WART, by the little yew tree, enjoying a peanut
My husband, Chris, has never been fond of squirrels. They got into the attic of a long-ago house and had to be forcibly evicted. They dug up bulbs that I'd spent "his" money on; they bit the lovely heads off the few tulips that managed to escape notice of those earlier marauders. They attacked the bird feeders and gobbled sunflower seeds as if we'd cornered the market and had an inexhaustible supply. I've tried hot pepper spray and even predator urine, but our squirrels remain undeterred, perhaps because the yard has some truly hospitable broken-down fifty foot maple trees which make perfect nesting sites. Occasionally, Chris plugged the bolder "tree rats", but we live in a suburbanizing area, and outright, All-American murder is no longer an option.
Strange things happen to people as they age, and thereby hangs the tale. An odd looking squirrel with a sparse, chewed-on tail and a lump on his/her face began to accost him when he went out, running around his feet and then pausing and holding up clever bony hands, pleading like a beggar. We had some shell peanuts left from winter, so he went back into the house and fetched them out. The squirrel was pleased and scampered off to enjoy his hand-out. Further, the little rodent was smart, because the very next day there he was again, begging for more peanuts. He also seemed to be able to avoid the attention of Bob, whose stray cat years had taught him that squirrel--especially the
B-r-a-i-n-sssss--could be mighty good eats.
I hadn't been paying too much attention to all this until one day a fresh bag of shell peanuts appeared in the back room after he'd made a solo trip to the grocery store.
"Who did you buy those for?" I asked, because neither of us, in our decaying state, can eat many.
"Well--uh--they're for Wart."
"Yes. The beggar squirrel."
"You've named it?"
"Yeah. 'Wart' because of his face."
Every day now, Wart holds us up for tribute, extending his bony little hands, and risking death-by-Bob as he, apparently heedless, crosses the patio right under the cat's nose. We've also acquired another squirrel (maybe more than one; it's tough to tell squirrels apart) who are all referred to by the blanket name of "Not Wart." This isn't the best name, in the grand scheme of things, however, because sometimes you find yourself saying things like "That was not Not Wart."
Anyhow, age has taken it's toll. I guess our definition of "family" has extended to include even the "tree rats."
My historical novels