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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Humorous personal account of me and squirrels
Animal Antics and Interactions
Romancing the Squirrel by BethShelby
 Category:  Humor Non-Fiction
  Posted: March 10, 2012      Views: 465
Chapters:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 

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 ABOUT
BETHSHELBY 
BethShelby is retired from the printing and commercial art field. She is married and has four children and three grandchildren. She and her husband presently live in Tennessee.

Painting, photography, and writing are her passion. She has ha - more...

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When I was a child, I dreamed of having a squirrel as a pet. Maybe that was because my dad used to tell me tales about the pet squirrel that lived in his pocket when he was a child. In retrospect, Daddy was given to exaggeration, and I tend to believe he might have allowed nostalgia to sugarcoat some of his memories of growing up in what he referred to as "the good old days."

There were no squirrels around for me to observe, because country squirrels, in spite of being stupid, have learned that country boys are apt to shoot at anything that moves. Those pictured in my storybooks looked cute and cuddly, and at that innocent age, I hadn't yet discovered how deceptive looks could be.

When I was eighteen, I married one of those gun-toting country boys, and one day, he talked me into accompanying him on a hunting trip. I don't know what I expected, but it certainly wasn't to witness him actually taking the life of a cute little squirrel. He got excited when he saw movement in a tree, and his shotgun discharged before I had an opportunity to shoo the creature to a place of safety. The shot didn't quite kill it, and I wouldn't let him finish the job. I cried all the way home with the limp animal cradled in the tail of my shirt. It didn't live, but I think I managed to cure my husband of any enjoyment he'd ever derived from squirrel hunting.

Later after we moved to the city, squirrels were plentiful. One day, I managed to lure one through the open window of our second-floor apartment by putting a trail of nuts along the roof and into my kitchen. That was the day I learned wild animals don't make good house guests. The squirrel went berserk when he realized he was no longer a part of the great outdoors. After practically destroying everything within range, he finally managed to exit the way he came in.

My romance with squirrels had faded but wasn't completely dead. When my daughter found a tiny one, which had fallen from its nest to my driveway, the urge to mother it was too much. Surely a baby could be tamed. After all, the nest was too high in the tree to put it back. We couldn't just let it die. The memory of the pet in Dad's pocket came flooding back, and common sense took a vacation. For two months, I managed to care for it, but as it grew older, the wildness was still apparent. With no indication I'd ever have a pocket pet, I grew tired of seed hulls and nutshells scattered over my guest bathroom.

My solution was to call the Nature Center. Surely there the little squirrel could grow up and live the good life. Then another animal-lover got wind of my intentions and called me. "Don't dare take him there," she pleaded. "They feed little squirrels to their owls. I'll take him. I've raised squirrels before."

She kept him for two years before deciding to set him free. Since we'd moved to a home on nineteen acres of woodland, she thought this would be the perfect place. I told her to mark him some way so we'd recognize him, but her way of marking was to cut a couple of hairs from his tail. With my bad eyesight, I couldn't quite make out which squirrel was two hairs short. From the minute she set him free, he blended, and his natural instincts took over. However, I suspect he might be a super-stud bent on making up for lost time, because since that day, the squirrel population has exploded.

For me, squirrels in general lost what charm they had left when they destroyed my beautiful new hammock in less than two hours. Either they were just bored or they wanted the cotton string for nesting material.

Fast-forward to the present. My husband enlarged his garden and has become enthusiastic about growing vegetables. Unfortunately, no vegetable is safe from our fast growing squirrel population. They're fond of cutting new plants off at the roots and leaving them to die.

My latest hobby is photographing birds. I set up an area outside my kitchen window with birdbaths and feeders. I was excited to learn how many kinds of birds responded, but what do you think I find hanging upside down on my feeders when I look out? I'll give you clue. It isn't birds, and I've taken enough pictures of squirrel antics to fill many albums. A squirrel can consume a whole cake of suet in an afternoon or empty a feeder of birdseed like there's no tomorrow. It's not that there aren't plenty of acorns and hickory nuts. They're just greedy.

"We've got to do something about this," my loving mate informed me. "We can't grow anything with all these squirrels everywhere. I'm going out to buy some traps."

"O.K., I'm for that, but you're not going to kill them. They're a nuisance, but they don't deserve to die."

"We don't have to kill them. We'll relocate them."

He carried the first two squirrels he trapped to the edge of our property and set them free. But then, we suspected they might have found their way back. "I have an idea," I said. "I'll spray their tails with paint, and then we'll know if they're coming back."

The next one in the trap got a bright yellow tail, and another huge male squirrel got a red one. Sure enough, the big red tail squirrel was back the next morning, and to prove his stupidity, he immediately got into the trap again. If you are unaware squirrels have foul mouths, you should have heard the squirrel curses he uttered when he found himself entrapped again. I'm just glad I don't understand the language, but the message was clear enough.

"We've got to take him further this time," my husband said. "We'll take him to the park. There's miles of roads through there, and no one will see us turn him loose."

I wasn't sure why secrecy was necessary because the woods are full of squirrels. What difference could one more make? My husband was afraid someone might think he was dumping a cat or dog, and he didn't want to be seen. To complicate matters, it wasn't easy to spring the trap door open without risking losing a finger. Sometimes it took several minutes.

We arrived at the park minutes after closing time, and the gates were locked. To make a long story short, we got on a strange road, became lost, and spent nearly an hour trying to find an untraveled spot to free the squirrel. In the end, we brought him back and set him free again on our own property; this time, heading in a different direction. It took him five days to make it back. Within an hour, he was in the trap again.

Every day, we trap more. Now, we've got our act together. We make it to the Nature Park while it's still open and find a private spot for our relocation project. The road through the park is one way and it runs many miles. Some days we have to make two runs. At the current price of gasoline, a dark thought briefly crosses my mind. Maybe we shouldn't have retired that shotgun after all.

Then I think better of it. I'm a softy at heart. They're too cute to kill, but as for pets, I think I'll stick to dogs and cats.

Recognized

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Author Notes
This was written about ten years ago when my husband was still living. A few of you may have read it back then.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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