I have lived, for the most part, in country settings all my life. While I enjoy the excitement and benefits of living an urban existence for a while, I am always drawn back to the countryside. I like to have my own land with some space where I can do whatever I want. I tend to be extremely interested in my property lines. I enjoy marking, surveying and pointing out the borders of my property. I’ve spent afternoons searching for the corner posts and have tied ribbons to note their location. And, I become quite protective when I see a stranger doing something in my Fallston woods, through my binoculars, that are always at the ready. Once I spotted a large concrete block covered in snow.
There has always been one constant no matter where I lived…SQUIRRELS. I’m not sure how much a squirrel has to eat to stay alive, apparently, a lot. I have learned this by simply watching Bob our current resident squirrel. I’ve often hollered the refrain after sitting and watching Bob gorge himself, “My God, Bob! How much do you need to eat!” You can tell Bob from the other squirrels from the little slit in his left ear, undoubtedly from an ear tag he once wore proudly as “BIRD SEED-EATING CHAMPION OF THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE!”. It doesn’t matter what I do to keep Bob out of the bird feeders around the farm, he somehow manages to figure out the obstacles and finds his way to the feeding trough. I’ve seen him fly through the air from deck-rail to feeder. I’ve seen him scamper up a greased pole. I’ve seen him swing like a trapeze artist by his front feet to propel himself up and onto the feeder. It all would be quite entertaining if it wasn’t costing me 20 bucks a week in bird seed. We even tried once to give Bob his own bowl with his name on it. A Crate & Barrel ceramic bowl with “BOB” emblazoned on the side. We filled Bob’s bowl with bird seed and placed it on the deck far from the bird feeder in an attempt to lure him away. It seemed to work at first. We triumphantly looked out of the kitchen window to see Bob proudly sitting upright on his haunches gnawing on a sunflower seed held adorably in his front hands/claws. Bob seemed to love his personalized feeding station. At times, he invited pals, Suzy and Carla to join him. I could only imagine him scampering through the woods inviting his squirrel friends to his home at Rousedale Farm. A home, I’m sure he mentioned was like a cruise ship with buffets virtually everywhere and his own private bowl! Bob’s private buffet came to an end one day when his bowl was discovered by interlopers known around these parts as “The Chicken Gang”. Bob skillfully tried to fight the chickens off by hiding behind a bush and when a chicken got close to his bowl he jumped out to scare her. It was to no avail and once the chickens found the food source it was all over for Bob and friends. So we went from birds eating their bird food to Bob eating the bird’s food to Chickens eating Bob’s food back to Bob eating the bird food. I kept thinking to myself,”Really people, isn’t there enough food in the acres of woods for all of you?”
I did beat Bob or one of his predecessors once by installing a flattened piece of metal stove pipe that I cut a round hole in to slip over the pole holding up the bird feeder. Oh, he managed to figure it out by leaping from a fence, flying up through the air like Mighty Mouse and landing on the feeder. I kept extending the pole the feeder sat on higher and higher until it was out of Bob’s flying range. I was happy with my accomplishment, that literally took years to figure out, until the lady of the house told me the ugly piece of stove pipe was an eyesore and she wasn’t going to stand for it.
So now, quite honestly and I hate to admit this, I have given up. Bob, Suzy, and Carla visit the feeders regularly and I regularly chase them off. The lady of the house now accuses me of acting like an old man chasing kids off his lawn. What the lady of the house doesn’t know is that I have made up a game called, “Touch the Squirrel”. Much like Native American children who used to try to sneak up on unsuspecting deer to see if they could slap them on the behind, I have found an old curtain rod that I have stretched out to about 4 feet to attempt the same kind of thrill. When I see Bob on the feeder, I dig down to call upon my 2 percent of Native American blood, quietly open the kitchen door, tiptoe out close to the feeder, lift my curtain rod and touch Bob on the butt. I seldom achieve my goal before he scatters with seed flying behind him, but when I do the sense of accomplishment is tremendous. It’s really become a love/hate relationship. Days when I haven’t seen Bob, I begin to worry a little bit that maybe something happened to him. I ask the lady of the house,”Have you seen Bob today?” She says she hasn’t. I begin to scan the woods. Could Bob have been mauled by a hungry skunk? The concern begins to build until ah, there he is bounding with breakneck speed towards the bird feeder so I can chase him off again.
And so it goes, I lure Bob in with food, Bob fills his cheeks, I try to touch him on the butt with a curtain rod and everybody’s happy.