If You Give a Squirrel a Walnut, He’ll Probably Bring His Friends

My dad gets along with everyone. He’s a gabby, gracious, and attentive hugger of a guy. However, my dad has one known mortal enemy. Squirrels.

Growing up, the household would move about peacefully to a soundtrack of 50’s and 60’s music. Mom was singing in the kitchen, my siblings were riding bikes around the neighborhood. I was playing orphan or typing adventure stories on my mom’s old typewriter when suddenly – BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! My father would be pounding on the dining room window to scare away whatever squirrel had scurried its way up to our birdfeeder. Sometimes he would camp out on a chair crouched behind a potted fig tree and some African violets and wait for the squirrels to skip across the tree branches. He’d wait until they were on the tip of the branches closest to the feeder, biting his nails in anticipation, and as soon as they’d leap for the feeder – BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! The squirrel would go somersaulting in the air, and scamper away frightened out of its wits.

Much to my mother’s dismay, my dad started setting live traps in the yard luring the pesky squirrels in with promises of walnuts and peanut butter bread he himself had taken bites out of. The problem with the live traps was that squirrels weren’t the only ones who liked walnuts and half eaten peanut butter bread. Birds and rabbits did too. My mother, haunted by a mean rooster on her family’s childhood farm, refused to deal with the live traps when one of the less fortunate animals was inside. That job was left for me. I’d get home from school and mom would plead with me to please go outside and free the starling stuck in dad’s trap. As I walked around the house toward the cage, the bird would start panicking. Now, I wanted to free the animal, but it involved moving a latch that was right next to the cage portion, and for those of you familiar with starlings, they’re rather predatory and aggressive birds. The bird’s wings would start flapping uncontrollably and its beak would come jutting out at my hand. Eventually, I’d get the metal flap of the opening to slide up and the bird would come shooting out like a rocket.

On days when the trap served its purpose and Dad caught an actual squirrel, he’d pick up the cage and load it into the back of the station wagon. He’d drive out to the woods in the farmland area known as Hebron, occasionally starting wars with my grandfather and uncle, releasing the squirrels on their property to spite them and go after their feeders.

Convinced the squirrels were finding their way back to our house somehow, Dad took the squirrel wars to a new level. He and my brother took to staking out in our shed with BB guns and firing at any squirrel who dared steal birdseed from his feeder. My brother would come in the house and regale the family with the impressive tale of how he shot a squirrel in the butt! For those of you picturing a backwoods house in the country, let me set the scene straight for you. Our house was on the corner of the busiest street in town, and generally we were a respected family with a large garden who kept the grass mowed.

I’m afraid my father’s influence took a heightened level in my brother’s actions when we discovered one day that a muskrat was burrowing under the family pool. My dad was worried the varmint would chew through the lining of the pool, and Lake Witkins, as grand as it sounded, didn’t belong in our backyard. Convinced he would save the day, my brother and a friend staked out from the deck one afternoon and completed the mission: the muskrat was killed. But this was in late fall, and neither boy had sharp, gnarly muskrat teeth to burrow with, and the ground was too frozen to bury the animal, so he put the ugly creature in a big white bucket, pooling blood and all, set it in the garage and left.

My mother was informed the muskrat was now resting in peace, and had told my dad to get rid of the thing and thought he had. She then entered the garage and noticed a big white bucket. The next thing my mother will tell you about is that she sprained her ankle and tore a few ligaments after twisting to get away in a horrified moment of panic. My poor mother crawled her way up the steps to our house and through the kitchen to get to a phone where she could finally call for help. I don’t believe my brother was allowed to help dad with the animal wars ever again.

Recently, on a trip home to see my family, my sister brought over a book from the library she was reading to her two year old daughter. The book was titled, Those Darn Squirrels and I was tickled to present a dramatic reading of the tale to my father. Then, we went page by page and counted the similarities between Old Man Fookwire and my father. We also taught my niece to shake her fist at grandpa and say “Those Darn Squirrels!” Dad may not have bought lasers and trapeze equipment like Old Man Fookwire, but spring is coming, and if you give a squirrel a walnut, he’ll probably invite his friends.

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31 responses

  1. Your Dad and my Dad – are they the same man? 🙂

    1. I have some crazy uncles too, are we related?

  2. Thanks for my morning giggle, Jess!

    My dad doesn’t like squirrels either (we have an ongoing battle with them with our bird feeders). However, he’s more concerned about the deer. My dad rarely yells…but he yells at the deer! My kids find it quite entertaining to watch Grandad holler and wave his arms as he shoos the deer out of our yard…

    Wendy

    1. You should tell him Hope’s trick about singing “Friday.” 😀

  3. Ah, you gotta love nature. I’ve watched people do some pretty crazy, and dangerous, things to “protect” their property. It’s all very amusing to me. I once watched someone set the tree in front of their house on fire because they saw some ants living in it and didn’t want the ants to get into their home. So they poured kerosene or some such substance on the tree and lit the match. What do you think happened? The ants, who were minding their own business in the tree, started to flee. And where did they head? For the house. Laughed my ass off as the group of men who had gathered around had to swat at the growing flames. “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” 😉

    1. What I want to know is how you were able to witness that and not have to step in and fight flames. What fortress were you hiding behind, or does your Benefactor costume make you invisible?

  4. You know who would be horrified by all this? The Captain and Tenille.

    Also, I have been known to chase a few squirrels away from my bird feeder, too (though I haven’t gone to the same extremes as your dad). In fact, I once got into a philosophical argument about squirrels with a woman I was dating: she thought they were cute, and I thought they belonged in the stewpot. We never did see eye to eye and broke up soon after. Not over the squirrels, but because she was a raving lunatic. That’s neither here nor there, though…

    1. The Captain and Tennille??? Wasn’t that Muskrat Love? ROFL.

      1. Yes…the muskrat in a pool of blood in the bucket…{shiver.} Probably would have given that classic 70s duo nightmares for a month!

    2. So, does my dad still frighten you, or do you now feel a sort of kinship?

      1. A little bit of both, actually. 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing a very funny post. I have images in my mind of cartoon-like ongoing battles between man and squirrel.

    My husband used to get upset when a couple of squirrels got into our bird feeder. I’d stick up for the squirrels, but he’d have none of it. He’d reply back that the squirrels would eat all the seed and leave the birds nothing. It was funny to watch him fume at the squirrel and chase it away.

    1. I just found a box set of notecards with squirrel photos on the covers, would you like me order another box for your husband? 😉

      1. My husband, the squirrel chaser, is deceased, and I remarried. I’ve been married to my present husband 14 years. Thank you for the suggestion. 😉

  6. I wonder if your grandfather and uncle were re-capturing the squirrels your father was releasing on their property and bringing them back to his. Maybe it was their own inadvertent recycling program.

    Here’s another well written squirrel tale by someone at the other extreme:

    http://shoreacres.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/a-taste-of-dandelion-wine/

    Jess, your storytelling skills continue to soar. I loved this post.

    1. You know, I wouldn’t put it past them, but I also have no proof.

  7. Lol. Great post. And I love your writing.

    Your dad’s squirrel wars remind me of Jeff Foxworthy joking about sitting on his back porch with a shotgun and night vision goggles.

    I cracked up to read about how it was your job to free the innocent animals. Reminds me of something I did with my son when he was a toddler. Our back yard was full of garder snakes. I’m terrified of snakes. I knew they wouldn’t hurt my son so I would send him out to run around the yard and scare them away before I would step off the porch. Glad I’m not the only mom who uses her kids that way. 🙂

    Adding you to my blog roll and looking forward to more.

    1. Coming from the pale writer of the apocalypse, that’s quite an honor! Thank you! Now, please stop scarring your children for life. 😉

  8. I’m the outlier in these matters, of course – but I’ve known your Dad, in a hundred different forms. It’s a good thing he never saw the video of the squirrel slingshot. Go to youtube and search for any combination of squirrel, slingshot, catapult or launcher and it will all become clear!

    I can’t really say too much about your Dad. I love my squirrels, but if you could see me trying to deal with the pigeons that come to my bird feeders – well. Glass pounding doesn’t work very well for them, either!

    Thanks for coming by and comparing stories!

    1. I’m so sharing your story about the mesquite bean intoxicated squirrel with my dad!

  9. Spot the girl who grew up on a farm (me) who thought the BANGs in your story were a rifle.

    I quickly learned the hierarchy of squirrels on our farm: red squirrels good, gray squirrels bad (chew holes in wood graneries – thankfully, we transitioned to steel bins).

    A great memory, Jess, well told.

    Leanne

    1. I had the same initial reaction, and I grew up in the city. I guess the gun part still applies.

      Great post, Jess! Very funny!

    2. Something tells me you could write a pretty good letter from this tale, up to you if it’s addressed to the squirrel or my father. Just a suggestion for when you can’t think of anything to blog about and want to bring down your number of subscribers and blame it on bad advice from me. lol. Glad I could bring a laugh in return, Hack!

    3. Why that hierarchy makes perfect sense to me! Redheads are wonderful! Around these parts I advise against campus squirrels, they get mean and territorial around public garbage cans at the university here. Eek!

  10. If you want them to disappear, eat them. I mean, look at it this way. We’ve hunted some ancient fish for caviars into extinction. We even ate turtle eggs into becoming an endangered species. Lastly, we’ve people are complaining about how we create pollution when the food we eat is delivered from far away. Eating squirrels solve your pest control and even give you food that’s so close it’s actually environmentally friendly. Plus, it would be good to taste a new delicacy that could not be found anywhere else. 😀

    1. Send your recipe to:…. No, I don’t think I could do it.

  11. I was laughing out loud at this one! The things I am learning about your family!!! I love it!

    1. Somehow this was another example of family fun time that my sister managed to escape. Dang it stinks being the youngest!

  12. […] the zoo, I’ve noted the time he buried me in a snowbank and left me, and about his ongoing war with rodent control, but those stories have left most of you wondering how I managed to survive in a such a household […]

  13. […] My Dad!  Apparently blogging about my dad is a big hit.  Readers can’t get enough of Saying I Love You, Whoever You Are, Audio Tracked Peacock Noises, and If You Give a Squirrel a Walnut… […]

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