Squirrel Wars

squirrel-feederFor more than twenty years I have been fighting squirrels in my backyard. It’s a battle of wits that I’m losing.

Simple Solutions

My first efforts were naive. On the advice of friends, I bought a garden pole eight feet tall—having been assured that this would keep squirrels off. My handyman installed it outside my office window so I could enjoy the birds as I worked. Then I bought a cute birdfeeder with perches around the sides.

Within two days, the squirrels were practically waiting in line to climb the pole. After getting a short running start, they would scramble up, their momentum carrying them to the top. Sometimes it took more than one try, but soon it was a cinch. Frightened birds fluttered away.

My handyman suggested a wrap-around metal cone as a guaranteed way to repel squirrels. I had him install one near the top of the garden pole, following the manufacturer’s instructions. It worked for less than a week. After some trial and error, the squirrels found their way around the baffle by gripping the metal edges with their diabolical little feet. From there it was a short distance to the feeder.cone

Now I had a mission. I spent hours researching squirrel repellents. I was willing to try anything short of murder. In other words, this would be a battle of wits, not superior firepower. So far, I had spent $8.98 on a garden pole, $19.98 on a birdfeeder, and $36.95 on a metal cone. Instead of challenging the physical abilities of these little gymnasts, I thought, I’ll challenge their intelligence. With my Stanford-Binet scores, I should have no problem.

I searched on Amazon.com until I found a “Perky-Pet 336 Squirrel-Be-Gone Wild Bird Feeder” for $17.99. It featured six feeding ports with perches and a mechanism that closed access to the ports under the weight of a squirrel. My smugness was short-lived. The squirrels hung upside down on the feeder and never touched the perches. Sayonara $17.99 plus shipping.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

vaselineTime to be creative, I thought. Why not remove the metal cone and grease the pole with Vaseline? My effort was good for entertainment but not much else. On the first few attempts, the squirrels managed to make it halfway up the pole, then slid to the bottom like cartoon characters. Oh, joy! After that, they got a better running start and improved their strategy. Eventually, they rubbed off enough Vaseline to succeed.

My next idea was to drive them away with noise. I took a set of brass wind chimes apart with clippers and wired the chimes, one by one, to the bottom of the feeder. I hung the feeder below the eaves of the house, making access only a short jump away. When a squirrel hit the feeder, he’d be greeted with a mighty clang, be frightened out of his wits, and never come back.

The result was humbling. I was in the house doing dishes when I heard the chimes. Putting the last dish in the drainer, I dried my hands off and prepared to go outside and gloat. Then I heard a combination of a clang and a thunk, almost like a brass chime falling on the ground. Then two more. A squirrel had chewed the wires loose so the chimes did indeed fall to the ground.

Ready, Aim, Fire

My most recent attempt involved buying a water bazooka, loading it, and keeping it next to my desk. I didn’t have to wait long. As a squirrel fed on my sunflower seeds, I opened my office window quietly, took aim, and fired. The bazooka leaked all over my desk and soaked my smartphone.

Game over.c0aab9b7-4cf7-4418-9203-374d5ae705a2_1-b21d9a906bb4313e7118a6e73485011f

 

A Camel—The Perfect Pet

Opening the Gainesville Sun one Sunday morning, I glanced at the “Pets for Sale” section. Not that I need any more pets.

To my amazement, I find that someone is selling a female camel for $3200. Right here in Gainesville! How exciting!

Let’s see, I have an area about 50 by 20 feet in my side yard. A perfect place for a camel. I just have to buy a bunch of straw and a truckload of camel feed, and I’m in business. What do camels eat? Hell, I don’t know. I’ll find out from the person who’s selling the camel.r964423_10400496

Think of it, I can ride my camel all over Gainesville, to the wonder and amazement of all. I will be a celebrity. The $3200 is no problem. I’m making enough money in my freelance business. What better way to spend it than on a camel? (I have to admit, this notion might never have occurred to me after I quit drinking a year later.)

Thwarted

I call the camel owner. No answer. Drat.

An hour later, I call again. What’s the matter with her? Doesn’t she want to sell her stupid camel?

I’m so excited that I call my 40-year-old daughter to tell her about the camel. “You’ll never guess what, Julie!”

“What, Mom?”

“I’m going to buy a camel.”

“What did you say? A camel?”

 “Yeah, I found one in this morning’s paper, and I’m going to buy it and keep it in my side yard and ride it around Gainesville.”

Long pause.

“I hate to tell you, Mom, but you can’t do that.”

“And why not?”

“Don’t you know that camels’ feet are ruined on cement? They have to walk on soft ground, like sand in the desert.”

I am crestfallen. “Well, rats. I guess I can’t buy the camel then.”

“Probably not, Mom.”

Well, there goes one great idea out the window.

Tricky Daughter

A year later, the subject of the camel comes up in a phone conversation. We are both laughing at my folly. I say, “Good thing you knew that about camels’ feet, Julie, or I might actually have gone out and bought the thing.”

Julie smirks. “I just made that up, Mom. To talk you out of buying the camel.”

Caught Skinny-Dipping

For exercise, I swim in a small pool in my back yard. My privacy is protected by a six-foot wood fence around the yard. Before stripping off my clothes and jumping in water, I place a bedside clock on the deck to keep track of my swim time.

My workout consists of swimming against a powerful current produced by an underwater pump. Wearing snorkel gear, I can stay submerged for a long time—coming up only when I want to check the time or when water seeps into the breathing tube.

Surprise!

One afternoon I am swimming—naked, as usual. When the breathing tube starts filling with water, I pop my head out.

What’s this? The clock is turned around!

I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what this means. Someone has come in the yard through the back gate, seen my backside surfacing in the pool, and decided that before leaving quietly he will turn the clock around.

Very funny.

Who could it be? Few people enter the yard without my permission. It can’t be the pool cleaner. It’s not his day. The yard maintenance guys were here earlier in the week. I haven’t called my handyman, a plumber, or an electrician.

Whos Guilty?

I know only two friends who would look in my backyard when I don’t answer the doorbell. Oh, you rascals, I think. I decide not to call them but confront them in person. I want to watch their faces when I ask, “Did you come in my yard when I was swimming and turn my clock around?”

I do this, but it’s clear from their facial expressions that they are innocent.

Who, then? I doubt that the visitor was out for an erotic thrill because I am an overweight old lady. The only thing I know is, he has a sense of humor.

Fortunately, so do I.

 

Which Are Better—Dogs or Cats?

According to many people, dogs are the ideal companion animals—better than cats, that’s for sure. They find cats irritating. Other people favor cats. The opposing camps maintain that the two species are like day and night. Forget that cats and dogs aren’t far apart on the phylogenetic scale and, in the bargain, they’re the two most commonly domesticated animals.

When dog supporters and cat lovers face off, you’ll sometimes hear them say, Hell, dogs and cats even hate each other. The dog is ready to shake a cat’s neck in its jaws until it’s dead. The cat, on the other hand, will jump on a dog’s back and ride it to hell.

Those of us who own both cats and dogs know this reasoning is more a reflection of the source than of reality. Humans are notoriously ego-invested in their pets. When people are vehement about the virtues of one species over the other, there’s something going on.

A guy has a Weimeraner he’s training as an attack dog. To him, Bruno is an extension of himself. This man has nothing but great things to say about dogs. They’re macho (his dogs, anyway), strong, brave, and self-sacrificing. They would die for you. In other words, everything a guy needs to feel good about himself.

This man hates cats. In his eyes, they are sneaky, self-serving, effeminate, and vain. He’s almost ready to forgive a close friend who has just adopted a cat. (If you can imagine such two guys being friends.)

In the cat-lover’s book, his friend’s Weimeraner is a dirty, unfriendly, sloppy suck-up. The cat lover believes there’s nothing more enchanting than Chloe’s feline grace, discrimination, and independence. He doesn’t expect her to whine with pleasure at the prospect of getting a treat. He admires the way she comes and goes without permission. He even gets a kick out of her clawing on the furniture occasionally, bringing a dead rat in the house, or waking him up at 4 am in the morning.

They’ve both got a point.

 

 

Airboats—An Abomination

I spent the weekend at Cedar Key, Florida, a village on the Gulf of Mexico. The business district, such as it is, faces the Gulf. The back side of Cedar Key overlooks numerous bayous. That’s where I was—high up on a house of stilts, enjoying the tides going in an out, watching gulls swoop down to catch fish, and listening to the wind blow.

Ah, peace.
Until the waterboats started. These fimgreslat-bottom motorboats are built to negotiate the shallow waters of bayous and marshes. They can do this because they use an above-board airplane propeller rather than a standard outboard motor. The propeller is driven by a powerful engine with no mufflers. Air boats are deafening. The noise is an abomination. As the motors roar across the water, the sound carries for miles. Birds scatter. The sound is enough to blight your weekend.

Have these people never heard of noise pollution? Is anybody doing anything?

Disrespectful Kids—Body Language

Nonverbal communication experts say that body language includes facial expressions, tone of voice, and noises made by mouth (sighing, grunting, etc.) Nonverbal messages substitute  for words that people are afraid to use because of the consequences.  Even though body language is as potent as spoken language, we allow people to offend us with it when we would not let them do it with actual words. The same thing applies sarcasm that’s used instead of a direct attack.

Most of us would punish a child who looked at us and said, “Fuck you.” But when the child rolls his or her eyeballs, sighs, and turns away, we might let it pass.  Let’s face it. The child’s body language is saying, “Fuck you.”  If we won’t tolerate spoken disrespect, we shouldn’t allow kids to use body language to get the message across.

Not many mothers would put up with comments like, “Your cooking sucks, Mom. I eat this stuff because I have to.” But we let the child make comments like, “Ugh, what is this, anyhow?” The message is the same.

Body language should be treated like spoken language. True, the child (or adult) is likely to deny any bad intent. But we both know the truth. And since we are the grown-ups, we should act on the truth we know, not the truth the child (or adult) is trying to disguise.

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Dream Travel—Rollerskates, Elevators and Other Transportation

When I used to dream of flying, I could lift myself slowly off the ground by sheer will, to the amazement of spectators below.  It was risky, though. Staying aloft depended on my confidence.  At the slightest trace of anxiety, I lost altitude. Another danger was telephone lines.  Flying into them meant instant death.

Then I dreamed mostly about trains, buses, motorcycles, and bikes. Trains and buses were a headache because I didn’t know where to get on or when to get off, or I didn’t have the right fare. Fortunately, I also had a trusty motorcycle—an ancient vehicle given to me by my grandfather (who died sixty years ago). It never ran out of gas, no matter how many years I had it. However, the headlights often dimmed and went out on dark country roads.

My bicycles got stolen. I’d forget to lock the bike before going into a store and then would find it gone when I returned.  Each time I’d think, “When will I ever learn? I can’t afford to keep buying new bikes.” But I’d buy a new one in preparation for the next dream and it would happen all over again.

Rollerskates are a newer, more exciting mode of transportation in my dreams. I skate with speed and skill in public places, something I could never do in real life.  I sail down streets and sidewalks, through malls, and down the corridors of large buildings such as libraries. It pleases me to pass pedestrians at three times their speed.

If I’m skating in a building such as a hospital where conventional behavior is expected, I worry about being stopped and asked to remove my skates. Most often this turns out to be the Mayo Clinic, where I was once employed.

In real life, I wore skates to work on a dare many years ago. I was manager of a department of writers at Abbott Laboratories. Company employees were horrified and titillated to see me rolling down the halls, files in hand. You’d think I was naked. Tattlers  sent reports up the chain of command to the CEO, and within four hours a decree came back down to my boss.  He came into my office laughing and said, “Sorry, Barb, you’ll have to take off your skates.”

Elevators are a recent addition to my dreams.  Usually I’m in a hurry to reach a certain office on an upper floor where I have an appointment to interview a doctor. I’m late and have trouble finding an elevator. When I do, I discover that it travels only to the fourth floor, or to floors six through ten. Sometimes a crowded elevator arrives and I have trouble squeezing in. As the doors start shutting, I thrust my arms in to force them open. Frightened occupants yell at me to get away, but I don’t.  I somehow get in.

Occasionally an elevator goes to an upper floor and then starts traveling sideways.  I have no idea where I’m headed.  I think, “Oh, well, I’ll just have to relax and see what happens.”

Maybe that’s the lesson in the dream.

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Inertia–Getting Stuck

Why is it so hard to stop doing one thing and start another?  Even when I dislike the thing I’m doing? My inertia baffles me.

I sometimes lie in bed in the morning reliving dreams of the night before. It’s a miserable way to spend time, but I’m hooked on the drama.  I know that getting up and making coffee will dispel the gloom and lift my mood. But do I do it?  No. I stay in bed another half hour, hypnotized by my thoughts.  .

Or a feeling of angst closes in when the sun goes down. I may have been happy as a clam all day—busy and productive. Then going from daylight to nightfall leaves me uneasy. I could catch the last light of day and take my dog out for a run—an activity that gives us both pleasure. But do I? No. I poke around aimlessly. It’s easier.

Inertia shadows me.  I don’t want to move out of the space I’m in just because that’s where I am and it’s easier to stay than to move

It’s crazy.  Someone please explain it to me.

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The Cockroach That Ran off with a Stick of Spaghetti

A friend recently told me that her aunt saw a cockroach run off with a stick of dry spaghetti.  I asked whether the aunt was in the habit of telling tall tales. My friend said no.

Now I wonder whether cockroaches can really do this. If I knew the aunt was a fibber, I would shrug it off.   But since I’m not sure, I have to go around wondering if a cockroach can really run around with a stick of spaghetti in its mouth.

The other day, I heard an acquaintance telling friends about her experience rescuing a baby squirrel from her yard.  After getting the advice of a wildlife center, she fed it from a dropper. She kept the squirrel for quite awhile, she said.

I asked, “But you couldn’t release it into the wild again, right?” No, she said, she got the wildlife center to take it.  However, while she had the squirrel, she discovered that it liked being stroked under one front leg—it’s “sweet spot”, she called it.  The other squirrels hanging around her house saw this. Since they were pretty tame, she tried it on them.  What do you know? They liked it, too.  So much that they stood in line waiting their turn for their “sweet spot” to be stroked.

Afterward, I thought, “Hold on here!” I enjoy true stories about animals’ unusual abilities.  But squirrels standing in line? I’ve had a lot of contact with squirrels over the years, and I can’t imagine them standing in line for anything. Squirrels push, shove and bully each other.

Why am I so irritated by this whopper?  After all, the woman didn’t con me out of money or do any real damage.  I guess I’m still smarting from being such a sucker.

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The Joy of Anger

I like to be right.  When I’m in a conflict with someone, I like to feel I’ve got the truth on my side and the other person is wrong.  What’s more, I want the other person to realize it. I’d like to lose my temper and have my adversary get all contrite and apologize.

Anger is satisfying.  It’s like drinking. Getting hammered is fun. Too bad the hangovers are hell.

I just went on a camping trip with my dog Trudy in my new RV.   Arriving at the campsite, I found that the refrigerator wouldn’t cool down.  After five hours the interior temperature hadn’t dropped one degree.  Since my food would surely go bad, I decided to turn around and come home.  I was furious because a couple of weeks earlier, I’d gone out for a test run and had a hunch something was wrong with the refrigerator.  So I took the RV to the dealer for repair.  When I picked it up, they said they’d found the problem, fixed it, and the refrigerator was now cooling perfectly.

So there I am, sitting at my campsite drinking warm seltzer water and poking at a limp salad.  It’s ninety degrees and I am mad.  I pull out my cell phone to call the dealer. I think about the sarcastic things I can say, withering him in his cushy chair.  Am I thinking about the best strategy to get his help fixing the refrigerator? I am not. I am thinking about nuking him.

Fortunately, cell phone reception is bad at the campground.  I can only stew in solitude.  Cooling down, I realize that my search-and-destroy approach isn’t likely to encourage the dealer’s cooperation.  And when my tantrum has passed, I’ll still have a broken refrigerator.

I haven’t called him yet.  I’m waiting for my serenity to kick in.

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