As you remember from last week, Dear Reader, yours truly was in an epic battle with Mr. Squirrel who was building his nest in a gutter overlooking our deck. Back on Flamingo Street, Dad had used our Santa BB gun to scare off any squirrels in his gutters. Not owning a BB gun, I’d just returned from the local hardware store with everything needed to finally be rid of our unwanted house guest … forever.
With a mouth full of twigs, Mr. Squirrel had bounded down the roof, pausing just long enough to give me a stink eye before disappearing into the gutter once more. Using the paint extension pole I’d bought at the hardware store, I banged on the gutter, heard a scurrying sound of clawed feet against metal running and out popped the gray head of Mr. Squirrel! After banging the gutter again, he ran up the roof and out of sight. I had won!
Taking a victory sip of sweet tea and a bite of sausage biscuit, suddenly I caught a glimmer of gray just above me. Mr. Squirrel hadn’t run up and over the peak of the roof as before. Now he was poised on the gutter guards, running back and forth looking down at me. If asked, I’d tell you a look of nervousness was in his eyes — and rightly so.
Again, I banged the gutter, this time sending Mr. Squirrel bolting up and over the roof. With him gone, all I had to do was cover the exposed ends of the gutters with wire mesh and no more problems. Or so I thought. Taking another break to finish tea and biscuit, I heard the faint sound of chirping.
Great. Not only did we have a squirrel nest in our gutters, we also had baby birds! I followed the on-again-off-again chirping to the far corner of the deck. Mr. Squirrel ran back and forth on top of the gutter guards trying to get at the birds. Didn’t know squirrels ate baby birds, but I knew I had to rescue them.
I chased him away and started climbing the stepladder, also bought at the hardware store. Standing on the top step — the one that has “Not a step” written on it, I peeked over the edge expecting to find fuzzy little birds in a nest. Instead, what I found was neither fuzzy, nor birds, nor any sign of a nest, but rather a new perspective.
Lying in the bottom of the cold metal gutter were three newly born gray squirrels, each no more than two inches long.
Climbing down, I immediately ran inside and did something I’ve never done in twenty-two years of marriage — I took my life in my hands and woke The Wife up from her nap!
As we sat at the kitchen table looking out the deck window, she asked, “What are we looking at?” Just then the Squirrel returned, ran down the roof and back into the gutter. It seems I was wrong all along … Mr. Squirrel was actually Mrs. Squirrel. (I wonder … did all those squirrels Dad chased away from his gutters have babies they too were taking care of?)
Then the most amazing thing happened: she soon emerged with one of her babies held gently in her mouth! Carefully she slowly made her way back up the roof disappearing somewhere on the other side.
We couldn’t believe what had just happened. Neither one of us had ever seen such a thing. Mrs. Squirrel soon returned and retrieved her two remaining babies and once again disappeared somewhere over the roof. She had moved them safely to a newly constructed nest, the location of which we didn’t know.
Now this would be a great place to end this story … if this was truly the ending, but it isn’t. Our granddaughters now enter the story.
Two days later after picking them up from school, I recounted the squirrel story as we drove. Arriving home, I showed them the video and pictures of Mrs. Squirrel moving her babies. The girls were awestruck and wanted to know where her nest was. As we got out of the car and walked along the sidewalk to the front door, I said, “She moved the babies and built her nest somewhere safe, away from Big Papa, but I don’t know ….”
And that’s when I bumped into Little One who had suddenly stopped right in front of me. She whispered, “Shhh, Big Papa. Listen,” and then pointed up. As if on cue, there was the scurrying sound of clawed feet against metal inside the gutter directly above where we were standing! Mrs. Squirrel had moved her babies from the back gutter, up over the roof to our front gutter.
After homework, we spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the front yard enjoying watching Mrs. Squirrel travel in and out the end of our gutter and running up and down the roof. That evening we researched baby squirrels, finding they take about six weeks to leave their nest.
And that’s how long I’ll wait before closing the ends of the gutters with wire mesh. Unless, of course, I hear cheeping once again. After all, squirrels aren’t just rats with fuzzy tails like my dad thought so long ago. Since standing atop the step ladder on our back deck, my perspective has changed.
I wonder. What other things I’ve believed all my life would change if I simply look at them from a different viewpoint?
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]