Sunday, July 24, 2011

(This blog ran 2 years ago.)

The gunshots rang out through our normally peaceful, quiet neighborhood. No one could have seen it coming. Until that day she’d only fired a gun one time. Hit a penny dead center in the fork of a tree 50 feet away with a 22. Beginners’ luck! But now she was driven to the brink. Madness can claim anyone if the circumstances are right.
It all began with one tiny birdhouse. Then a second one and a third.

Doug and I were hooked…nerdy birdwatchers. Yes, we even bought the little book to record our spottings, binoculars and black sunflower seeds.

Those seeds began the battle. Squirrels love them too.
I had nothing against squirrels at first. In fact, I thought they were kinda cute. But those bushy tails actually disguise the fact that they’re really rodents, just big rats! We tried to coexist with them. Bought the more expensive safflower seeds because birds liked them but not squirrels. Bought the squirrel-proof birdhouse. NOT. They just become acrobats.
Our little bird book warned us how difficult they were to get rid of, even suggested we simply include them in our enjoyment of nature. I tried. I really tried. The most I ever did was bang on the window to shoo them.
But THEY turned malicious! They dug up our flowers, even in the pots searching for nuts not there. Apparently they have poor memories too. Annoying, yes, but I could handle that. It was the day I found a ripped corner in our padded swing and batting strewn all over the yard. We sewed it up only to soon discover another rip. Then they shredded a third cushion. Someone had a nice soft nest somewhere! One morning I found a ceramic pot fallen from the deck rail, shattered.
My set of 4 was down to 3.
Another day the malicious-swing-chewing-nut-digging-pot-shattering rats reduced my set down to a pair!
The war began.
Window banging turned to rushing out to the deck in my nightgown, hollering. Neighbors began to stare and take their little children inside. But day by day the squirrel brigade continued. Until Doug borrowed a camouflage pellet gun from one of our teens (thanks, Alex!) at church and showed me how to shoot it. They came. I pumped. I rushed to the deck and fired. They’d run, only to return and start the vicious cycle again. Day after day the pointless routine continued.

Then one day I rushed out, he scampered up a tree about 50 feet away and sat there, staring at me with his beady, little black eyes, daring me.

By now he pretty well knew I wasn’t much of a threat beyond noise. So I pumped the gun again, aimed and pulled.
He fell 20 feet and hit the ground behind the trunk.
I hit him! I actually got him! With a BB, for Pete's sake! I was stunned. Of course not as much nor in the same way he was. When I heard no movement, I dashed back inside the house. Within seconds though I realized, I’ve got to go check.
So I crept down the steps and rounded the tree, gun still in hand. Flat on his back, he was writhing, heaving, blood puddled around his precious little head. I nearly cried and started apologizing. Out loud. I wanted to run back inside. But I couldn’t leave him suffering.
I thought about all those westerns I’d watched as a kid and remembered the kindness of cowboys putting down their injured horses. It was somewhere between thoughts and prayer, “Lord, where do I shoot to put him out of his misery? Head? Eye?” I shot both. He was finally still.
Rushing into the house, nearly crying like a girl, I called Doug and spewed my confession, “I’m a killer! I feel terrible. I never thought I’d hit him in that tree.”
You killed him? From the deck? Up in the tree?” He sounded proud, a little shocked with a bit of fake sympathy thrown in for me.
I refused to go back outside. “Doug, you’ll have to pick him up when you get home tonight.” He laughed.
“Don’t laugh!” He laughed again.
I guess it was in my genes all along. I remember Daddy battling his backyard squirrels for years. Being the gentle, quiet type (unlike me) he chose more creative, engineering methods. They involved metal pie plates and plastic 2 liter bottles rigged into contorted contraptions. Equally ineffective as my ways.

I’ve since followed Dad’s lead though, with squirrel traps that have only trapped one in a month. Birds just go in there, eat corn and squawk away any squirrel who approaches the door.
I give up. The neighborhood killer still has the camo gun by the back door. Teens at church high five me, friends call me Annie Oakley and I’ve gotten lots of advice from hunters on skinning squirrels and more than one recipe for brown gravy. I think even Doug shows me a bit more respect.
But the squirrels smile at me from the bird feeders now. And I just smile back.


  1. What's a squirrelaput, Gary?

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  3. Peanut butter or a pecan half is a better bait, they normally laugh at corn, You will have really graduated grasshopper when you trap two at once. Be sure to send them to Harry, although Tim's dogs would love a snack.

  4. And Now the second wave of combatants arrive.... the mole people, observe your yard closely as they will write taunting messages in your lawn. Just pray they don't call in the reserves... the skunk brigade. Also watch for crop circles in your yard (grin)