Saturday, May 14, 2011

5.12 Killing the Squirrel





We are two animals in a territorial fight.
He – the new lean and mean super-athletic squirrel; aka the little bastard – runs up the pole to the bird feeder. No other squirrel has done this in the three years we have had this set-up. I leave the garden hose, with the faucet turned on, looped through the fence on the front porch. When I see him working his mouth into the glass clear plastic container, I open the kitchen storm door, release the hose and squirt it directly at the bird feeder. He hears me come out to the porch (the door squeaks) and detach the hose, waits till the last moment, then throws himself off the bird feeder and dashes across the neighbor’s lawn a split second before the stream of water arrives.
The other day, a gray afternoon parsed by bouts of drizzle, super-squirrel and I perform this maneuver 20 times in a row. He is on his way back to the feeder by the time I have replaced the hose and stepped back into the house. When I pause by the kitchen widow to see if any birds have found their free lunch, I see his gray hairy rodent form climbing back up the pole.
Open door. (Noise alerts squirrel). Detach hose, aim. (Squirrel lifts head). Squeeze trigger on hose gun. (Squirrel flies off bird feeder perch.)
The thing is, I have pretty well given up on feeding birds for the season. We generally stop around this time of year, with nature back in bloom. The birds will find us again when it’s berry season in a couple of weeks. Some of them found us today when I hear a chorus of chirping and look up to the lightly leafed oak tree and see a pack of black birds working their way through the tree. That means that caterpillar infestation season has begun. The tiny inch worms are too small still for my eyes, but the birds know they are there. They have a bird’s eye view.
So it’s not about saving the bird seed for the birds. It’s the principle of the thing.
It’s about who’s boss.
Today, when the sun comes out, first time in three or four days, I slip outdoors regardless of the status of a story over deadline and begin work on a backed-up chore list: plant the perennial Anne got for my birthday in the spot chosen in the front garden. Weed that area and consider whether the fast-rising Clematis – it’s on steroids this year – needs intervention yet. We’ll have to tie it to the trellis eventually, but I decide it’s still climbing straight up on thin air rather than leaning over and leave well enough alone.
Clip the old leaves off a cluster of ornamental grasses, called liriope, most of them purchased last fall and just beginning to put out new round-edged baby fingers. Since I have the clippers in my hand, begin thinning the long, falling locks of a climbing – in this case falling – wild rose whose extensive vines are obscuring the azalea just as all the azalea’s dreamy red lights are switching on. Stop, briefly, to consider that some perennials, like the azalea, are having the best season they’ve had in several years. Can only speculate why. Then move on to the next task on my punch list, uncovering the mulch around the pea plants to see what’s up.
As I’m pulling old leaves away from the peas’ wire towers, uncovering a so-so level of germination, I hear, almost subconsciously, a familiar sound. The base of the bird feeder tap-tapping lightly against the pole. I look up, sure enough, super-squirrel is hanging in a familiar position, determined to dig the last few sunflower seeds out of the cylindrical feeder. I stand and take a step toward him. He hasn’t realized I was on the other side of a blackberry bush, mostly concealed, and is a step slow off the mark. I lift the trowel in my hand and throw it hard at the feeder. It’s a long, heavy projectile, with a bit of an edge. I am thinking, if I hit him in the right spot it may do some serious damage.
In short, I am trying to kill the squirrel.
My aim is a little off. The trowel-projectile tangles in some raspberry canes before it reaches the feeder pole, but the ferocious malevolence of the act – wild animals are pretty good at reading intentions – sends him in panic flight out of the berry patch and racing for the nearest cover. Which turns out to be underneath the car in the parking area.
I gather up my weapon and go back to the peas. Later, it occurs to me that what I could have done is go get the hose, aim the stream underneath the car with one hand and be ready to throw the trowel with the other when he bolts.
I’d probably miss, but I might get lucky
It’s not about the bird seed any more, Mister Bushytail. It’s territorial. This garden is my territory and a squirrel is welcome only if he follows the rules. No climbing the bird feeder; no digging in my plantings. The squirrel rules also include running for cover at the sight of me, the lord and master of the realm.
Fear me, squirrel. I am out for blood.