|Photo courtesy of Janet Rausa Fuller|
On the other hand, unless they're going to ban bird feeders—and no politician could do that and hope to be elected, it would be like banning toddlers—the effort is futile, since squirrels so readily climb them and eat the poor hungry birds' lunch (though not in my backyard, since, after years of trying, I have finally baffled them, quite literally).
Anyway, I would say table the vote and consider more important things. But the effort did bring to mind this column where I declared my feelings for squirrels.
Squirrels scare me.
Squirrels have, on occasion, menaced and attacked me. I hate them. Which makes it doubly ironic that, in my new home in the deep forests of Northbrook, I am surrounded by squirrels. I can feel their small, hard, coal-black eyes upon me.
Normally, I would be too embarrassed to mention this. You probably love squirrels. You probably collect little china squirrel figurines and keep them in a special cabinet. How nice.
But I'm trying to make sense of the other day, which turned into my Big Squirrel Day.
It began with my oldest boy, gazing out the bedroom window. Suddenly, he shouted, "Call the police! Call the police!" I ran to the window. "What?" I asked. "Squirrels!" the 4-year-old said. "On the garbage can!"
Indeed, there were two big ones, boldly perched on the lid, planning their next crime.
Not two hours later I was visiting my pal Judy at WGN. "I have something in my office for you," she said, during a commercial break. My mind reeled, pondering expensive presents. You know how they pay these radio people. Someone had given her a Harley-Davidson. She had no use for it . . .
What she had was a press release from the Squirrel Lover's Club. This week is the first "Squirrel Awareness Week." Joy.
Ever look closely at a squirrel? They twitch as if they're about to explode, or have some terrible disease. I glanced at the release, put out by a fanatic in Elmhurst, filled with cold-comfort trivia such as the number of teeth squirrels have (22), including "chisel-shaped incisors in the upper and lower jaws."
Of course they do. A squirrel once tried to chew its way into our bedroom. I heard my wife shrieking and there was a tremendous gnawing and scratching at the plastic accordion section around the air conditioner. A peep through the window confirmed that it was a maddened squirrel, trying to get us. The next few moments were like something out of a horror movie. This was not an isolated episode. On vacation, my family was eating around a picnic table at White Pines State Park when a squirrel charged up and tried to strong-arm our food.
The thing terrorized us, hissing and spitting. My poor boys were upset, and I had to manfully fend off a squirrel in front of them. I defended our meal, if I recall, with an unopened can of baked beans.
After trying to read over the ballyhoo for Squirrel Awareness Week and despairing of the subject, I stood up to stretch and gather my thoughts.
So many squirrel lovers and people who get all squishy at the mention of any animal. Not worth antagonizing them, I decided. And to what end? To score points against squirrels? It's not as if they're going to change their ways.
I turned toward the City Desk, and looked at the TV monitors bolted to the ceiling. Squirrels, and lots of them. Various critters and poses, touting Squirrel Awareness Week.
"Squirrels," I said. "I hate those - - - - - - - squirrels."
One of the hard cases at the desk agreed. "Blanking squirrels," he said. So it isn't just me. There are at least two of us.
Buoyed by this sign of solidarity, I returned to my desk, and read: "In some circles . . . squirrels spelled doom on a house."
This dislodged the most disturbing squirrel memory of all. A few days after we bought the house, I was walking out front, along the hedge. Just as I turned the corner, into our yard, I saw a squirrel pulling itself toward the house with its front paws, back legs dragging uselessly behind it.
I had never seen a paralyzed squirrel before, and couldn't imagine how it would happen -- a fall? A terrible illness; the things are silly with disease. It was a haunting sight.
There is one consolation, however. Winter is coming. The miserable beasts sleep, right? They hibernate, don't they? Good Lord, I hope so.
—Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 5, 2000