A Modest Victory In the Bird-Feeder Battle

Ah, the thrill of victory. My losing streak is over. Sure, a 1-to-37 record is nothing to shout about, but hey, it's not easy to beat squirrels.

They got on the scoreboard first when they launched early-morning bombing runs on our roof, dropping fir cones from high in the surrounding trees. How squirrels learned about smart bombs, I'll never know, but most of the cones smashed onto the roof right above our bedroom.

That was just the beginning. I spent several days spreading bark chips so neatly that it looked as if Martha Stewart had been our gardener.

The morning after I had finished the job, I awoke to find that the squirrels had installed an 18-hole golf course.

I filled in the holes.

But not only did each day bring a new golf-course layout, but a clubhouse soon appeared. A pink clubhouse. Made out of our insulation.

I could tell from their cocky chatter that the squirrels thought they were unstoppable. And they were.

Until today.

Carrying my lunch to the kitchen table, I noticed a squirrel looking up at our bird feeder. It hangs six feet off the ground at the top of a question-mark-shaped pole.

"There's no way you'll get up there, chump!" I yelled. "It's squirrel-proof!" I sat down and read the newspaper as I ate, until my squirrel radar picked up a troubling signal.

I looked up to see a sinister gray figure rifling the feeder.

"What!?" I exclaimed and, armed only with a banana, headed out the back door.

"How did you get up there?" I said as I approached the feeder. "Don't tell me you're a flying squirrel!"

The squirrel stuffed its cheeks full of sunflower seeds and leaped to the ground before scurrying up a nearby fir tree. Soon, sunflower husks began to dribble out of the branches above me.

"Don't even think about trying it again, Rocky," I yelled, brandishing the banana. "I'm armed and considered dangerous!"

I went back into the house to finish my lunch. I didn't expect the squirrel to call my bluff, so I ate my weapon.

A big mistake.

He was back for seconds in no time. Unarmed, I hurried outside, and once again Rocky became a gray blur going up the fir tree.

"I've got to see how he does it," I said as I returned to the house. This time, I stood by the window. No sooner had the shower of husks ended than that squirrel was down the tree and heading for the seed buffet.

With a running start, he leapt onto the pole and began his ascent. I stared in amazement as he made his way up five feet of smooth, aluminum, squirrel-proof pole. Was he wearing crampons? He reached the feeder and dug in.

The squirrel was up the pole, and I was up the creek. But just as I was about to give up, I was struck by one of those critical insights that truly distinguish man from squirrel.

Chemicals, I thought. When in doubt, use chemicals.

I rushed into the bathroom and emerged with the equalizer: Vaseline.

Eager to put my idea to work, I got to the feeder almost as fast as Rocky had left it.

"Your criminal career is over now," I yelled as I slathered Vaseline on the pole.

BACK in the house, I hoped that squirrel was still hungry. He was.

His running leap put him two feet up the pole, but that was his high-water mark. My spirits soared as Rocky slid down the pole. When he reached the ground, he rubbed his paws in the dirt to try to remove the Vaseline.

"Leave it on!" I yelled from inside the house. "It'll make your paws soft!"

The squirrel ignored me. He finished cleaning himself and then tried again. And again.

After his third attempt, he called it quits and headed up the fir tree. The Battle of the Bird Feeder was over. Man had triumphed over beast.

A stirring victory like this required a celebration. I grabbed a root beer out of the refrigerator and began a toast. "To Vaseline and to those who battle ..."

Wham! A fir cone crashed onto the roof.

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