Small Clay Dragon
Take what you like and leave the rest
Mother had a huge bird-feeder, one that took over the entire patio area just outside our breakfast room. Although we all enjoyed the birds, Papa objected strongly to the squirrels who could be quite greedy when it came to the sunflower seeds. So Papa devised a plan to out-wit them.
Papa strung a wire between two of the trees and suspended the feeder with the sunflower seeds. He got back into the house just in time to see the first squirrel blithely tight-rope walk over the wire to the feeder. Papa glared at the squirrel. Mother tried to stifle her snicker. I remember giggling.
Not to be out-done, Papa went back and tied a string to the wire, then threaded the other end through the window. He thought he could pull on the string, thus knocking the squirrels off-balance, thus discouraging them.
Papa waited for the first victim. The squirrel came, walked half-way cross the wire, when Papa yanked hard on the string.
Chagrinned, Papa found a thicker string and tried the same thing again. This time the squirrel bounded merrily across the wire, only to have Papa yank hard on his new string.
The surprised squirrel flipped upside down on the wire, but then, just as merrily, continued on his way hand over hand until he got to the feeder.
The next day, Papa went outside and moved the wire very high up on the tree trunks. Then he dropped the feeder down on another long wire. Midway down the wire, Papa had suspended a tin pie-plate, threaded through the center. This, he figured, would stop the dratted beasts.
The squirrels gleefully slipped down the wire, reached over to the edge of the pie plate, grabbed on and flipped themselves over and back to the wire, then continued down the wire to the feeder.
Papa, however, was beginning to take this as a personal challenge. No mere squirrel was going to out-wit him!
The next week saw a series of various pie plate sizes. The squirrels loved it and the acrobatics were delightful to watch. The week after that, we had multiple pie plates in various sizes.
It didn't even slow the squirrels down.
Mother pointed out to a disgruntled Papa that it was obvious the squirrels were enjoying their new playground.
Papa was becoming frustrated, Mother and I vastly entertained.
Papa placed the feeder on a pole. The squirrels ran up the pole.
So Papa greased the pole. The very first squirrel ran up the greased pole and stopped half-way to lick his paws. It seems the squirrel liked the taste of the grease.
Papa looked at us and almost cried.
Mother tried, without success, to contain her laughter until Papa left the room.
Papa decided to change his plan. He maintained that he was not trying to keep the squirrels away from the sunflowers, rather Papa was just warming up for the Real Entertainment.
Papa was devising Squirrel IQ tests.
Papa introduced squirrels to peanuts in the shell. In no time at all, the squirrel delightedly developed a taste for peanuts in the shell. Then Papa started working his devious plans. He decided to time the squirrels to see how long it would take them to figure out his tests.
The first test involved tying one end of a rubber band to a peanut shell, and the other end firmly to a tree branch.
The squirrel spied the peanut and made a run for it. He grabbed it up and ran away, but only a little way. The rubber band reached it's full length and snapped back, taking the peanut with it.
The surprised squirrel just stood there, stunned that a peanut would grab itself out of his mouth. He went back, got the peanut and began to run away again, and again the peanut jerked itself out of his mouth. The third time he very suspiciously circled the peanut first, pretended to be nonchalant, then grabbed the peanut and ran, holding on very tightly. This time, the snap of the rubber band jerked the poor squirrel back along with the peanut.
Papa, Mother and I were in tears from laughter.
The squirrel stood there, looking at the peanut for a very long time. Then he went over to the peanut, opened the shell and shoved both peanuts into his mouth and ran off with no problem.
The empty shell, still tied to the rubber band, lay empty, a testament to squirrel ingenuity.
The next test involved putting the peanuts out in the open, but surrounding them with a 'solid nothing'. Papa watched as the squirrels first spied the peanuts, then went in merrily for the kill.
But they bumped their noses into the 'solid nothing'.
Nonplussed, they sat back, then tried again. Again they bumped their noses. Chattering the most awful invectives against Papa, the squirrels went off for a parley.
Then they came back. Hesitantly, they circled the peanuts. So close and yet so far.
One of them found an opening in the glass milk bottle (otherwise known as a 'solid nothing') and crawled inside. The squirrel merrily stuffed his mouth with all the peanuts he could fit -- only to discover that he no longer fit through the mouth of the bottle.
Swearing loudly, he tried again. And again, and again. Slowly, reluctantly, he took a peanut out of his mouth and tried to leave. Then he removed another and another, each time trying to leave until his mouth was empty and he easily left the bottle.
The squirrel sat outside the bottle, staring at it. The he crawled back into the bottle and pushed a peanut out through the opening.
His victory, however, was somewhat diminished by the fact that another squirrel was waiting outside and grabbed the peanut as it dropped.
Papa planned one test after another for the rest of the summer, forgetting completely his original plan to get rid of the squirrels.
It was the best summer of my childhood.