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Monday, July 28, 2008

My War with The Bushy-Tailed Rodent

The birdfeeder sways in the muggy breeze of summer's end with the same forlorn lack of purpose that overcomes a swing set in the February snow.
It has been empty for months, innocent of any inkling that I once tried to murder a bushy-tailed rodent with cheese. I didn't want the birdfeeder in the first place. It was a gift.
But by the time I'd gotten out the ladder and a variety of tools to install a post on which it could hang, and after selecting a five-pound bag from a perplexing array of birdseed at Home Depot, it is safe to say I felt invested as never before in my local bird population.

Anyone who has tried to feed birds knows the heartbreak of marauding squirrels. Suffice it to say, I tried every deterrent: a clear plastic shield the size of a garbage can lid, galvanized duct pipe wrapped around the pole and, finally, the Squirrel Baffler, a commercially available product that slowed him for a skinny minute.
Then an old-fashioned remedy came to me: Shoot the squirrel. The .22-caliber pump-action pellet gun that my father gave me midway through the last century would do the job so silently that my neighbors would be none the wiser.
But that notion ended in squawks of outraged protest when my family caught me measuring the distance across the back deck where I planned to plug the beady-eyed thief.
So I decided to do him in with cholesterol.
This came to me the morning after a party at which my horribly health-conscious friends avoided a fabulous platter of cheeses as though it were laden with hemlock. One fellow gave a soliloquy about how ripe cheeses went right to the arteries, steadily building to a fatal blockage.
Squirrels have hearts too, I reckoned. It was all too easy at first -- a wedge of Muenster, a mound of Boursin, two chunks of Gruyere. For days, he nibbled away cheerfully. By week's end, the cheese supply had dwindled, and it dawned on me that funding a diet of brie for a squirrel was not sound economic policy. So, I switched him to butter.
In two weeks, he developed a waddle.
After a month, I was searching the Internet for studies on "squirrels & cholesterol." ("MacPherson et al., 1987, produced cholesterol gallstones rapidly in ground squirrels . . . ")
No longer so nimble, my squirrel fought for balance as he slurped the butter on the railing below the birdfeeder, which had gone unmolested for weeks.
Then, as we sat at breakfast one Saturday morning, he heaved himself heavily to the railing, looking for his butter, but I'd forgotten to put it out. So he trundled down the rail, took aim at the birdfeeder and hurled himself toward the high end of the post. He missed entirely and flew over the railing, dropping 20 feet to the hard ground.
The children gasped.
I was overcome with fear that they were about to see a splattered squirrel. I reached the railing to find him glaring right at me, in the full flower of indignation and defiance. He backed slowly toward his tree, spewing squirrel obscenities all the way.
So ended my war with the squirrel.


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