November 15th, 2018
I once played a squirrel in a school play, in fifth grade. Nutty the Squirrel. I would say that you would recall it, but I don’t think you made that performance. The show was “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” an operetta written in 1938. It was released a year after the Disney film, and, as I recall, was trying hard to cash in on Disney’s version without paying them royalties. Hence the inclusion of my role as a furry animal companion not in the Brothers Grimm original.
I remember auditioning for the part, in the same ballroom at Glenelg Country School where Renee and I later held our wedding reception. I don’t know if the gray sweats and bushy tail I wore as Nutty would elicit as much comment today as the white tux I wore to the wedding, but I do recall being asked why I thought I would make a good squirrel. I believe I said I was small and cute like a squirrel.
Yeah. It wasn’t an easy childhood.
43 years later, I am here to state that squirrels are not cute, and their impact on people’s lives and property is not small. (Probably the same was true of me at age ten.) A few years ago, I started hearing squirrels, nosing around in our attic. It’s an old house, it’s wood, it’s probably easy for them to get into. Usually, if I popped the hatch on the attic, played some music, shone a droplight up there, they left. One Spring they stopped leaving and settled in. I believe I heard furniture being moved and a homeowner’s association meeting being held.
I called an exterminator. By the time she had come to inspect, they had destroyed our overhead air conditioning ducts, fouled all the attic insulation, chewed through electrical wires and left multiple holes in the eaves of the house. It cost over $10,000 to get the damage mitigated. The upside was that I now had better insulation up there and got a tax credit.
Yeah. Squirrels are not cute.
Of course, when I was ten, I was scandalized that anyone would harm a squirrel. My grandfather, your father-in-law, “dearly loved to go squirrel hunting,” according to Mother. At ten, I wondered how this gentle, kind man that I loved so much could shoot these harmless creatures.
Now I know. Squirrels aren’t cute.
Mother told me about the squirrel-hunting, as I recall, because I was developing a passionate hatred of hunters. Kids in America (and probably Europe as well) tend to be programmed that way if they don’t live in rural areas. I did live in a rural area, but only semi. And, of course, classic stories like Peter and the Wolf did not always paint the nicest picture of hunters.
You didn’t hunt. Indeed, hunters were one of your nemeses in the house on Simpson Road. We were bordered on three sides by empty fields (those days are gone!), and hunters loved to come and shoot in them—with or without permission. Nor did they care if they strayed close to a lone house. I recall days when shotgun shells impacted the brick walls of the house.
You posted “No Hunting” signs on our property. You accosted hunters who came near, and told them there was an occupied house nearby, with children in it. At one point, so you told me, you wrestled a shotgun away from a hunter who got belligerent and pointed it at you. I suspect, if the story is true, that he broke the rule of guns that said one should never point a gun at something or someone one did not intend to shoot.
Back to squirrels, though. Your house was never troubled by them. I don’t even remember seeing them around, until I had moved out. Then I remember the black squirrels moving in, and Mother being disturbed by their appearance. I told her not to be a rodent racist. Apparently, the black squirrels were bred at one of the University of Maryland’s agricultural extensions and have since dispersed. I don’t know if that’s fact or rumor.
One of the reasons you had no squirrel issues is that you didn’t tolerate trees or shrubs near the house. Actually, I think you intended to have small shrubs, but you just never got to the point of planting them. We had some Azaleas for a while. They’re long dead. I believe I had the honor of removing their corpses. Without trees to leap from, Squirrels aren’t as tempted by a house, I suppose. And your electrical lines are buried, so they can’t run along those. My house has (had) a tall tree nearby, and overhead electrical lines. Easy squirrel access.
The squirrels are trying to come back this winter. I heard one inside the other day. More than one, actually, because the noise they were making was the sound of a squirrel activity that takes two. I’ll leave it at that. Renee didn’t believe me, but I was able to play her a YouTube video of squirrels in heat, and that was the sound.
The exterminator has been back and has sealed new holes. He did that midday on a nice day, so that he didn’t trap squirrels inside. A day later, I caught a squirrel pulling on a half-removed piece of hardware cloth and asked him to vacate the premises per the posted eviction notice. He left, but, the day after that, the hardware cloth was on the ground.
The exterminator has been back, but without a ladder (!?) and is now promising to come back next week. In the meantime, my Amazon Echo Tap is hanging in the shower stall, under the opening the squirrels have made in the attic, blaring heavy metal music.
Apparently, squirrels are fans of Baroque. They have not come back.
But they’re still not cute.