I paid little attention to the older man as I laced up my inline skates, in the parking lot adjacent to the Ganatchio Trail. I’m pretty slow at it. If I’d been in figure skating or hockey as a youth, I’d probably be saving time these days. I timed it once…it takes me six minutes. I always think I’ve loosened the laces enough yet I struggle to wiggle my feet into my skates.
My focus was on my lacing. However, when the man walked past me, and abruptly into and out of the woods, it caught my attention. That’s when I noticed he was carrying a large cage.
For someone who can be rather shy, I overcame it immediately out of fear of what animal he may have removed from the cage. And, put directly in my path!
I used a stern voice (for me, anyways), “Whaddya just release into the woods?” My boldness amazed me.
The Italian man looked like he’d been caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Definitely a guilty look.
He muttered, “A squirrel.”
I was relieved. I told him, “Oh, okay, I was worried it was a rat!”
There is a rat lurking around our neighbourhood and I’m pretty certain I’ve never heard of a catch-and-release program for them.
“No, not a rat! Those pesky squirrels keep eating my walnuts! They’re MY walnuts! Not theirs!”
I thought of a walnut I spotted near my front door. I have a little wooden elephant there. I bought it at a yard sale but it smelled so strongly of pot that I just kept it outdoors. A squirrel knocked it over and placed its prized walnut there instead. I thought it adorable, but that’s me.
“The squirrels are so smart. You know how the telephone wires are really narrow? Well, they can’t support their weight for them to run on them. So, know what those smart squirrels do? They hang from them and scurry along, upside-down, along the line. They think they’re so smart!”
I chuckled. Apparently, I just encouraged the man to talk more. I wanted to skate. My skates were laced up now. I started towards my car to lock up my sandals inside.
“Let me tell you a funny story…”
The man did not read my non-verbals well. I’ve been trying to be more patient, so paused and teetered a bit to listen to him without rolling away.
“My wife, she told me, there’s squirrels in our tree. I told her, ‘No, impossible! There cannot be!’ You see, I put aluminum up the side of the tree so the squirrels don’t get my walnuts.”
“She insisted she saw a squirrel, though. So, the next day, I get up at 6 am, sit out on the front porch with a coffee and I wait.”
He paused. I waited. I hoped I looked patient.
“The squirrel, he gets to the very edge of my lot line and stops. Then, he takes off, running like he’s racing a 100 m dash! He gets near my tree, and hops twice, once on the ground to the aluminum, then from the aluminum to the tree. And, that’s how he gets in my tree! He thinks he’s so smart!”
“So… I wash the aluminum. Next, I applied grease all over it, smothered it! The next morning, I sit myself down again on the porch at 6 am. The squirrel appears. Same time, same place. He stops at the lot line. Runs with all his might, hops up to the aluminum, and slides down to the ground. Oh, I wished I had a video camera! He looked all around him, trying to figure out what happened, and he was screaming, just shrieking, going crazy he was! I never saw him again.”
“This is my sixth trip here. Six times I trap the squirrels so far, the ones that come in my yard. I like animals, honestly, I do. I have twenty birdhouses on my property but the squirrels!! I send them here!”
He put his trap/cage with the three walnuts inside, into the trunk of his car. Bait for unsuspecting squirrels. I thought he should’ve let the city squirrel have the three walnuts as a parting gift until he could find new food here in the wild.
Then, it came to me. The man has done this six times. Maybe the “thinks-he’s-so-smart” squirrel in the cage was like those cats you hear tales about. You know, when the family moves far away, and cat finds its way to the new home.
Maybe it’s the same squirrel he’s catching over and over again with the lure of the forbidden walnuts.
I skated away, and spied a black squirrel in the only spot I ever see squirrels on the trail, eating a peanut.
Now, where did a peanut come from, out here, far from any birdfeeders?
Some things will remain a mystery!