting to place them where they belonged? Must have been the stress of moving, or maybe I got distracted and forgot. That had to be it. I carefully placed them back where they belonged, watered them, and started my day. The next day, I stepped outside hoping once again for that picture perfect quiet time in the morning. There were my planters, there were my plants. They were not together. WHAT!? I’m going to kill those girls. I guess they think this is funny. If these plants die, I am going to make them pay for new ones and THEY are going to plant them, too. I replanted, not as carefully. They were not in very good shape. Next morning….same thing. The girls didn't do it. Who did? Or what? It wasn't long before I realized, it was our neighbors. The squirrels. 1 point for them.
(Btw, the plants did survive, but one of the planters had a large bare spot where no flowers grew. That was the neighbor’s bed.)
Part II: Bed, Bath, and Beyond
I didn’t really give up the fight over the rights to the planter. The squirrels may have think they won, but what really happened is I found a better place to spend my time. I found the smaller porch off of my bedroom to be a much better place to escape neighbors (and children). That porch had railings on all three sides, so if my dog wanted to sit with me, she could do so without me having to keep an eye on her. She loved to wander, and if you remember, much of the yard was not fenced.
I found a glider at a yard sale for ten bucks. It was full of mold and dust because it had been sitting under trees for who knows how long. I carried it home, we pressure washed it, and it became my new throne. I use the word throne here with the word my because I soon learned that mine wasn’t the only throne on the side porch.
On each side of the glider, I placed matching green plastic chairs, like they ones you get at Walmart, the nicer ones with a fancy back. When we lived in the little house, our back porch was not covered, so when it rained, the chairs got wet. I liked these chairs because there were tiny holes in the center of the seats, for drainage. They dried quickly, no puddles to accidently sit on.
I liked to keep the side porch swept and occasionally I mopped it. Yes, I mopped the porch. One day, on my way to the glider, I noticed a puddle in the seat of one of the chairs. Funny, I don’t remember it raining. Even if it had rained, the wind would have had to be blowing pretty hard to get water on the chairs, it was a fairly wide porch. Plus, because there was a puddle, it would have been a very recent rain. That day, the sky was clear. I didn’t think much more about it, but a little while later, as I was sitting there admiring my kingdom and clean throne room, I noticed somewhat of a stain on the wood beneath the chair. I got up to inspect it further. Moved the chair, got a rag, wiped it….the stain was YELLOW. Huh? What the heck IS this? I cleaned it up and forgot about it. Until the puddle showed up another day. And then another. And then I stopped cleaning it…because I REFUSED to clean up the TOILET OF A SQUIRREL! Ew! When I realized what it was I was totally grossed out. I did hose it down at times, but wiping it down made me feel angry and creepy all at the same time. Plus, I just knew they were in the trees laughing their stupid little heads off. We simply avoided sitting in that chair. 2 points squirrels. I am moving very quickly towards hate at this point, but not quite there.
Somewhere in the time frame between like and hate, I became fascinated with a new discovery I had made. It was totally unrelated to my war with the neighbors. It was simply an observation I allowed to get the best of me.
Have you ever been driving down the road and had a squirrel jump out in front of you and you just KNOW you are going to hit it, but when you look into your rear view mirror, not only do you not see a dead squirrel, but he seems to have vanished into midair? I had always wondered about that. It is like they have some sort of magic disappearing trick. One day, riding behind a car, I had the pleasure of seeing what happens and witnessing the “magic” for myself. I watched a squirrel dart out, but then, just barely landing in front of the car, he JUMPED about 10 feet! Who knew a squirrel could jump so far?! Actually, I have learned since then 8 feet is about the norm, but with a running start, I’ll bet they can reach ten. So that’s how they do it. That’s why they seem to disappear.
As I drove along, I began to realize that IF someone actually hit a squirrel, it could be considered a real talent. The timing would have to be perfect, I was sure it took special skill. What a challenge! What if I could actually hit one of them? I am a lousy aim at darts or baseball or anything sports related, but surely with a car I could hit a squirrel. Especially now that I knew their clever little secret.
Now before you get all upset, please remember that I really didn’t hate squirrels at this point, and really, they rarely get hit. They know how to navigate the streets, and I was lousy aim anyway. So it isn’t as if I was chasing them down (yet). I simply would have been proud of myself had I actually hit one.
Weeks and months rolled along, they with their comfy bed and pretty toilet, me with my eyes glued to the wheel and ready for action. I never hit one. I swerved and tried a couple of times, but they were too fast, jumped too far.
Then, one day as I was driving down a back road at 55 miles an hour, I spotted one! He was just standing there, in the middle of the road. I saw him from quite a distance away, so I didn’t get very excited. I knew he’d be gone by the time I got closer so there was no sense in wasting gas accelerating. He was in the middle of my lane, on his hind legs, facing the opposite direction. As I got closer and closer, I began to realize that this was no ordinary squirrel. No, this was a DUMB squirrel. He never moved, he never turned back to look, he just stood there looking off into the distance in the middle of my lane. I knew what was going to happen. But I couldn’t even get excited about it. Really? After all this time, you are just going to STAND THERE? HELLO…Aren’t you paying attention?
It was the biggest disappointment. There was no thrill of the chase, no victory won, just a dead, dumb squirrel on the road and me feeling somehow cheated out of a really good adventure. Still, 1 point for Rox.
Oh, the story continues. They were still not satisfied with what they had gained, and I am convinced that the news got back to my squirrel neighbors: “Rox hit cousin Dumbo with her van. Pass it on…” because it was at this point the hatred began…..
Part III: Invasion and Allies
Let me tell you, there is no revenge like a squirrel scorned. Dumbo may not have been very bright, but his cousins were geniuses, or so they thought. Maybe because they were angry, maybe because they had finally learned to fear me, or maybe because it was mating season and they needed a little privacy, they FINALLY moved off of the porch. But, as in any move, you gotta pack your things and take them with you, right? So, they took my doormat. Not the whole thing, not all at once. Just a little a time, as if I wouldn't notice. Chew, chew, chew until pieces of my nice doormat were somewhere in the trees padding nests. 3 points squirrels.
At this point-I hated them. At this point-I aimed, I swerved, I chased. And I enjoyed it WAY too much. My daughters began to berate me. I reminded them who was the boss. I also advised them to never drive the way I do when I'm after a squirrel. Some time after that, I got another one. It was a perfect hit. He ran, I swerved, he died. I am ashamed to admit it now, but I was rather proud of myself. But I was alone in the car, so I couldn't brag until I got home. And brag I did. You'd think I'd won the lottery I was so excited. I posted it on facebook. Some people "got it". They understood. Others sympathized with the squirrels and tried to make me feel better about hitting a squirrel. Feel better? Honey, I was on top of the world! It don't get no better than this! Still, I didn't push the issue. I wasn't convinced I hadn't done something illegal, so I let them think what they wanted.
Squirrel swerving became a pretty routine thing when I was driving, after awhile. The girls got used to it, I think. Of course, their friends thought I was insane. I was only after squirrels. I avoided and even swerved to miss anything else, from butterflies to snakes. I would have loved to squash some snakes, but one of my daughters loves snakes. Killing one brings way more trouble than it is worth. I allow them to live.
With that in mind, one day as I was coming home from cleaning a house, I saw a rather large snake slithering down my street. He was on the side of the road, heading in the same direction as me. Had he been crossing the road, I may have tried to hit him. My daughter would never know. Still, I felt guilty for even considering it, so I passed him right on by. He was less than half a block away from my house. When I pulled into the driveway, I noticed my daughter was outside cutting grass. I was very thankful I didn't kill the snake. She may have seen me. I knew better than tell her I had seen a large snake on the road. She would have jumped off the mower and gone off to catch him. She loves snakes just that much. (Don't know where she got that from.) I went into the house and went about my business. My husband was home by now also.
A few minutes later, I heard both my husband and my daughter on the front porch talking rather loudly about something. I didn't know what happened, but I knew something was up so I went out there to see what was going on. They were leaning over the porch railing looking down. She was very excited, pointing and pacing on the porch. I finally figured out that as she was cutting grass, she saw a snake crawl into the drain-spout They were looking at the gutter from top to bottom trying to see where it went. She was just about ready to get down from the porch to the ground level to search when all of a sudden the most horrific sound began to occur. It sounded like a train. REALLY. I thought maybe a very large truck or industrial vehicle was coming down the street. We looked at each other. We looked at the street. We asked, "What IS that noise?" Then, we realized.....the noise was coming from the gutter. BBBRRRRROOOOOMMMM. LOUD and LONG, at least 10-15 seconds. We looked up and at the corner of the porch ceiling, where the gutter meets the porch eave, there was about a 5 inch gap. Travelling through the gutter and visible in that gap, was a VERY, LARGE SNAKE! It just kept going, and going, and going. I was convinced it was 15 feet long. I freaked. I turned around and ran back into the house. They stayed on the porch. They figured they were safe, he wasn't on the porch, he was headed back down. My daughter hoped to catch it, so the next thing I knew, she was on the ground at the drain-spout.
By this time, I had reached the safety of the smaller, side porch. I could see everything, but I was out of snake range. I watched as my husband inspected the gutter and my daughter inspected the drain-spout. Hubby was ready to kill, daughter was ready to catch. She had somehow managed to grab a bag or something and was trying to figure out how to attach it to the drain-spout so the snake would crawl into it. Her plan was to release it somewhere else. Hubby was trying to talk her out of it. While their eyes were fixed on the ground, I looked up at the 5 inch gap. "OH. MY. LORD!!! THERE IS ANOTHER ONE!" Another snake, just a little smaller, was literally sticking its head out looking around. About 6-7 inches of snake head and body was hovering over them. YIKES! That's it. I'm done....party is over, everyone INSIDE. NOW!
We came in and marveled at the thought of snakes in the gutter. Then we realized that the "gap" was more than a gap. It was a hole....in the eaves. Going up to the attic, in the dormers. Where we found a very large snake skin. Meet the new neighbors. UGH! Totally freaked out, we called the landlord. The snakes could not get into the house, only into the attic, so he was not concerned. In fact, he suggested a shotgun. We weren't going to get any help there, so the plan was to hope they just went away. Hubby was not fond of the thought of snake trapping. Later that evening, it dawned on me that my act of mercy towards that snake was a mistake. I had passed up a chance to kill the new neighbor. Yep....it was him. Oh, by the way, the snake skin we found was over 5 foot long, with a piece missing.
So what do snakes in the attic have to do with squirrels? Well, why do you think they moved in? Apparently, when the squirrels moved off of the porch, the trees were not their only new abode. They, too had found the attic. How do I know? Because one managed to fall into the wall.
My youngest daughter's bedroom was connected to the dormers where the snake skins were found. It was also in her wall that she began to hear scratching one night. It went on for a long time. She told us, and we figured it was an animal. Maybe a snake? Nah, must have been a squirrel. They were trying to get in. Varmints! We weren't sure what to do. Our solution, we told her to sleep in the spare room. A few days later, an awful smell began. Dead squirrel no doubt. Stay in the spare room. After awhile, the smell subsided, she moved back in and she put a couple of blankets under the door leading to the attic. If the snakes came back, she didn't want them to come in. I'm not sure I could have slept there. She got used to it.
Another dead squirrel, but I don't think I should get that point. Maybe the snakes get that one. At any rate, we continued to find snake skins. Squirrels stopped going into the attic. Or maybe they did but didn't get past the snake patrol. Either way, I had a couple of unlikely allies living under my roof.
So where are we, 4-2 with the squirrels in the lead? Actually, it is now tied, 4-4, but that will have to wait until I post Part IV: Retaliation and Repentance.
I wanted to post a picture of my daughter holding the snake skin, but I cannot find it anywhere. What I do have is a sound clip from a little "adventure" the day after we saw the snakes in the gutter. On that day, I saw one of the snakes in the road next to our driveway. In an irrational moment, I lost my senses and went after it. Again and again. And Again. Forward...VROOM. Reverse...VROOM. Missed it, twice. Forward...VROOM. Reverse...VROOM. I was getting dangerously close to the fence, but I couldn't stop myself. I was determined to kill that snake before he got into my yard and back into my attic. Somehow, in the midst of the screaming and chaos, my daughter thought to record part of the insanity with her phone. Yeah, I know. I'm nuts. (And the snake got away) Here's a visual aid to go along with the sound:
To hear the sound clip go here. Scroll down to the bottom of the post, it should be right under the photo.
Part IV: Retaliation and Repentance
I've explained to you how the squirrels gained 3 points in our little war and how I've earned 2. If you need to catch up, you may want to start at the beginning. Now, it is time to bring you up to date to our current status: 4-4.
Once the snakes moved in, life with squirrels settled down on the homestead. We didn't see them much on the porch, and never in the attic. But I could hear them running around, and they left plenty of evidence behind. Nice little packages of droppings, drippings, and of course, prints. At least they learned to stay out of my way. Or maybe they were simply hiding from the snakes. With the house secure, I could concentrate on the front line, the roadways.
A few months had passed since our last battle when we were notified that the owners of the big, yellow house were listing the house for sale. It was time to move again. Not able to find a house in the same area, we ended up renting one not far from the first Tallahassee house. The one with the "nice neighbors". I was a little concerned at first. The house was surrounded by trees.
On the positive side, it was a smaller house, only one story, and newer construction. We moved in, and I quickly staked my claim. The first thing I noticed was a bird feeder hanging on the front porch. Nice idea if you like watching birds from your living room window, but NOT if you want squirrels all over the porch feeding off of the scattered seeds. My husband loved the idea of watching birds, so we moved the feeder to the back yard where he preferred to sit. I put a rocker on the front porch, and declared that my new throne. From there, I could guard the new homestead. I chased squirrels away from the front. They scurried around to the back, where they were more tolerated. As long as they stay off of his feeder, he doesn't mind them. In fact, he likes to watch them and even throws a little extra seed onto the ground for them. TRAITOR!
Having settled in, I was quite content. The squirrels knew their boundaries. Except for one. It seems he could read. He saw that the doormat on the front stoop said, "WELCOME", so he started helping himself. I knew it was happening because it was disappearing just like the last one, only this one was going at a faster rate. One day, my daughter called out, "This squirrel looks just like he is eating spaghetti!" WHAT? Sure enough, there he sat, cramming his mouth so full, he looked more like a hamster than a squirrel.
|Caught in the Act!|
After taking the picture, I ran him off.That's how the squirrels got another point to bring them to 4. But it wasn't long before I splatted another one with my expert driving skills, so I earned another also. That gave me 3. RETALIATION!
I was happy, I was content. I now had a reputation both in the human and squirrel community of being a squirrel killer and I felt highly respected. Then one morning, as I was driving down my street and saw a new target, I sped up and got ready to strike. And then something unexpected happened. God spoke to me. It wasn't auditory, it wasn't a whisper. It was one of those moments when He speaks to your heart and you KNOW what He is saying, and what He is saying will change your life forever. The "conversation" went something like this:
What are you doing?
Its just a squirrel.
Why are you trying to hit squirrels?
And I repented. I felt really, really sad. really, I DID. I wasn't sad for the squirrels, but I was so convicted, I felt sort of guilty. I apologized, asked for forgiveness, and vowed - with His help- I would stop aiming for squirrels. Hard to believe, maybe. But I was turning over a new leaf. From that moment on, unless I am joking or being silly, I stopped swerving towards squirrels. Well almost. It took a couple of weeks to get out of the habit. Sometimes, I did swerve, but then I'd remember and offer up a quick, "OOPS, I forgot. Sorry!" and go about my way.
Now if a squirrel runs under my tire or falls from a tree onto my hood (wouldn't that be neat!?), I am NOT responsible. Such is life. Mine, not the squirrels', because I did hit another one. But hey, he ran out in front of me. 4 points Rox
So, we are tied and I am a nervous wreck. Can we call it even? Will they leave me alone now? Only time will tell. So, will the Squirrel Wars Diary continue? To be honest, I really hope not, but I'm sure it will.......