- Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 16:03
- Published on Wednesday, 05 October 2011 16:03
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I sometimes get in trouble with my neighbors when it comes to my fondness for the local squirrel population. You see, it all began with a bet with my wife, many years ago, that with a better diet I could make our local squirrels, known to most of us as the Eastern gray squirrels (their Latin name is Sciurus carolinensis), look as nice and fluffy as the squirrels we had just seen during a visit to Williamsburg. Everything, of course, looks pristine in Williamsburg and that includes the squirrels. They have lush coats and fluffy tails. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they get their fur set and combed each day.
And so the bet was on. That was more than 10 years ago and I have fed the squirrels every morning since. The local squirrel population and I have gotten to be
good friends. However, I should note, that my neighbors have observed, sometimes with a degree of sternness, that in the morning there is often what amounts to a small army of these little creatures sitting on my front porch enjoying their peanuts.
I have always been on good terms with my neighbors, and so, being decent folks, they have managed to tolerate my over fondness for tree squirrels. I am sure several have probably asked themselves, “Why can’t he just have a cat or a dog like everyone else?” And probably a few others, tired of having to buy the latest squirrel-resistant bird feeder, regret that the neighborhood has regulations prohibiting the use of firearms.
But I have a good comeback that puts me in good company when it comes to my fondness for squirrels. Ronald Reagan, America’s 40th president, began his day, much like I do, reaching into his desk drawer, grabbing a fistful of peanuts, wandering out onto the portico of the West Wing and depositing these treats for his friends — the White House squirrels. When Reagan wasn’t in town, he asked one of his staff to fill in for him and make sure his buddies got their breakfast. He didn’t want his squirrels to think that he had forgotten them. The story goes on that on his last day in office he went through the same ritual, but this time, left a note. “This is the last time I can do this. So, good luck. And watch out, the new guy has a dog.” It’s vintage Reagan and I don’t doubt a word of it.
There have, however, been times when this relationship with my furry friends has brought me a little grief. Last year, my local squirrels, no doubt having grown overly comfortable hanging around my house, thought the ignition wiring on my Honda would make great material for their nests. That repair wasn’t cheap. A few years later, on Christmas Eve, I found it virtually impossible to change the gears on my SUV. That’s because my little friends had filled the gear housing, and I have no idea how they got in there, with acorns. That repair, unlike the wiring harness, wasn’t expensive, and the mechanic gave me a plastic bag full of acorn pieces to take home with me.
I have written about my squirrel friends, as well as related topics, on several occasions. Of all the articles I write on any subject these columns have gotten the most response from our readers. An article I wrote talking about how the American Brown Squirrel, an invasive species in England, had all but devastated the British red squirrel (think Squirrel Nutkin from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit series) prompted a letter from a man in Dunbarton, Scotland.
Alas, though, next week, after 22 years, we are moving to a new house. It’s about 10 miles west of where we live now and I am leaving my friendly neighborhood squirrels behind. After more than 10 years of extra care and feeding they’ll have to make do on their own. I am sure they will do fine, and I am tempted to leave them a little note, just like President Reagan did, but as I think about, I doubt they’re likely to read it. It’s not their style. Oh, and for the record: What about that long-ago bet I made with my wife about whether or not, thanks to an improved diet, I could make their coats as fancy as the squirrels that live in Williamsburg, Virginia? No, I’m sorry, after all these years of good eating, they look about the same. They are still just good old Eastern gray squirrels.