Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / December 25, 1997 / 26 Kislev, 5758
Peace to all squirrelkind
WASHINGTON -- I was not going to do a holiday column this year. Holiday columns are supposed to be inspirational, and if I could really inspire people, I would go around the country like Zig Ziglar and make a bundle.
But something recently happened in my life that was genuinely inspirational, and I wanted to share it with you.
Last week, my wife and I decided to buy a bird feeder. Snow will soon cover the ground where we live, and the poor little birdies will either have to starve or stick up 7-Elevens for sustenance.
Not far from us, there is a store devoted to the care and feeding of wild birds. It is designed for guilty yuppies, who are willing to come inside to buy a $10 bag of birdseed and leave with a $600 pair of Bausch & Lomb binoculars.
So the other day, we go in, and there are maybe 30 different kinds of bird feeders on display. They ranged from simple ones that looked like little boxes to elaborate ones that looked like the Palace of Versailles.
The salesmen at this store are all aging hippies who grew up on communes and now tell themselves that they are helping to save the planet by feeding their feathered friends -- and selling $600 pairs of binoculars to guilty yuppies.
"What kind of birds did you want to attract?" the salesman asked me.
Gee, I don't know, I said. Hungry ones?
"Ooooo-kay," he said. "We'll get you an all-purpose bird feeder."
"But it has to keep the squirrels out," my wife said.
Did I mention that my wife hates squirrels? She hates squirrels as much as she likes birds. She believes that squirrels are rats in fur coats. And they steal birdseed from deserving birds.
The salesman nodded sagely. "Did you know that a squirrel can jump 12 feet horizontally and 4 feet vertically?" the salesman said.
"Don't tell me your problems," my wife said.
"I was just pointing out how difficult it is to defeat the arboreal rodent of the genus Sciurus that you know as the squirrel," the salesman said.
"I don't know any squirrels, and I don't want to know any squirrels," my wife said.
"Ooooo-kay," he said. "Now we have this variety of bird feeder that makes it very slippery for the squirrel and this variety where this little ledge gives way under the weight of the squirrel."
"Do you have any that actually kill the squirrels?" my wife asked.
The salesman did a slow blink. "Kill?" he said.
"Kill," my wife repeated. "As in slay. As in execute. As in end the life thereof."
"Your wife seems to have very extreme views on squirrels," the salesman said to me.
Let me share a little secret with you, I said. She ain't that fond of salesmen, either.
He quickly sold us a slender iron rod that has a hook on one end from which you suspend a mesh box filled with birdseed. But first, you slip a coffee-can-like object over the rod, and that serves as a baffle to prevent the squirrels from getting up to the seed.
Amazingly, this works. It cost over $100, but it works.
And now, my wife watches the bird feeder with delight -- delight not only at the wide variety of happy and colorful birds that feed there but at the frustrated squirrels that gather beneath and chatter in angry frustration.
"You get me a gift yet?" my wife asked me a few days ago.
Not yet, I said.
"I was thinking that if I had a .22," she said, "I could probably hit those squirrels from here."
Naw, I said. Let it go.
"Why?" she asked.
It's the holidays, I said. Peace on earth and all that.
"OK," she said after a pause. "I guess you're right. And when the snow comes, maybe the squirrels will starve."
So that's how during this holiday season, we got a bird feeder at my house but not a .22.
See? I told you this was inspirational.
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be