Squirrel Armageddon

evilIf we were having coffee today I guess it would be high time I told you about my experience with Squirrel Armageddon.  That’s right.  I’m talking about evil, vindictive squirrels.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw some television commercial that featured a number of squirrels all gathered in a tree and they were ganging up on a guy and pelting him and his car with pine cones.  It is amazing the horrors that can be dredged up from something so mundane.

Years ago in Austin, Texas I lived next to a park that stretched along a creek in a narrow band for about a mile or so.  Most weekends I’d take a walk down the length of this park and back.  My garage apartment was right at the edge of a wider area of the park that was nicely wooded and included tennis courts and a playground and at the end of my walk I’d usually saunter across this area back to my place.

One quiet Sunday I was finishing my rounds and as I entered the far edge of the playground I heard a loud noise over near my house.  My next-door neighbor’s dog was chasing a squirrel in the yard.  The squirrel managed to get away but not before it let off a loud frantic alarm screech.  In seconds, in every tree in the park, every squirrel in the area descended and started chirping and flicking their tails, not at the miscreant dog mind you, but at me.  The dog was long gone, show’s over for him.  These guys were all focused on yours truly, the only other living thing in the park.

I don’t know if you’ve ever really heard a squirrel alarm, so I found one on YouTube that sounds pretty close to what I remember.  https://youtu.be/i6IR0JmfkvQ … fast forward to about 43 seconds in.  Close your eyes and let it sink in, then multiply it by hundreds and add in spooky echoing effects from all the trees on an otherwise still Sunday morning. Yeah, I think that would be pretty close.

Don’t forget, they were focusing all their attention on me, every last one of them, their tails flicking, their evil, dark squirrel eyes sizing me up, re-positioning themselves to continue focusing on me as I warily crept across the park, at this point uncertain if the intimidation might possibly turn into action.  I have to admit I thought of that fearsome bunny in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

This cacophony continued until well after I fumbled with my keys and entered the safety of my apartment.  I’m sure great-great grandchildren squirrels in that park still recount tales of their ancestors fighting and winning the battle of Sunday morning.  Brrrrrr.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  http://thefensk.com for more information.

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Ahhh! Spiders!

spider2If we were having coffee today I’d hope I didn’t gross you out but I want to talk about spiders.  Well, to be honest, I just want to tell you about finding spiders.  It’s really no big deal.  One of the coolest things I learned in the Girl Scouts was finding spiders.  (Yeah, that’s right, Girl Scouts, I was a Girl Scout, but that’s another story).

I was reminded of this recently when I found one of those clip-on-the-brim-of-your-hat flashlights.  It’s great for taking out the dog at night.  As she was sniffing around trying to find that one, special, ideal little spot for, well, you know … I was looking around.  I saw these little lights shining back at me.  Tiny little lights.  One here, two there, another one over yonder.  And I thought back to learning this trick in the Girl Scouts.  [Okay, when my daughter was a Brownie I was a troop leader for camping trips and we had to attend troop leader camp training.  If you are a troop leader, you are a Girl Scout, okay?]

Anyway, if you hold a bright flashlight right between your eyes and shine it out six to fifteen feet away, slowly sweeping the beam, you will soon be aware of these tiny little bright lights peering back at you.  Sometimes you might hit a dewdrop reflection but the brighter more distinctive lights are spiders.  Or to be more accurate spider eyes. These spiders are actually saying, “here’s looking at you, kid.”

Their retinas reflect light like a cat’s eye, but they’re a little different in that they direct it directly back at the source.  During the Apollo missions, they deployed laser reflectors on the surface of the moon that do the same thing. If a laser is pointed at the right coordinates, the light will bounce back right to the source (moon landing hoaxers forget about this simple proof we were there).

Anyway, the hat brim light is in the perfect place to do this same trick.  Actually, it’s ideal because it is stable and very bright.  The little lights can quickly disappear if the spider turns away but the coolest thing is when they are on the move and you see that little light dancing over the uneven ground of the backyard as they make their way through the grass.  It’s a fun trick to show kids (which is why they showed us this in Scout camp training). If for some reason you don’t believe me, you can hone in and get close and you’ll see it.  Even a very tiny spider causes a profound reflection.

WARNING: If you are deathly afraid of spiders never do this!  You will never go outside again!  Ever!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Find info about him and his books at http://thefensk.com