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The squirrel and the nut

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Black dirt covered both hands and sweat ran down my face as I admired the garden that took all winter to plan and three weeks to build. That’s when I first heard it, a scratching noise from above that sounded like fingernails on metal.

Thinking it was simply my imagination, I proudly snapped a picture of my handiwork, I started cleaning up tools, looking forward to a shower and a celebratory dinner out with the wife.

I heard the scratching noise again.

Sure it wasn’t my imagination this time; I followed the noise around to the front steps, paused to listen, and looked up just in time. A gray fuzzy head popped out from a hole in the gutter guard, took one look at me and made a chattering sound just like laughter. Quickly it scampered up, over the roof and out of sight.
I dropped my tools on the sidewalk.

That’s when a second fuzzy head popped out, scampered up and over the roof. Dad had warned me about the damage the fuzzy-tailed rats could cause, and how difficult it was to get rid of them – especially if they ever get into your attic. Already tired from gardening, I hollered, “Squirrels, we got squirrels.”

It was an infestation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love woodland creatures – as long as they stay in the woods and not in my attic or gutters. Once inside, they become unwanted house guests and have to be eradicated ... I mean, gently caught and released back into the wild.

Starting at the front of the house, I climbed my ladder, looked under the gutter guard for additional squirrels then moved down five feet. This worked until I got to the two-story side of the house and needed a longer ladder.

Scratching noises taunted me again.

What to do about a two-story house and a one-story ladder? I recalled that the neighbor said we could borrow his 40-foot ladder anytime we needed it.

Being a firefighter, I know to carry a 40-foot ladder you need four firefighters. Not seeing the other three, I decided to carry it myself.

Halfway back to my yard, I found out why it’s called a four-person ladder. That thing is really heavy. I struggled for 20 minutes, but finally set the ladder up on the far back corner of the house. Just as the ladder touched the corner, the scratching started again.

This time it sounded directly above me.

Armed with a stick in hand to beat off the fuzzy varmint if attacked, I slowly climbed until even with the gutter. I got really close, lifted the gutter guard, and peered in.
Looking back over my life, I’ve done some rather stupid stuff. Being atop a 40-foot ladder, with a stick in one hand and a gutter guard with the other, now ranks near the top.
Yep, you guessed it: I found the nest.
Suddenly, I was nose to nose with a fuzzy face.

The baby squirrel jumped out at me, I slid down the ladder 10 feet before stopping, clinging to it to catch my breath. There was chattering laughter from above.
This was a war I was determined to win. I regained my perch and eased across the gutter five feet at a time; peeling back gutter guards, climbing back down and repeating – all the time hearing scratching noises and laughter coming from inside the gutter.

I chased that baby squirrel all the way around to the original opening at the front of the house. After two hours I could taste victory.

Or so I thought.

Exhausted, I sat on the front steps. The scratching nose came again, only this time it was right next to me. Seems baby didn’t pop out of the hole and run up the roof to regroup with mom and dad after all. It had gone the other way and fallen down the down spout and was stuck in a curve.

Now it was crying.

A sucker for crying baby fuzzy faces, I retrieved some tools and took apart the gutter where it bent around the steps. As expected, the little gray fuzzy face popped out, chattered a thank you, and scampered away.

Satisfied the woodland creature was safely out of my gutters for good, I sat on the steps and leaned back. That’s when baby brother dropped out of the gutter and clawed its way down my back on his way to find his family.

Things I’ve learned from my battle with the squirrels: first, don’t move an extended 40-foot ladder. On a windy day it will turn into a 40-foot metal kite.

Second, mom and dad squirrels have babies and they usually are twins.

And finally, the chattering you hear in the trees are indeed squirrels actually laughing at you. Need proof?

Three days after the great squirrel eviction, my tomato plants were chewed down to the ground. Looking at the carnage in disbelief I heard the now ever so familiar chattering of an entire family of gray fuzzy faces laughing. Seems squirrels do have a sense of humor after all.

And will win against a nut every time.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for over 26 years and a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is saferick@bellsouth.net. His book is available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]

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