November 2014: The saga of Harold

I  live in the boondocks just north of where the Clampetts lived before Jed discovered oil and moved to Beverly Hills. This means our country squirrels are a tough bunch of bobos. City squirrels live in parks and people’s back yards. They eat potato chip crumbs, pieces salvaged from folks’ sandwiches, popcorn and are even fed dried corn by humans. These are Beamer squirrels; life is sweet and abundant right up to the point when their furry buttocks get run over by a real Beamer.

Boondock squirrels scrabble for everything they get. Long hours on the prowl looking for a seed, a nut or a scrawny tree leaf bud to eat. F250 four-wheel drive pick-up truck squirrels, they’re fast, tough, built to last. Harold One-Eye is one of them.

I met Harold One-Eye last year. He came to my hanging, 6-feet off the ground, impregnable, indestructible and guaranteed bear-proof bird feeder to launch a raid. And succeeded. Really, it was a thing of beauty how he scaled the concrete blocks of my house like a tiny little rock climber ascending El Capitan. Ingenious how he pulled himself onto the rusting remains of a flower pot holder screwed onto the building and went another two vertical feet up the window screen. Inspirational when, upside down, still six horizontal feet from the feeder, he began moving to the music of his inner soul and flung himself into space. He ate, he left and he came again.

But it was while on the window screen that I noticed he had only one good eye. I felt sorry for him, so I kinda, sorta cut him some slack. And of course, he became annoying. I admired him, yes, but he exhibited entitled behavior. He’d linger at the window and if the feeder wasn’t full, give me the tilted head, one-eyed, expectant “Well?” look. So I deployed my anti-squirrel countermeasures. These were marginal and inconsistent because there’s just so many times I can stick my head out the window and bark like a dog trying to scare a squirrel away. And Harold knew that.
Eventually, we came to an understanding. Harold ate only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and I wouldn’t chase him round the yard . . . with a stick . . . barking.

But about a month ago, Harold began chewing his way through my front door. It’s wood, it’s old, it’s delaminating. He crunches loudly. We can hear him. My cats couldn’t care less; they talk to Harold through the window screen. I suspect they’re encouraging him so they can have an actual play toy that moves on its own, at least for a little while.

This breach of the peace accord, however, has resulted in war and a new set of tactics: fear, revulsion, and fortification. I hear gnawing, I sneak up to the door, jerk it open and scream at Harold; sometimes, I also chase him—FEAR! REVULSION is a stinky bleach and water solution sprayed along the bottom of the door. FORTIFICATION? Sanding and repainting the door because of the bleach solution. Then back to revulsion with Bitter Apple Spray, “a taste deterrent” to stop bad animal behavior. Could be another revulsion with puree’d stink bugs … not sure yet.

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