Squirrel 0, Man 1

Friday, June 4, 2010

Occasionally, being at the top of the food chain has its rewards.

As most of you already know, I have been at war for most of my adult life against furry-tailed rodents with brains the size of walnuts.

I am happy to report from the field of battle a victory -- a sweet, wonderful, life-reaffirming win -- relying on little more than my own grapefruit-sized noggin.

I don't know, exactly, what it is about squirrels that makes me see red.

They're so cute in public parks when they fearlessly beg for handouts.

They're still cute when they sit atop the garden fence post eating an acorn fetched from beneath the towering red oak in the front yard.

But squirrels go from cute to demonic beasts of the dark side when they decide to eat their way through the roof of my house into the attic.

Or when they regularly outwit squirrel-proof bird feeders (I know, I've tried them all) in my backyard.

A couple of months ago I got rid of the hinged, spring-loaded, caged squirrel-proof feeders that are like playground equipment for furry-tailed beasts.

I replaced them with the most basic of all bird feeders: a flat pan atop a pole.

The birds love it.

So do the squirrels.

I thought I put the new feeder far enough from the privacy fence in the backyard that squirrels wouldn't be able to jump onto it.

It took them less than a day to figure out they could make a flying leap over the flower bed onto the squirrel-blocking cone-shaped baffle on the pole, grab the pole itself and pull themselves up onto the feeding pan.

It took me more than a day, however, to actually witness this acrobatic attack.

Last weekend, as my wife I were getting ready to go to St. Louis to see the "Treasures of the Vatican" exhibit at the Missouri History Museum, it occurred to me that moving the bird feeder a couple of feet farther from the fence might be enough to thwart the jumping squirrels.

It only took a few minutes to reposition the feeder. Then I went to my observation post -- the stool at the kitchen counter with a view of the backyard -- and waited for a squirrel.

I didn't wait long.

A squirrel that had become accustomed to making the jump got into position on the fence, reared back and launched into the air.

It sailed over the coneflowers and was just about to clear the zinnias when -- too late -- it realized it would miss the feeder pole, instead doing a belly-flop on the zinnias.

Squirrels are determined animals.

This one climbed back on the fence and surveyed the situation before taking another failed leap.

I called for my wife to come to the kitchen. We stood and watched the squirrel make more than a dozen unsuccessful attempts.

We were laughing hysterically. High-fives all around.

We had won!

We had foiled the forces of darkness!

Yes!

We were, for those few precious moments, smarter than squirrels!

You have no idea how good that feels.

jsullivansemissourian.com

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