The following is another excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” It involves one man’s war against squirrels in order to keep his nuts.
Man vs. Squirrel
Where we live is a very rural area, with thousands of acres of wide- open farmland. We have some wooded areas and small mountains nearby, but not within a mile or two from my house and the barns where we pack our onions, which are on the same property as my house. What this translates into is essentially a low squirrel population zone. Squirrels you see in the woods, or in a suburban neighborhood. We simply are not that. But, on occasion, every so often, a squirrel or three will venture out to our area. They must be forward scouts or something. You’ll see them in the trees or running around for a few days. Then eventually you’ll find them on the side of the road, dead, roadkill.
Set within that context allow me to present one example of the eternal battle waged between MAN and NATURE. I proudly present this microcosm of the struggle … Polish walnut lover vs. the squirrels!
My brother lives outside the Village of Montgomery, about 30 minutes from my house and the barns. He has 4 walnut trees in his yard and my dad back in September of 2010 had him collect a bunch of the nuts that had fallen from the tree to bring to him at the barn. Did I mention that my dad loves walnuts? For those of you not familiar with walnuts, Wiki points out:
“Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree. The walnut fruit is enclosed in a green, leathery, fleshy husk. This husk is inedible. After harvest, the removal of the husk reveals the wrinkly walnut shell, which is in two halves.”
My dad early that morning separated most of the walnuts from their green outer shell, which took some time and effort, and then decided to lay them out to dry out on my blacktop in front of my house. It took him about an hour to separate the nut from the outer green goo casing. He so loves these black walnuts. Where he laid them out was clearly visible from the barn where we were working, and since it was warm and dry we had the barn doors open. As I would feed the grader with onions and take away the stacked pallets I would occasionally catch a glance of my dad’s walnuts on the ground.
He had two distinct piles, those shelled and those still with the green outer casing.
As we were grading, around mid morning, I brought in some boxes of onions from outside into the barn and I noticed a flash of gray. It was a squirrel. It was making a dash for the pile of booty. And then I blinked and there was another one, heading towards the walnuts. As I watched, doubling over in laughter, the two squirrels started taking all of the nuts my dad had separated from the casing this morning. They were in heaven; they had found a veritable walnut goldmine.
I told my dad and everyone at the grader what was happening. My dad says, “hmm … how they know, they must smell them or something.” I said, “looks like the squirrels are taking all of your nuts.” My dad replies, “I’m going to follow them and take them back.” I replied, “looks like they are winning here.” In response he said, “it’s two against one, that’s not fair.” He chased them to our neighbor Moose’s yard. They went up a tree and also tried to hide some of the nuts in different little spots on Moose’s yard. He gathered what he could, the squirrels watching helpless … for the moment.
My dad went back to our yard and proceeded to gather all of the nuts he separated from the shell and put them in a bucket and covered the bucket. He had the last laugh … or so he thought …..
About 10 minutes later I look back out towards my house and the squirrels were not so easily deterred. They knocked over the cover to the bucket. So in response my dad took away the ones he already had shelled. But they weren’t so easily deterred.
The squirrels started to shell the unshelled nuts he had left. By the way, they furiously licked those nuts before they scurried away with them, almost as if they knew his counter-plot to steal them back. They then started working on the ones that weren’t shelled. One after another after another they shelled, licked furiously and scampered away with the walnuts. Doubling over with laughter I called my dad, “you better do something quick, or you ain’t gonna have no nuts left.”
Quickly my dad grabbed some onion bags and started to put the nuts in them. He then hung them in the bag on the clothes line, and went back to the barn. What do you think happened a few minutes later? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in this instance on man versus nature, score one for the squirrels.
I have photographs of all of this, as you can all see.