Somebody in my family (I won’t name names, but I’ll call him “Son”) has a real thing for encouraging and fostering wildlife.
What this means is that anyone visiting their house feels like they’ve just walked onto the set of a National Geographic special. This is because they have no fewer than nine different feeders and about five houses, not to mention all the various bushes, flower patches, trees, gardens and other assorted habitats.
All of this would make the perfect setting for a writer, except for one problem: the wildlife is starting to get, well, pushy.
Take, for example, our little gang of squirrels. Not content with eating any one of the 3,000 pine cones that fall out of the trees on a daily basis, the little thugs have developed quite a racket.
First, there’s Rocky “Mission Impossible” The Squirrel who has learned how to strip all four cobs of corn off the ‘squirrel twirler’ in 25 minutes or less by hanging upside like a furry Tom Cruise. Then there’s Scarface Capone, last year’s embattled veteran, who figured out how to send the bird feeder in the tree crashing to the ground. His partner-in-crime is Nutsy MacPherson, who must be Scottish, because to dump out the seed, he heaves up one end of the feeder like he’s tossing a caber.
Yet another squirrel (we don’t know who, yet — because they may be rodents, but they never rat each other out), has stormed the front porch and chewed a hole in the plastic feed bin. This one mustn’t be a ‘made’ squirrel though: the little wise guy hasn’t made the hole quite big enough, and he keeps getting caught with his little squirrel butt hanging out the bin.
Their leader? Don Squirrelione, of course. I figure he must be a Soprano, because when he told me he was going to “make me an offer I couldn’t refuse” he had a really high, squeaky voice.
The squirrels don’t work alone. They’ve hired Chip “Baby Face” Munk, and his brother Thelonious to steal seeds. Pretty Boy Floyd, the oriole from Baltimore, is the lookout. The racoons, with their little black face masks, do the night burglaries. They hire the doves for mourning duty when they lose one of their own.
And the local muscle? Two hummingbirds, Bonnie and Clyde. You laugh, but ask anyone who’s ever put out hummingbird feeders — they are the single most aggressive species on the planet. I now firmly believe the birds-are-descended-from-dinosaurs theory: hummingbirds are just miniature pterodactyls.
Do I have witnesses for these crimes? Not really. The possum just plays dead. None of the birds are stool pigeons. Pepe? He’s usually drunk as a skunk, or else raising a big stink about something else. Louise is just a snake in the grass who can’t be trusted. As for the rabbits, they spend most of their time breeding like… well, you know.
Things got worse last Friday, when were visited by a deer called “Petunia” (names changed to protect the innocent). The poor deer had been orphaned; we can only assume her mother had been rubbed out by a rival squirrel gang; perhaps she knew too much. Cute as a bug’s ear this one — we were soon fawning all over her.
But we couldn’t keep her: as everyone knows, nothing runs like a deer, and there’s too much traffic nearby. So we smuggled her to a safehouse in the country, where some friends of ours prepared her for a new life. This morning, under cover of broad daylight, me and our deer friend took a truck ride to a witness protection plan centre, which uses a wildlife refuge as a front. The upside of the story? Petunia has a new friend, an even younger orphan I’ll call “Nobby” (she was all knees.) The downside? I now smell distinctly of Eau De Bambi — deer get nervous in trucks. Anyone who met me this afternoon sniffed, and said: “Oh deer me.”
So the next time anyone tells you they plan to retire to the country to write in peace and quiet, tell them from me:
Getting anything done around there is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
How about you? Any garden antics to share? Leave a comment below.
Also published on Medium.