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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Are There Terrorists in Our Town?

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand

T hanks to the media, even before 9/11, Americans were made aware of worldwide terrorist strikes against us. The worst part was the shocking knowledge that there were creatures scattered everywhere who did not like us. That hurt.

We have since learned of many terrorist cells operating throughout the United States which even the most experienced covert CIA operatives cannot ferret out. We have seen attacks on U.S. Embassies, ships, and buildings in Europe, the Middle East, on the high seas, and the American cultural mecca, Manhattan.

I hate to tell you this, dear reader, but, incomprehensible as it may be, we have the problem right here in our own back yard. Individual homes are being attacked with no attention whatsoever paid to the Geneva Convention. Within the pastoral and picture-perfect environs of our little village, these enemies of the American people are not called terrorists, they are called squirrels.

This year, these diabolical rodents are deadly serious about creating a fear factor by taking over our territory without so much as offering to make even one mortgage payment. They are not fooling around. They are no longer the cute little nut-gatherers of the past, scampering over hill, dale, and pine; they have become decidedly militant, and we have the battle scars to prove it.

I refer in particular to their leader, "Osama bin Squirrel," a rodent of a different kind. This fat fellow, his heirs and assigns, his kith and kin and fellow Lodge members, have been terrorizing residents all spring, summer and fall and it's been a very good year for all of them.

You may think he's nobly trying to alert us to a bad winter ahead with tons of snow due, or no snow at all due to global warming. But what if he's telling us something else altogether? What if he's telling us to get out? What if he and his friends think we've been here long enough and now it's their turn?

What if he lobbies Gray Davis (if he's still governor) to sign yet another bit of legislature placing him on California's Endangered Species list, which will not only permit him to thrive anywhere he likes, but will also entitle him to monthly welfare checks?

Sure, maybe all you can see if you look hard is a cute little fuzzy-tailed woollybugger scampering up and down the plentiful pines among which we live. Alas, there's much more to these critters than being cute and fuzzy-tailed. Inside the head of each, there's a fiendish plot afoot.

Osama bin Squirrel & his malevolent forces have taken to hurling missiles at human beings with more terminal force than it would take to lift a Hummer off the checkbook of a Beverly Hills High student.

Recently, new dimensions to the meaning of the word "irritation," were reached when Osama bin Squirrel, apparently bored with hurling fully or half-eaten pine cones down upon the persons of my outdoor party guests, turned to the real thing. He went Full Metal Jacket which, in squirrelese, means unopened, uneaten, dark green, solid pine cones. They are Mother Nature's homemade hand grenades.

Too wily to even consider suicide bombing sacrificing the lives of valued gang members, he chose instead to arm his followers with the heavy cones, barking instructions like a drill sergeant that the cones should be propelled with ferocious velocity. Weighing a minimum of a pound apiece, this weaponry is as deadly as the Tommy Gun of the 20's, made infamous during the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in old Chicago.

This may not be Chicago, but the rat-tat-tat of whole pine cones and their sharp segments as they separate and hit the deck, have the same ominous sound as Capone's "Chicago typewriters," and engendered such fear in all humans present, that hard hats had to be issued to each new guest upon arrival.

On the day Osama bin Squirrel pays as much in taxes and fees to the state of California as we do, he can have equal rights. But until then, heed this warning, you gnawing, nibbling nemesis: this means W*A*R!

According to the Wildlife Animal Information Center, squirrels generally rank as the top problem-makers among all species of urban wildlife. Paradoxically, these charming, bushy-tailed creatures are also consistently judged "Most Popular" among our wild neighbors. It seems we want them and we don't want them, depending on what they're up to at any given moment. Either way, squirrels are undisputedly one of the most successful mammals in human-altered environments.

This must be true because, among the huge piles of debris strewn daily over the decks at my place, not to mention the sharp-edged cone sections that jam up the gutters and downspouts, there can be found peanut shells. Some rodent lover apparently feeds Osama in an all-out suck-up effort to indicate that they are friendly humans and the squirrel should go elsewhere to wreak havoc. My house, for instance.

In the spirit of wildlife cooperation plus the fact that nothing else worked, I concluded that if they wanted devious, I'd give them devious. I devised a demoniacal strategy -- it only worked once -- and not on Osama bin Squirrel but one of his hunchbacked henchrodents, Saddam Squirrel. I greased the pole which supports one of the birdhouses. I confess without shame to a fit of immature and gleeful giggling when Saddam Squirrel attempted to shinny up the pole but this time found himself spiraling down it instead at an extremely rapid rate. A photograph of the surprised expression on his nasty little face might've made the cover of National Geographic.

After months of dizzying combat duty on the front lines, I now realize it's time to write directly to Tom Ridge and remind him that part of the American homeland he's been hired to defend is right here in Pine Mountain.

In "Introduction to Rodents and Other Vertebrate Pests," author Stephen L. Tvedten suggests some of Grandma's remedies for squirrel squelching, such as ammonia, black pepper, boiling water, and other easily available household items.

But, since there's no way to get any of that stuff way up into the tall pines, I'll settle for my favorite on his Grandma's list: Beer. Not for the squirrel. For me.


Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
September 29, 2003

 
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