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Squirreled Away
I’m willing to admit that, for a rodent, squirrels are kind of cute. The fluffy tail, the hindleg squat, the wide-eyed munching, the wacky scampering — they are all pretty adorable. They’re no chipmunks, of course, but they are certainly more lovable than rats. And way more than gophers.

I have noticed, however, that people who share a neighborhood with squirrels (as I do) don’t find them quite so charming. We don’t like the bird feeder burglaries, or the fruit theft, or any of their other in-your-face behaviors. And there is something about their brazen appropriation of your personal space for their own use that is particularly galling.

Still, I didn’t take up arms against them. Unless they managed to get inside the house, it was live and let live between us. So we had reached a kind of equilibrium around here, albeit a starkly unequal equilibrium. The squirrels were free to gorge on seed meant for pine siskins and dark-eyed juncos, and I was free to eat the occasional underripe D’Anjou pear. The squirrels could cavort and caper all over my outdoor furniture, and I was free to watch them from my living room lockdown. But there was peace.

Then it all ended. The tree-climbing rodents disappeared, leaving behind their abundance of fruits, nuts, and seeds. The woodlands around my house, once filled with the sound of their exuberant barking, fell oddly silent.

What had happened? Well, I guess you would say (if you were a squirrel) that the neighborhood had gone downhill. Young toughs roamed the woods, menacing the residents and chasing them up trees. Friends and loved ones went missing. Your yard became a dangerous place to raise children, much less hoard your nuts.

All because of the cats. The cat to one side of us is mostly of the indoor persuasion, but I don’t think that distinction would mean too much to a squirrel. On the other side, that neighbor is putting up two feral cats. They’re shy, but they look as if they might already have a few squirrel murders on their records. And then, there’s the newcomer, our cat. He’s mostly squirrel-curious right now, but the way he tears into his stuffed bunny, I’d say that the squirrels were well-advised to blow town.

Behind them, they left a changed world. No more spilled birdseed on the ground (though the birds have other problems now). I can hope for a ripe pear next fall. And, most importantly, my domain is free of rodent usurpers. The rats will always be there, I suppose, but they would be wise to watch their backs. It’s a cat’s world now, and they hold sway here in the neighborhood.

At least until the coyotes show up.

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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
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