The perseverance of squirrels
To be fair, I’ve never heard a squirrel described as anything but nuts, if you’ll forgive the bad pun. But you’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that these squirrels are particularly crazy.
I spend an inordinate amount of time watching their antics. My squirrel observations began this summer, when I would curl up on our porch swing with a book in the humid afternoons. The squirrels hurried down the tree trunks, scampered across the lawn—stopping, occasionally, to dig up a nut another squirrel had just buried—and then they came sniffing onto the porch. The moment one caught sight of me, it made a startled leap and flew back across the lawn and up the tree, chattering down at me from a distant branch. I was smitten.
As the days have gotten colder, I’ve traded time on the porch for watching my squirrels through the front window. We have a simple bird feeder that hangs on the front edge of the porch, and the squirrels delight in prowling beneath it, sniffing out sunflower seeds that the birds have dropped from above. When I’m feeling generous (and in need of entertainment), I leave a dried corn cob on the swing and wait for the squirrels to find it. In the winter, they’ve become fat little Buddhas, rocking back on their haunches and sucking down corn kernels as fast as they can.
In recent months, their hunger has turned to greed. I’ve watched several squirrels shimmy up the chains of our porch swing, gazing longingly at the bird feeder. It hangs a tantalizing few inches out of reach, and there’s not much to grab. I’ve waited, curious, as one squirrel after another has tried every possible approach. They’ve climbed up and down the chain. They’ve put two paws on the ceiling, only to determine, apparently, that they are incapable of clinging to the ceiling upside-down. I even watched one wrap its hind legs around the chain and strain the rest of its body toward the feeder, to no avail. I thought they were defeated.
And then I saw one jump.
It happened just out of view; I was only vaguely aware of a flying gray mass and a violently rocking bird feeder. But I knew what had happened. I raced to the window, terrified by the scene I was sure to see. But instead of a flattened carcass, there was the squirrel, sniffing around the forgotten sunflower seeds like nothing had ever happened. He didn’t even look embarrassed by his failed attempt.
Several more squirrels have made the leap since then. Not a single one has managed to grab hold of that feeder, but none seems worse for the wear. Each jump has been more spectacular than the last; the squirrel I watched today was all flailing limbs and contorted torso, and he wrapped his arms around the feeder with such determination that I was sure he would be the one to make it. He didn’t. Like the others, though, he was rewarded with a little bit of spilled seed for his efforts, and he happily scurried beneath the feeder. I have a hunch he’ll give it another go before long.
One of these days, one of those furry little critters is going to take a deep breath, throw himself off of the porch swing chain and find, to his great delight, that he is clinging to a fully stocked bird feeder. It will be a proud day. I’m sure the other squirrels will hail him as a hero, and he’ll tell and re-tell the story of his successful leap into gluttony.
Until then, they’ll all just keep jumping.
Author’s note: The above represents a gross anthropomorphization of the behavior of squirrels, and should in no way be read as an example of scientific observation.