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737. The Story of the Squirrel and the Human

Seldom will you come across something as heartwarming and inspirational as this true story.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE

Squirrel Buster head shot

Buster

Several years ago I posted an article about the Camel and the Arab. It’s a classic with a powerful message. Today I’d like to tell you the story of the Squirrel and the Human. Its message has yet to be determined, but its drama has enveloped so much of my life lately that I must share it with you. It’s a story filled with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s a tale of determination and the refusal to accept defeat, despite overwhelming odds. I hope you find it inspirational. In the interest of fairness, so you’re not getting my biased view of these events, I’ve decided to let my worthy opponent tell the story…as he sees it.

squirrel jumping

Me showing off my mid-flight form

Hi. My name is Buster. I’m part of a family of six.¬† I’m the youngest, so I have had to learn to be quick, bold, and agile. I pride myself in being able to go where no squirrel has gone before. I can jump higher and leap farther than any of my peers.

My brothers and sisters call me The Flying Walenda. I don’t know what that means, but I like the sound of it. I’ve always been one to push the limits. It’s gotten me into trouble with my parents, but I’ve learned that my innocent look is really effective in minimizing the damage:

squirrel innocent

Me looking innocent

I enjoy a good meal, but for some reason, I really enjoy meals I’m not supposed to have. There’s something especially rewarding about a meal that taxes every skill in my young and, if I do say so, buff body. Searching for the scraps the birds toss to the ground from their bountifully supplied feeder is okay, but being perched on the feeder with everything right there in front of me – as much as I can eat, well, that’s good eatin.’ Don’t get me wrong, I have appreciated the corn the man of the house occasionally¬† puts out for me, but the corn treats come with no regularity whatsoever. If he would just keep me supplied with corn, I wouldn’t be so fixated on the bird feeder. It’s not rocket science, but he hasn’t figured that out yet. Those humans! I don’t know how they survive at all, but that’s another story.

As you will see, there are no pictures of all six of us. My siblings are always running off. One of my sisters has been AWOL for three days, but this has become a pattern with her. I think the nest she was born in wasn’t near the top of the tree, if you know what I mean.¬† More than once she has taken off in search of something more significant.¬† I once asked her what she was looking for. As usual, her response was nuts. We don’t take her unexcused absences seriously any more. She’ll be back.

Now for the real story. From the moment I first laid eyes of the new bright red bird feeder with the shinyIMG_6079 black metal roof, I knew we were meant for each other. I could tell it was designed to be squirrel-proof, but that’s ridiculous. There’s no human smarter than a squirrel. Many have tried to disprove this theory, but they have all failed miserably. Still, people keep buying that stuff, believing the hype, but eventually they resign themselves to the inevitable. Take the owner of this house. I’ll call him Ed. He’s been boasting of his ingenuity, but after eight moves in our chess match I’ve clearly got the upper hand.

It all started when he finally realized that his BB gun was having no effect. In addition to his very inaccurate weapon that misfired more than it shot, I had figured out how to outsmart the mechanism on the feeder that was supposed to drop me to the ground when I put my weight on it. The bird perch is hinged and adjusted to collapse when my weight is on it.sq on red barn

As you can see from the picture to the right, I’m clearly on the bird perch. I figured out that if I hold on to the feeder with one claw and wrap my tail around the perch, I can redistribute my weight enough to keep it from collapsing. You will also notice that I try to always face away from Ed just in case he gets off a lucky shot.¬† As you can see from the picture, I also try to take advantage of early evenings when the sun is going down. The onset of darkness sets the mood for my early evening escapades. Besides, I’m just not a morning squirrel.

The real action started when Ed figured out how I was getting to the feeder. A corner of his roof was just close enough to serve as a launching pad. The feeder was strategically located to be as far as possible from all trees. It was in the perfect spot, except for one thing – me. Here’s what I saw from up there:

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How inviting is this? I nailed it on my first try. Sometimes I went for the red barn, but there were two feeders and it always seemed like the one I wasn’t on had the better food. Here’s me on the other one:

 

sq on green feeder

Me on the other one

Notice the technique – always face away from the gun. I protected my face and my identity, although I had a feeling he knew it was me. Then one day Ed made his first move. While I was out on a scouting mission, he was installing some sort of contraption at my launch spot. Having made a trip to Home Depot, he had inserted a series of bent metal dowels that extended out from the fascia and formed an enclosure extending about eight inches above the roof and about eighteen inches along the edge of the roof. You can imagine my surprise when I returned and found myself confronted with such an unwelcome barrier to my dining enjoyment.

My first reaction was to move my launch pad to the far end of his contraption. It added about two feet to my jump, but I felt confident I could make it. It required a twelve foot jump, but that was less that my record of fifteen feet when the neighbor’s cat chased me a few weeks ago. This jump was a piece of cake. You should have seen Ed’s face when he saw me on the feeder the next day. I could see him standing behind the sliding door expressing his astonishment and frustration at being outsmarted.

The next day, knowing how I had made the jump, he removed some of the metal dowels from the rear side of the roof and placed them at my new launch pad. That, of course, left the rear unprotected, even though it was around the corner and didn’t offer a direct shot to the feeder. What he didn’t realize is that squirrels can jump around corners, which I did, hitting pay dirt once again. This caused him to return to Home Depot and purchase more dowels which he inserted in the now empty holes.

My next move was to squeeze between the dowels which sent Ed back to Home Depot again to buy yet more dowels which he inserted between the existing ones. I thought he was finished when he re-emerged from the sliding door with an armful of assorted wires, pliers, hammer, wire cutters, and, of course, duct tape. I was in the bush facing the door. He spotted me and slowly walked toward me.( I’m assuming it was Ed. All humans look alike to me.) Our eyes locked. That’s when he started waving his arms and threatening me. He had a look of determination (and desperation) unlike anything I had ever seen. It was quite comical. A human trying to outsmart a squirrel! Who was he kidding? I don’t know where you stand on the whole evolution thing, but clearly humans didn’t evolve from squirrels. If they did, they’d be a lot smarter.

Anyway, back to the story.¬† He proceeded to tie chicken wire to the bent dowels. That was his move.¬† Here’s the finished product so far:

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Now it was my turn. I proceeded to chew through the chicken wire making a series of holes large enough for me to squeeze through.

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Once again, I had outsmarted the human. Chicken wire? Do I look like a chicken to you?

chickenSquirrel Buster head shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following day he reinforced the chicken wire with a stronger gauge wire, running the wire in horizontal rows about an inch apart.¬† Here’s the latest view from my launch pad:

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Compare that to what the roof used to look like:

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As it turned out, his latest addition actually made things easier for me. There was just enough spring in the wire for me to take a running start and use the top strand of wire as a diving board. It worked so well that the first few time attempts propelled me past the feeders and onto the ground. It was a bit embarrassing, but it just made me more determined. After a few more attempts, I had learned just how much spring there was in the wire and I was back in business.  Here I am back on the red barn for my dusk dessert:

sq on red

It was Ed’s move again, which required yet another trip to Home Depot for some more dowels. Before he made his next modification to Squirrelcatraz, he took the screen out of the bedroom window and waited…and waited…with camera in hand. I guess he wanted proof for the story he had begun to share.

I returned to Ground Zero to assess the situation and plan my next move. That’s when I noticed Ed peeking through the partially opened window. I scurried over to get a better look at my worthy opponent:

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There we were again, staring at one another. For the longest time neither of us moved. It was one of those rare moments when two combatants share a common bond Рwhen differences seem to fade away Рwhen you exchange glances that acknowledge the worthiness of one another as a warrior. I could have sworn that Ed winked at me, or it could have been the result of the mosquitoes that found an open window and were now feasting on his face.  Whatever the case, that moment changed me forever.  I felt a connection to him. For the past month I had listened to him playing his soprano sax or the new keyboard. I had imagined myself as part of his little band, making beautiful music with him:

squirrel trumpet

But I knew it was not to be. We were combatants forever. It was nature’s way. I had to remain fierce:

squirrel teeth

I was torn. Perhaps I could disguise myself so that every once in a while I could get close enough to listen and imagine:

squirrel moose

No. I know I have to stay strong. I must use all the weapons I have in my arsenal to guarantee ultimate victory.

squirrel bazooka

Eventually, Ed made his next move. He laid out his tools in preparation for what he probably thought was his last move:

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I was honored as he spread them out. All that for little ol’ me. Wow. It was then that I realized the extent to which I had impacted his life. It nearly brought a tear to my eye…I’m not sure which one. Soon Ed had climbed the ladder and was making some additions:

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He was scabbing the new dowels to the top section of the original ones at the corner of the roof-the original launch spot:

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The additions extended for about three feet along the roof edge:

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Here what I was now facing at Ground Zero:

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What started out as a work of art had become a horrible mess.¬† As a retired architect, Ed had to be embarrassed, but by this time I doubt if he really cared what it looked like. The battle was on. Our strategic chess match was well underway.¬† Technically, it’s my move, but the outcome is assured. There’s no way I can lose.¬† Click here to learn my secret. Please don’t tell Ed. He still thinks he can win.

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