Warning: She's armed

Friday, March 27, 2009

My first wife and I are well into our fifth decade of marriage. You might think there's nothing under the sun we don't know about each other. That's exactly what I thought too. Until last week.

Everyone knows that I detest squirrels. I've told you over the years about my battles to keep these pests away from bird feeders. I've tried just about every tactic I can think of to convince squirrels they are not welcome.

Squirrels apparently think all of these efforts are cute. They keep showing up in larger and larger numbers.

I would gladly share some of my anti-squirrel methods with you in hopes that you might critique them and offer constructive suggestions. But, frankly, I don't know if some -- or any -- of them are legal, so I'll not set myself up for an arrest, if that's OK with you.

Suffice to say I would not shed a tear over a dead squirrel.

Motorists sometimes drive erratically when they try to steer around a cute squirrel crossing the street. I, on the other hand, drive like a maniac trying to run over the little demons.

My wife tells everyone she is surprised by my war on squirrels, because I am such a nice person otherwise.

Now the tables have turned.

A lot of you know my wife. You know what a kind, considerate, compassionate, friendly, smiling, loving person she is.

Guess what?

She also has a murderous streak.

I'm not kidding.

Here's the scoop. We have two large urns by the steps that go to the street in front of our house. These urns are well-suited for flowering plants and other decorative foliage. Every spring my wife goes to the garden center and carefully picks out just the right combination of plants for the urns. She fills the urns with a visual feast of greens and golds and purples. The day after the planting of the urns she goes to the front window to admire the beauty of her handiwork.

My wife rarely raises her voice in anger. But on this particular morning, the morning after the urns have received their springtime supply of plants, she shrieks: "I'm going to kill them!"

"Them" are the deer that boldly appropriate anything they like to eat in our yard and the neighbor's yard. They save what's in the urns for dessert.

Folks, we do not live in some remote patch of woods. We live in a neighborhood where most of the houses were built in the 1950s. We are bordered by university buildings and busy streets. We have electricity and indoor plumbing. We are city dwellers -- along with deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, ground hogs, possums and, of course, the dreaded squirrels.

Last year my wife sought the advice of one garden-center owner who suggested a particular flowering plant that has pretty blossoms but a dreadful smell. And deer don't like it. Maybe that would protect the other plants in the urn, my wife thought. As it turned out, the deer did not touch the toxic plant -- but managed to nibble everything else right down to the potting soil.

This week my wife said she was going to consult a friend who lives in the country and has several acres of landscaped flowering plants, shrubs and trees. My wife said her friend must know the secret for keeping the deer at bay.

"Does her husband own a rifle?" I innocently asked.

As it turns out, he does. For the first time my wife seems to understand my passion for the BB gun (with laser scope) she bought me for my birthday a few years back.

I think my wife has her eyes on a thirty-ought-something-or-other. I think she's serious.

jsullivan@semissourian.com

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