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Bring out the squirrel nukes
Editor's note: Joe Sullivan was on vacation during his retirement and did not write a column this week. The following column was first published May 23, 2008.
There is, I am quite sure, a store where folks like me, who have nightmares about squirrels that rob bird feeders even when there are plenty of acorns and walnuts and hickory nuts, can purchase what we'll call the Ultimate Squirrel Elimination Weapon -- U-SEW for short. Perhaps it's asking too much to believe such a store really exists. So let's go shopping in my imagination. It won't be terribly expensive because, after all, it's make-believe.
"Good morning. May I help you?
See. Right away you know this is an imaginary store. There are so few stores -- God bless 'em -- that greet you with an offer of assistance the moment you cross the threshold.
Why, yes. I'm looking for something to keep squirrels away from my bird feeders.
"I think I can help you. Step right over here."
So far, imaginary shopping is great, don't you think?
I see you have quite a selection of squirrel-proof bird feeders.
"Have you tried any of them? Some of my customers have had considerable success with ... ."
I've not only tried them, I've sold, given away or trashed every one of them. It is my honest opinion, based on nearly 40 years of fussing with squirrels, that there is no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder.
"In that case, how about one of these high-frequency speakers that only squirrels and other small rodents can hear? They can't stand the noise, and you won't hear a thing."
I hooked one of those up on the side of my house once, not more than five feet from my bird feeder. In just a matter of hours I managed to attract not only every squirrel on my side of town, but also every starling and grackle as well.
"Hmm. I can see you're going to be a tough customer. But I pride myself on finding a way to make sure everyone who leaves this store goes away happy."
Attaboy. I'm all for leaving happy.
"Step over here, sir, behind the counter. I have something I think you might be interested in."
It's kinda dark over here. It doesn't look like this part of the store gets many customers.
"Not everyone is as discriminating as you, good sir. What I have here requires a bit of ... shall we say ... open-mindedness."
Now we're talking. Let's see what you have.
(The store's proprietor holds up what appears to be a regular-size canister vacuum cleaner, minus the hose, attachments or power cord. And it's a bit heavier than your ordinary Hoover.)
"This, my particular friend, is the U-SEW."
"The Ultimate Squirrel Elimination Weapon. It's guaranteed. There will be no pesky squirrels around if you use the U-SEW."
How does it work?
"It is a rather special explosive device -- nuclear-powered, I might add. Not the ordinary sort of anti-squirrel weapon you'd find at most stores."
So, if you detonate the U-SEW, what happens to your house? Your neighborhood? Your city?
"Gone, I'm afraid. The price of eliminating squirrels is unfortunately quite high."
Uh, how about something a little more practical?
"Then you'll want to try some of this powder. It's a blend of chemicals and ordinary kitchen spices -- red pepper, mainly -- that drives squirrels crazy but doesn't bother birds one tiny bit. You mix it with the bird seed and -- Voila! -- no more squirrels."
So my choices are to nuke Southeast Missouri or send squirrels into sneezing spasms. Is that correct?
"So far. We're working on adding a touch of TNT to the powder so that when a squirrel inhales it, its head will explode. You don't mind threatening phone calls from environmentalists and animal-rights activists, do you?
(I reach for my wallet. I can't help myself. I also give the shop owner my phone number, just in case that TNT thing works out. And then I wake up, in time to see a squirrel leap from the roof of the family room to the big bird feeder.)
R. Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.