by David Wright
It started a week ago. There on the ground in the middle of the garden lay the foliage of a number of dismembered beets. The untouched leaves were systematically cast aside, and the small juvenile roots had been consumed, completely gone. A number of the adult beets were also pulled but only randomly marked by teeth.
In the world of garden thievery, this was a mystery never confronted by a backyard gardener of my stature. It was an insult to my experience. I immediately rounded up all the remaining adult beets and left the juvenile tenderlings to see if they could come out the other side, for now they were just too small to make even a miniature borsch.
In the morning (OK, late morning, because I do not do my walk-about until the crack of 10), most of the remaining youngster beets had all been decapitated, strewn about in a morbid fashion. Death was swift.
Angered but not totally distraught, I stood pouting in the middle of the garden when to my left a very large gray squirrel sauntered into the garden, not unusual and not a woodchuck or a ravenous raccoon. He (I assume it was a he because of the arrogant confidence and politician-like strut), nosed about. Without paying any attention to me, much like some politicians ignore the unwashed masses, he leaped over my ineffective chicken-wire fence and headed for the last remaining terrified young beets. At the sound of his first chomp, I yelled, “Get the hell out here!”
What? Why not walnuts, maple seeds, or acorns? For a brief moment of reflection, I assumed he left the larger beets because he knew it would turn his excrement all red, which would have scared the hell out of him. He certainly, like humans, would have thought he was dying.
At least I knew the culprit and had salvaged half the crop. Was it climate change, poor nut harvest, maybe diseased acorns, or just bad parenting?
The next day, two corn stalks had been scaled and the ears partially ravaged, with bits of husks scattered and hanging. Now wait a minute. This was no masked marauder who knows the minute the corn ripens and then, in a family adventure, plows through the patch flattening, then force feeding on the full tonnage of the crop in one night. This was not the woodcharles, who in glee, eats everything until morbid obesity sets in. This was the same squirrel now moving to a new source of culinary pleasure. One would think a nice 11-pound rutabaga (of which I seem to have way too many) would be more interesting and less work, but no!
I finally checked the Internet. Under “Pillage and Plunder” in the omnivore section, it seemed possible to me there might be an enterprising raccoon who set up a website for rodents of all sorts to learn covert garden plundering operations, sort of a black ops configuration.
Here on this ill-advised site, I imagined, a toothy opportunist could learn pilfering skills outside their own genetic package. Successful Raccoon Skills & More, maybe. Where was this one squirrel getting this interest?
The carnage continued, not serious, but a nuisance—and during the day when I turned my back.
While reviewing my 2nd Amendment rights and finding them limited in the village, it surely appeared my yelling was not advancing my respect as he looked in my direction with disdain.
“Are you yelling at me, you nasty white man, you limping degenerate old duffer, you slobbering Neanderthal?” I could hear him thinking as the fresh corn milk dripped from the side of his squirrelly little mouth. For a moment, I regretted giving the 30-06 to my backwoods son in Alaska, but I still had the muzzleloader from the Civil War and a handful of rock salt and nails for shot.
All the corn was harvested, but it was not difficult to notice a slight nick out of an acorn squash. It occurred to me that if he doesn’t bury some hard goods, the winter will remove him from the gene pool. Only spring will tell—but if he comes knocking at the back door wanting canned goods, there will be hell to pay.