As you are no doubt aware, if you are currently not stupid, squirrels cause a large amount of damage. They are one of nature’s top welfare recipients, in that they are not content to live in abodes provided by the environment, such as hollow trees and caves and highway overpasses. They like to mooch off of us humans by moving into our attics, where they build huge, nasty nests, rearrange insulation inappropriately, and chew the covers off electrical wires and air conditioning conduits. There’s no telling how many house fires the little ingrates have caused. This type of activity tends to give squirrels a poor reputation among homeowners.
When my wife and I were first married, over twenty years ago, we lived in a densely populated residential area, across the street from an older couple. One day at noon I heard a popping sound, and walked outside to check it out. Our neighbor lady, who must have been in her late 80’s, was creeping around in her huge yard, stalking squirrels. As I stood there she shouldered her .22 rifle, took aim, and shot at a squirrel on the trunk of a tree.
When she saw me the lady started to expound at length about the damage the squirrels had done in her home. So I spotted for her for a while, and she got a couple more of the critters. I noticed a few curtains flapping in some of the houses around, but no one ever complained. Whether that was because everyone hates squirrels, or because the lady’s husband was the Justice of the Peace in Mason at the time, I don’t know.
So, when I called my wife recently and asked her if she wanted some baby squirrels to raise, she groaned. The last thing she wanted to do was nurture future vandals. On the other hand, my wife is a sucker for babies. If it’s little and young and cute, she can’t just let it die.
What had happened was, I was working on a building in Mason, replacing some rotten places on the eaves. I pried one of the soffit boards loose, and a huge pile of nasty debris fell out. Along with it came four baby squirrels who, when questioned at length, could not produce a signed lease agreement authorizing their residence in the building. I had to evict them, and they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
So my wife took them and started feeding them milk from a bottle. At first they weren’t interested, but after a while hunger overcame defiance, and they started to eat pretty good. They were too little to bite, but too old to ever become decently tame. So they were probably a lost cause for pets, but since there’s hardly anything cuter than a baby squirrel, we couldn’t just turn them out to stand in soup lines.
That went along fine for a while, and the squirrels became pretty comfortable with my wife handling them and feeding them several times a day. There were three boys and a girl, so we named them Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Fooey. After a few weeks on the bottle they finally started eating solid food and getting more rude and ungrateful by the day. The big surprise to me was that you can actually buy squirrel food, at Wal-Mart I think. It’ got corn and sunflower seeds and other nuts in it. Go figure.
Several years ago Coleman offered miniature Coleman tents for sale, and I bought a couple of them. They look like the little display tents you see in sporting goods stores, and they’re about the right size for a G.I. Joe. I gave one to my son, Leret, for his G.I. Joe regiment. And if you think I’m exaggerating, you haven’t visited Fort Leret.
My little Coleman tent sits in my office, and hasn’t seen a lot of action. So I got to thinking it would be neat to take it out on the courthouse lawn in Mason, which is across the street from my office, put the squirrels in it, and take some pictures. Like the squirrels were camping, or something.
I talked my wife into getting her camera out and helping me take the squirrels and tent and all over to the courthouse lawn. We picked a good spot, where there wouldn’t be spoilers in the background, like four-foot-tall water sprinklers or 20-foot-wide sidewalks. Perspective is very important, when you’re taking fake squirrel pictures.
We put the little duffers in the tent, and they went nuts. They were going so fast they were blurs, doing laps and loops in there, and running all over each other. Two escaped immediately and had to be chased down, and then it was like a volcano erupting. Squirrels evidently don’t like having their pictures taken.
Our little fur balls are just about ready to leave the nest and strike out on their own. We plan to take them somewhere away from town and release them in The Wild. Our German shepherd is very excited . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who plans to release his squirrels farthest from the residence of the most generous donor to their local Boy or Girl Scout Troop. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org