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TideWriters Tales
Wild Life
By Jean C. Keating

     The original cause of the conflict was my procrastination. But this is the colonial capital of Virginia after all and should be urbane, civilized, and well—somewhat long removed from woods teeming with Native Americans and conflicts with wild animals.

     I knew the underside of the roof’s overhang was wood damaged and rotted—But handymen are hard to come by in this quiet little town. And you certainly don’t expect me to climb up on a ladder to fix a second-story overhang! 

     So by the time I belatedly got someone out to repair the problem, an enterprising squirrel had widened the rotted opening and moved her nest into the protected space against my roof line. She had little ones in the nest and was not amused to see a human head near its opening.  I compassionately directed the handyman to leave the problem alone until babies and mother were finished with their chosen nest. Well, actually, compassion had less to do with it than the fact that said handyman wasn’t about to deal with Bushey-the-Lion-Hearted anyway.

     In due course, baby squirrels grew into juveniles and left the nest, Bushy evacuated the site, and I had the wooden undersides of the roof’s overhang replaced with metal sheets. I figured the turf battle was over.
The following year, my early morning slumber was often disturbed by the sound of tiny but determined feet scratching at the metal sheet of the overhang. Boy, did that squirrel have an attitude. Of course, I can’t say for certain that it was the same female squirrel, since the multitude of the bushy tailed critters who sleep in my bird feeders and tease my dogs all look like identical babies produced by in vitro fertilization. The racket went on for weeks, and I was wondering if I would ever regain that prized reward of retirement of being able to sleep as late as the dogs will let me. When it stopped, I figured that Ms. Bushey had reluctantly found another nesting site! Wrong! 

     Several evenings later, I returned home to discover small pieces of wood scattered in my front walk and yard. A little detective work determined that the wood pieces were from the window sills on the two windows on the second floor of the front of my house. As the week progressed, my determined squirrel mother became bolder, more frantic, and a lot more vocal. It seemed that she had decided the metal under hang was impregnable and had decided to dig in from the front. She took to scolding me each time I went out my front door, and complaining to any human guest who came to visit about my failings as a landlord.

     I repaired the front window frames—okay! I had it done by someone else. I’m still not getting up on that ladder. 

     Bushy destroyed the new window sills in less than two days. In desperation I called the city about the best way to hang a live trap from the near non-existent window ledge. Between snickers of laughter, the animal control officer told me that live trapping wouldn’t work but that the office would issue a ‘kill order’ for the squirrel. I did mention that this was the Colonial capital of Virginia. You can’t kill a squirrel without permission. But just how do you get the right squirrel? What do you use for a description of a single squirrel that distinguishes it from the other fifty or so cousins who have the manners to make their homes in the trees of the property on which I pay taxes but they claim ownership!

     A more lengthy conversation with animal control finally elicited the suggestion that a heavy coating of cyan pepper on the sill might just be the trick for discouraging my determined wanna-be tenant. In due course a thick, pungent, red mixture was thickly applied to another replacement of the window sills. The handyman’s face matched the color of the window’s frame by the time he was finished.

     Ms. Bushy-the-Lion-Hearted finally gave up and went somewhere else for her nesting behavior. Now I just need to deal with the neighbors who claim that walking past my house when the wind is blowing gives them burning eyes and sneezes. And, I seem to need another handyman. The last one is too busy elsewhere to do any more work at my house. 

© 2004 Jean Keating All Rights Reserved Jean Keating can be reached at 

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