Million mile march of the red squirrels

Sharon Kennedy

April is here and it’s time to take down birdfeeders before they attract bears, but I wanted to share this story with you while 5 inches of fresh snow remains in my yard.

For years the red squirrels have outsmarted me. No matter how hard I tried to outwit them, they always managed to cling to a birdfeeder. I tried everything. I bought tiny feeders the size of a baseball, convinced they would hold no attraction for the squirrels, but I was wrong. They didn’t care if they had to hang upside down or twist inside out, they always managed to devour the seeds meant for chickadees.

Over the years I’ve invested a small fortune in feeders guaranteed to discourage and deter squirrels. I should have spent the money on a trip to Alcatraz for all the good it did me. Regardless of the size or shape, squirrels found a way to gobble up the seeds and chase away the birds.

Every year I vow not to spend another cent on bird seed. I don’t mind buying suet because the squirrels don’t eat it, and I get the good stuff. Real beef fat from Four Seasons Market in Brimley not the prepackaged squares that last forever. But every year I cave in when I see chickadees and nuthatches looking for a free meal and this year was no different. I drove to Tractor Supply and loaded the back of my vehicle with oiled sunflower seeds.

For most of the winter only a few red squirrels showed up, but word got around and one February morning I awoke to the sound of a family chattering outside my bedroom window. My lonely squirrels had invited their entire clans to join them. The chickadees didn’t stand a chance. Sparrows and finches didn’t bother to show up. I finally had to admit I was beaten. To save myself a mountain of stress, it was time to put the feeders in the garage and call it quits.

My solution lasted only a few hours. I felt sorry for the chickadees as they landed on familiar limbs looking for their breakfast. I put out another chunk of suet and that gesture temporarily eased my guilt, but I knew I had to do more. Where could I hang the feeders so the squirrels couldn’t reach them? Nowhere, as far as I could figure. Then out of the blue a brilliant idea struck. What about my clothesline?

Immediately I filled a feeder, found a short bungee cord and two clothespins. I tramped out to the clothesline hung between two cedar poles. I wrapped the bungee around the feeder’s chain and then around the line, secured it with the pins and presto, problem solved.

Although the squirrels could run up the poles, they couldn’t walk the tightrope clothesline. No trees were close enough for them to fly through the air like the man on the flying trapeze so there was no way for them to reach their goal. The line was too high for jumping, and they didn’t know how to form a squirrel pyramid. They weren’t strong enough to drag the ladder from the garage and lean it against the feeder.

Ah, the sweet success I felt at outsmarting them. The next day I hung another feeder and watched as chickadees zoomed in. Sunflower seeds last a lot longer when they’re not raided by squirrels. When I look out my kitchen window I miss seeing all the activity because the clothesline is a good distance away, but I’m content knowing chickadees, nuthatches and sparrows will have plenty to eat as winter winds down.

The answer to my dilemma was there all along, staring me straight in the face. Every day as I walked past the clothesline to scatter cracked corn for my partridges I saw that line, but I didn’t see it as a solution. Now my only worry is the Million Mile March of the Red Squirrels as they plot their revenge. If you don’t hear from me, you’ll know I’m recovering from their attack. I can see it in my mind. A million red squirrels convening in my backyard, each complaining their food source has disappeared and each suggesting how they can force me to put feeders within their reach.

They also know the seeds are kept in the garage, the same place where they’ve chewed the lining from old rubber boots and the shelves of an even older pie safe. They’ve knocked various items to the floor. I’m tired of sweeping broken pieces of crockery. I’m tired of finding seeds in every corner of the building or underneath the glove box in my car. And I’m really tired of squirrels tearing insulation from the garage walls and dragging it into my cupboards then chewing the very cupboard shelves they’ve chosen for their winter lodging.

Perhaps next year they’ll feast in someone else’s yard and make their home in a neighbor’s garage. I hope so. Although I’m not averse to shooting a porcupine as it chews my porch steps, my aim is too poor to bring down a squirrel. I know some folks are horrified at the thought of shooting friendly little red squirrels. I would be too, if I didn’t know how destructive they are. So if anyone is feeling sorry for these pests, feel free to drive over and take them home. No questions asked.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.