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My War with a Squirrel

by Bill Metcalfe

               Recently, I casually stood at our front door gazing through its small window at the wide world outside. Facing me was a squirrel, who stood upright on our grass. His resolve was that of a fearless soldier at a guard post. He stood upright with an acorn held by his front paws at shoulder level. His eyes were focused at me. The smears of grey dirt, which stained his white breast, could have been a smudged insignia. If it was I couldn’t tell as I was wearing my reading glasses. Was he daring me to come out to chase him up the tree, as I inadvertently did at least once a day?

                The nearest tree is an oak, generous with shade in the warm months and bountiful with warming work in the cooler seasons with its cascades of colorful leaves. In some years, the tree seems to shed half of its bulk in leaves and acorns. These are the years when gangs of starving squirrels migrate to our yard for feasting.

                One day, the robins and starlings browse in the thick, verdant grass for bugs and worms. The next, the yard looks as if someone wicked had planted small explosives among the greenery leaves. The squirrels appear innocent as they look at these small pits and piles of brown earth. Sometimes they turn their heads as if to express consternation. Then they jump forward, rip up some grass and begin to dig a similar pit. When they reach the dirt, they briskly toss it behind themselves. Soon, they abandon this hole and its potentially precious treasure in order to search for a new, more prosperous mine. 

                If I am alert, I see the little miners. After opening the door, I rush out, shrieking like a rabid beast to join a fracas. The squirrels and I usually race towards the oak. With four legs, he is faster than I. For this, I am thankful. When young, I was bitten by a squirrel that I had trapped. Mercifully, his sharp teeth stopped at that finger’s bone. 

                On this day, I did not hesitate. I jerked open the door and charged, roaring with the animalistic cry of a savage creature that has not eaten meat for days. As I hurried forward, I realized that the squirrel was still standing. He did not even flinch until I was close enough to have leapt upon him. Then, he dropped his acorn and fled towards the tree. I was close behind. I could have reached out to swat him as he clawed up the tree’s rough bark, but I refrained.

                As I walked back to the front door, I wondered why he had waited so long to make his escape. Then, I saw and understood his reasoning. On the bricks of the second front step were sharp, shattered acorn shells. Had our squirrel visitor plotted his revenge against me for my continual attacks? Had he finally realized that his kind were no longer co-tenants of our land? Could his ancestors have passed on the knowledge of an ancient device used to effectively cripple calvary horses?  Caltrops. I remembered a drawing of a tangle of nails sharpen at both ends. When thrown onto the field of battle, they would land with a sharp points always pointing upward. If I had been barefooted, the jagged acorn shells would have ripped my foot open. I might have been confined for days. This crafty saboteur had skillfully carved these with his sharp incisors. Obviously, my opponent didn’t know that we humans are protected from his booby trap. My leather soles crushed his weapons

                Later that night, a suspicion intruded on my evening’s relaxation. Could those falling acorns, which struck my shoulders and head as I walked to our car, have been other deliberate attack? Was this another interspecies war? Or territorial? House versus tree?

Note from Bill: We have a back room with a window shaded in the afternoon by two maple trees. I often have my lunch there for one of the attractions is the high wires acts that the squirrels perform, for free.

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