A Squirrel of a Time: A Stephellaneous Life through a Squirrelticular Lens (Part 2)

So I believe Part 1 left off with mere Attempted Squirrelicide. Today, dear readers. Oh, today we get right into the thick of it. Attempted is for weenies. We’re talkin’ full-on Squirrelicide now. Don’t even bother hiring a detective, because I’m about to confess.

Squirrelicide in the First Degree

I was sixteen or seventeen when I went on my first hunting foray. (I may as well go ahead and tell you it was also my only hunting foray. Consider that a preview on how things went.) I didn’t care about hunting, but being out in the woods early on a weekend morning sounded lovely. So, even though I thought camouflage was stupid (still do – suck it), I donned someone’s spare camo and tagged along with my boyfriend. He wanted to go squirrel hunting, and he wanted me to go with him.

Sure, let’s do this thing.

funnybaby64

We get out into the woods, and he’s being all manly protector and shit. I’m walking along the well-trodden path when Mr. Boy Scout practically unhinges his arm to stop me in my tracks.

Snake. There was a snake. Not a venomous snake, mind you, which he himself acknowledged. No matter, his girlfriend’s life dignity was at stake.

So he murdered the snake.

And I cried.

That was sign number one that we should have turned back.

About halfway through our trek, we come across a deer stand. He told me what it was and who it belonged to. I pointed to the knee-high mound of food and asked what it was. “That’s deer feed,” he said, “to lure the deer.” I’m sure you can guess my reply: “Are you fucking serious? That hillbilly dickwad motherfucker LURES them here?” I even quoted My Cousin Vinny. The part about the happy little deer putting it’s little deer lips to the cool water to drink, and:

BAM

Oh yeah. Then he explained the stench I was smelling came from the deer musk/urine sprayed all around the place to lure them and mask the scent of humans.

I was livid. And though he was highly amused,

That was sign number two that we should have turned back.

But we didn’t turn back. The rest of the trek was pleasant enough. Enjoying the cool autumn weather. The trees. The chirping of the birds. Learning to recognize animal tracks and hiding spots. It was a pretty cool morning, aside from the murder and mayhem.

We finally settled into a thick copse of trees, squatted down with our weapons and listened. Watched. Observed. Felt. So far, so good. I was cool with all of that, and was pretty good at spotting shit, too.

I had done some target practice a week or so prior – but it didn’t take much. I was actually really fucking good at it. I remember he was strangely proud of that – at least he wasn’t one of those weirdos who get jealous about that sort of thing.

So yeah, when I finally spotted a squirrel I deemed close enough, I didn’t even say anything – I just went for it. I was using this little .22, and I think I was too far away. (At least that’s what I was told in attempts to comfort me afterward.) After I shot, the squirrel fell from the limb he was on.

And we never found him.

We searched for hours, because I was insistent and at least mildly hysterical. But we never found him. I cried. Nay, I fucking sobbed. He was beside himself, first laughing and then desperate to calm me down. He swore the shot would have spread, and the squirrel was probably fine or we would have gone straight to him. But I was inconsolable; all that could be done was to leave and let me put it behind me.

But I never really did. Put it behind me, I mean. Though I was done crying by the time we emerged from the woods, I’ve never forgotten that day. And I’ve never believed that squirrel came out unscathed. He either died that day or ended up in hospice care.

southfloridasquirrel

I never forgave myself, and I never went hunting again.

The Three Stooges: A Shot at Redemption Ends in Triple Squirrelicide

That next summer – same boyfriend – he brought three baby squirrels home. The tree they were living in had been cut down, and the mother abandoned them. So he brought them to me. By now, he knew damn well what a bleeding heart I was. I was ecstatic! But I also had no idea how to take care of tiny baby squirrels.

3babysquirrels
Y’all…they looked just like this.

I thought I did the right thing. I really did. I took them to a veterinarian. (I mean, I also used the Internet. What, Alta Vista at the time? Dogpile? But there wasn’t much information available.) The veterinarian sold me some kitten milk and an eye-dropper feeder (and a bottle for when they got bigger) and told me to keep them warm. Feed them every two to three hours, he said, and keep them warm with a rice sock heated in the microwave.

I was so careful with those little things. I had them tucked into a small box, with a fluffy towel and the rice sock. I always held it against tender spots of my skin first to make sure I wouldn’t burn the Three Stooges. That’s what I named them: Larry, Curly and Moe. And I fed them carefully and regularly.

Larry died first. First and fast. Almost right away, really. God, I was a wreck. I opened up the little box in the middle of the night, for a nighttime feeding and to re-warm the sock. And he was curled up there, lifeless. I was heartbroken. The boyfriend took care of burying him for me. I insisted Larry be buried.

Moe was next. He lasted a couple of weeks before giving up. He stopped eating, I think. I do remember calling the vet on his account. And he told me that all I could do was keep them warm and feed them regularly. Oh yeah, and I was also wiping them with a warm damp cloth to help them pass waste.

But it wasn’t enough. Moe didn’t make it. But I knew for certain Curly was solid. He made it several weeks. And he even got big enough to ride around in my breast pocket.

pocketsquirrel
This is neither my breast, nor my pocket, nor my squirrel. But they suffice.

It just wasn’t to be. And I was absolutely shattered when I came home from work one day, and the boyfriend told me Curly had died. I know now that I should have sought the advice of another vet. But at the time, I trusted that particular one. He took care of the boyfriend’s dog, so he was like their family vet. But I know now that poor Curly was most certainly malnourished. He wasn’t large, not even fully juvenile. He was still a baby. But he had certainly graduated beyond the basic nutrition found in kitten milk.

I was devastated. And when the boyfriend found yet more baby squirrels some time later, he had the presence of mind to call me first. And I asked him to please not bring them home. I couldn’t go through it again.

So uhm. Yeah. That one wasn’t funny. My bad. But it did result in yet more squirrel funerals. It strikes me that I have a disproportionate amount of squirrel funerals in my life, as compared to…ahem…normal people.

And I can add Serial Squirrel Murderer and Stooge Slaughterer to my rap sheet. Oh hell, I got a rap sheet? Holla!

Additional Squirrellaneous Encounters

Far more recently (that shit happened when I was a teenager, remember?), I tried befriending my squirrels. The ones that live here. In my trees. And I love watching them play and roughhouse with each other. So I tried to befriend them.

Last year (that was last year wasn’t it?), I visited The Peanut Depot while I was checking out Birmingham, Alabama.

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Seriously, if y’all are ever in Birmingham, you need to hit up the Peanut Depot. (And what the fuck is the matter with you if you’re grown and American and haven’t been to Birmingham? That’s an important city, and you need to go. You been told.)

Aaaanywho, I bought an assload of peanuts. The guy behind the counter flirted with me. I know, because I don’t get flirted with, and homeboy didn’t even try to hide it. But he also wanted to know just what the hell I was gonna do with all those peanuts. I bought a 2 lb. burlap sack of each kind (regular, salted and Cajun). And, he was right. What the fuck was I thinking?

Once I got home and realized the error of my ways – I mean what on earth was I gonna do with sixteen zillion peanuts? I tried to share them at work, but who wants peanuts? Though, I did keep a small nutsack of my own in my drawer. (Hehehe, this woman told me about her nutsack at work. I totally should have called mine that. If you haven’t made her acquaintance, you should. She’s delightful.)

So, I hatched a plot to befriend my squirrels. First I laid peanuts around the trees in the front, like little Easter eggs. It didn’t take long for them to find ’em. I’d peer out my window at them, watching one chow down and the other stuff his furry little cheeks and haul ass up the tree. Probably plotting to use them as soggy, nutty projectiles. No matter.

After a few days of this, I began sprinkling them in the yard. And then leading a path to the porch. I spied the two regulars munching on the porch a couple times. But this didn’t last. Oh no.

Because those fucking bastard assholes tore up my yard!

squirrelholes
This is not my yard, but it’s exactly what it was like after those ingrates tore the shit out of it. They took my peanuts and they mocked me with them. Tearing up the yard and burying them for winter!

I told those motherfuckers I had enough peanuts to last a lifetime of winters. But nooooooooo, they had to dig! And you wanna know how I found out? Hmm? I couldn’t see the holes because of the copious amounts of pinestraw. But I was out there one day, feeding the sons of bitches and twisted my ankle in a squirrelhole!

So, like the Soup Nazi, I shouted (seriously, I shouted) NO PEANUTS FOR YOU! (I’m sure my neighbors find me positively delightful.) Then I called them bastards. No good dirty rotten scoundrels. I shook my fists at them up in the trees. They didn’t dare mock me, not til I went inside. But never again would I spoil those little bastards. Now they’ll have to be content with munching on acorns and my roof. Assholes.

Let’s see. Aside from that? I’ve already talked about how the squirrels laid siege to the Veggie Patch. I’m certain, now, that it’s in retaliation for me cutting off the peanut supply line. It’s all starting to come together now.

I’ve had lovely encounters with the mountain squirrels of Washington, Montana, Wyoming…they liked to climb on me and check my pockets. You know what? That does it! Fuck these local squirrels. I’m moving! I know, I know…it’s only a matter of time before even the mountain squirrels turn on me.

It’s time for me to bust out the water hose and tear some ass up.

Oh my gosh, this is how it all began. Mr. Smith’s struggles were real. I see it all so clearly now. I’ll fight them in your honor, Mr. Smith! I’ll take no prisoners!

take no prisoners
Take No Prisoners! (This photo makes me craugh. (Cry + Laugh = Craugh, remember? Gah!) But it’s too perfect!) (Also, double parenthesis bitch!)

The End. Or has it only just begun?

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A Squirrel of a Time: A Stephellaneous Life through a Squirrelticular Lens (Part 1)

Wannabe Intro to My Squirrelstory (Like History, but Better)

As I sit at work today, pretending to be a productive employee while scratching my head in hopes of breaking loose a thought or three worthy of a post, I find myself pondering squirrels. And it strikes me that I just may have a particularly curious connection with squirrels in my life – at least compared to the average person. I mean, just how many squirrelly encounters have you had, dear Peoplleaneous? And I don’t mean that time your Uncle Bubba made you lick one for good luck. (Don’t worry, that totally didn’t happen to me. And if it happened to you, you’re a disgusting freak and can’t be my friend anymore.)

Y’all don’t believe me, do you? I’m telling you, homeslices. I have a weird history with squirrels. And I’m gonna tell you about it. As soon as I can figure out how to end this wannabe intro. Fuck it, consider this wannabe intro over.

That Time My Brother tried to Resurrect a Squirrel in the Bathtub (Holyfuck, that heading just spoiled the plot. Who comes up with this shit?!)

I think this one is less of a memory and more of something that has been implanted through countless retellings, because I believe I was like two when this happened. But since it’s the earliest “memory” of squirrels in my life, it must be told and it must come first.

My brother is a few years older than me, and depending on who tells the story, he was somewhere between five and eight. But given my age at the time, he had to have beenĀ at least seven. (“Why didn’t you just say seven to begin with and have done?,” is your logical query. To which I shriek, “I thought you knew me!,” and dissolve into a heap of tears.)

Anywhoodles. We’re living at my mamaw’s house, right? (She had this weird, awesome floor that you could pluck these little wooden tile thingies from. Pluck. Pluck. Slide back in like a funky puzzle piece. Pluck. Pluck. Man, I loved playing with that floor.) Well. Apparently B (Ima call him “B” for brother, aight?) had a soft spot for animals back then. (I say back then, because he sure as fuck doesn’t now. But don’t worry about it. This is a happy story.) So mamaw catches him waddling into the house, in nothing but his He-Man underwear. In his arms, he’s got this squirrel. His arms are wrapped around it, and it’s dangling down the length of B’s little body. It’s stiff and crispy – it had been burnt to a crisp when a transformer blew – and B’s sobbing and waddling into the house with the squirrel’s tail dragging between his legs.

Mamaw, naturally, freaks right the fuck out. “B! What the hell are you doing?! PUT THAT SQUIRREL BACK OUTSIDE!” B chokes out through the snotty sobs, “But Yamaw…*sniffle choke*…I have to give him a bath!” (This is why B was in his underwear. He had stripped down outside after formulating his plan to bathe the squirrel back to life.) B was dead serious, too. He really thought he could soak the squirrel in the tub and make everything right again. “Yamaw, yamaw, he needs a bath and everything will be okay!”

squirreltub

It took much pleading and coaxing to convince B to let mamaw pry the squirrel from him. (Who knows what she did with it – that’s never been included in the telling…) It took ages to calm him down and dry his tears; mamaw said it was the most pitiful thing she’d ever seen.

And no, B didn’t become a taxidermist. Or a faith healer.

Smile though Your Heart is Aching

The next memory I have is the infamous Squirrel Funeral. And no, it wasn’t even for the aforementioned crispy critter. As memory serves (mine and others’), this was a couple of years later, but it also took place at mamaw’s.

This time, my aunt found a dead squirrel in the yard. (What’s the deal with all the dead squirrels at mamaw’s? Kinda creepy, really.) And she decided that we needed to have funerary services to see the squirrel off into the afterlife. She was super serious, yo, solemn and dramatic as ever.

She and her father fashioned a coffin out of a cigar box, and we – me and my siblings – were ordered to prepare remarks and dress for the occasion. My aunt would deliver the eulogy.

This is a Google image of a squirrel funeral. No photographic evidence exists of mine.
This is a Google image of a squirrel funeral. No photographic evidence exists of mine.

We all gathered in the alley behind mamaw’s house. Just us kids. We dug a hole and set the squirrel’s box beside the dirt mound. We fashioned a cross of twigs and berries (shut up, pervert) and planted it in the ground at the end of the hole. Then we stood in a circle, holding hands. My aunt said a prayer and delivered the eulogy. I know we named the squirrel; and I swear it was something like Edward. (Y’all are right – something about me and “Ed-” names.) Each of us kids took turns saying our parting words to Edward and delivering him unto the earth. Y’all, this was some super solemn shit. And while I don’t remember things that were said, I do remember making shit up – about what a good squirrel Edward had been. How he was a good friend and playmate. Pretty sure we even made up a wife and kids that he was leaving behind. Some pretty creative and morbid shit.

With all of that finished up, we lowered his tiny King Edward cigar coffin (holyfuck, THAT’S why we named him Edward!) into the leaf-strewn ground and buried him. As soon as the dirt mound had filled the hole, the others went about their business. And I don’t remember many specifics, but I do remember lingering behind by myself. Crying. I cried for Edward the squirrel. And, in what was perhaps one of the earliest instances, I remember contemplating life and death and the finite-ness of our corporeal existence.

Depressing, no? Don’t worry, it’s not all like that. (It totally kind of is, though.)

Know Thyself, and Know Thy Enemy, or Devil, Thy Name is Squirrel

Another tale from mamaw’s house (years later, same mamaw, different house). In this neighborhood, the squirrels were vicious. A warring faction emerged, overthrowing the peaceful nut hoarders and challenging the humans for dominion. At least, that’s how Mr. Smith saw things.

Mr. Smith was a neighbor of mamaw’s, and while his wife was perfectly sane, Mr. Smith was in the throes of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and who knows what else. And for some reason, perfectly docile Mr. Smith one day became the archenemy of the neighborhood squirrels: specifically the ones who dared trespass into his beloved tree.

Mr. Smith adamantly argued that the squirrels started it. That they stood atop the branches of his trees and taunted him with their racket and turned acorns into weapons, hurling the tiny projectiles at lightening speed toward his shiny pate. This was the squirrel of Mr. Smith’s waking nightmares:

Behold the tiny assassin, armed to the teeth, preparing to shoot an eye out and steal your wife.
Behold the tiny assassin, armed to the teeth, preparing to shoot an eye out and steal your wife.

Naturally, Mr. Smith launched a series of counterattacks. His two weapons of choice? The waterhose (affixed with a jet spray nozzle and the force of a firehose) and a wheelbarrow of bricks. Mr. Smith could (and did) spend countless hours outside, launching brick after brick into his beloved tree and spraying them with the waterhose of doom. And this otherwise godfearing man, hurled vicious swearwords up to those “NO GOOD BASTARD MOTHERFUCKERS! I’LL KILL YOU! GET OUTTA MY TREE!”

And while his poor wife was forever lamenting this new side of Mr. Smith, some of us who witnessed it were delighted. I was old enough to be aware that I was witnessing the cognitive decline of a human being. So while I was torn between sorrow and amusement, I’m ashamed to admit that Mr. Smith’s War on Squirrels has provided many hours of laughter in my life.

But I swear, y’all. Perhaps the years have colored my memories a bit too much. But I swear sometimes those squirrels really did mock him with their loud squirrel gibberish and the occasional rain of acorns pelting the poor bastard. (And, by the way, I was Team Squirrel all the fucking way. I know. I’m a terrible person.)

Sometimes Mr. Smith would finish gathering all of his bricks back into the wheelbarrow and start toward the house when one of those little fuckers would let fly a squirrelfanity, causing Mr. Smith to slam on the brakes, wheel around and launch another brick.

He never did catch one. For all his effort, his aims never found purchase. And one day, well. One day he just stopped coming outside.

I said this was a happier tale. Damn y’all, what’d you go and make me cry for?

~

I have more squirrel tales to tell, so I’m going to end this here, as Part 1. I have at least three more mini-tales to go, but this is already quite lengthy so I’m breaking it into two parts. I’ll have the rest ready for you tomorrow!

Eduardo*: The Company Man**

~

*The protagonist of this true story tale of whimsy shall be referred to as Eduardo. (Make sure to roll the “r,” or the fake name loses its charm.) His true identity shan’t be revealed. I assure you this is quite necessary, as I would meet a certain death were I to reveal it.

**Eduardo insisted I refer to him as Company Man rather than Company Lizard. He called me specist, but I think he’s just being sensitive. I say we should refer to him as the Company Being and be done with it. He told me to stop being an asshole.

This is a true story, except for the parts that aren’t almost all of it.

~

Chance Encounter with a Company Man

I first met Eduardo the night he appeared outside my bathroom window. I was startled, to be sure, but immediately smitten. As soon as I laid eyes upon him, I clasped my hands and gave a sopranic* shriek of delight before dissolving into a mass of giggles. (*Sopranic is definitely the adjectival of soprano; trust me on this.)

He hadn’t meant to blow his cover, and he blames me for the Lavatory Rendezvous. You see, he’s drawn to the light. It’s a serious weakness for someone in his line of work. But so long as the bathroom light beckoned into the darkness, Eduardo was my prisoner and I was in control. (Eduardo is an opportunist, you see. And nighttime lights provide a veritable buffet of light-drawn insects.)

Before we parted, I asked Eduardo to pose for a photograph. He tried to refuse but knew I would have my way so long as the light switch was in the up position. But he did adamantly protest a portrait. I readily acquiesced; after all, I wouldn’t want him being taken out. So long as I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, there remained plausible deniability. Besides, he said, his belly is his best side.

Eduardo, shamelessly exposing his soft underbelly. He asked me not to tell you that I pet his belly through the glass. Oops. Sorry, Eduardo.
Eduardo, fearlessly and shamelessly exposing his soft underbelly. He asked me not to tell you that I pet his belly through the glass. Oops. Sorry, Eduardo.

Eduardo returned every night for weeks after that initial encounter. Drawn by the light that I switched on at dusk and left on until bedtime, summoning him to the window.

I learned that it’s tough for a lizard (skink, whatever) in The Company. Shower times are particularly problematic. People don’t seem to understand his need to climb the walls and peer down, flicking his tongue at rogue water droplets in hopes that one of them turns out to be a bug. So now he showers alone, but he hasn’t found anyone to turn the faucets on for him. No thumbs, you see.

Besides, he’d always aspired to be an Observer.

The resemblance is uncanny.
The resemblance is uncanny.

I told him the Observers weren’t real, and he said, “You know nothing, human.” This time I called him a specist, but he only snorted in derision. According to Eduardo, the requirements to become an Observer are far more rigorous than those of The Company. But it’s on his bucket list. For now, he just tries to avoid being called a spook. He prefers Company Man to that.

spook

Over the course of our nightly visits, Eduardo filled me in on his life story. He’s Brazilian, which you may have surmised from his chosen pseudonym. It was no accident, that, though he hasn’t worn a ponytail since his days as a capoeira instructor when he used it as a weapon.

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We talked about music – he turned me on to salsa and water drumming; I turned him on to the Chili Peppers and LL Cool J. And he spoke of his wandering eye, his philandering ways, hence why he’d chosen this life over settling down and having a passel of lizardlets. I swear I saw a glint in his eye, the tiniest scintillating hint of a tear, but he dismissed it as a shimmering scale left behind from his last meal. I let it go. A lizard man has his pride.

~

It’s been nigh on a month since last we met. I’ve all but given up on the nightly lighting ritual. Try as I might, I can’t help but think the worst.

Eduardo is most certainly floating face-down in the Mediterranean Sea, subsequent to being shot when he had a change of heart in the midst of an assassination attempt. I can only hope that some gruff but kindly fisherman will happen upon Eduardo and rescue him before he freezes to death.

But until I know for sure, I’ll leave the light on.