We live in the country on a rather large piece of property. On our property are a number of large oaks that often produce a good crop of acorns. As a result we've always had quite a few squirrels.
I always enjoyed watching them as they gathered their meals of acorns. The squirrels had to rely on the fruits of their own labor. And work they did - day after day, dawn till dusk they gathered acorns, stashing them here and there to ensure they had food through the long winter months. The squirrels always seemed healthy and happy. Oddly, I somehow sensed they were proud of their hard work, making it on their own, free and independent.
Then one day my wife, whom I had fondly nicknamed "Oh Baby," suggested we set up a feeder for the squirrels. On the surface it seemed like a good thing to do. "Oh Baby" wanted it stocked with all of the squirrels favorites. Soon, most of the formerly hard-working squirrels were feeding and gathering almost exclusively from the feeder. Some of the more ambitious squirrels continued to gather wild acorns but soon saw the folly of their ways by seeing the others living just as well while doing very little. "Oh Baby" seemed to enjoy their dependence on her handouts.
Whenever she would go to fill the feeders the squirrels would come running, practically eating out of the palm of her hand. It made "Oh Baby" feel good. She was truly Queen of the Squirrels.
At first the cost of feeding the resident squirrels was not too unreasonable. But word of this gravy train soon spread and we were invaded by squirrels. "Oh Baby" would have no part of allowing me to secure our property lines and the squirrels came in droves!
After awhile if the feeders weren't stocked fast enough or well enough, the squirrels would chatter loudly and bark their discontent, demanding more and more. The squirrels born by the feeder, having never learned how to gather their own acorns, were the loudest complainers, believing they were entitled. "Oh Baby" called them "Little Innocent Babies" or L.I.B.s for short. Some of the L.I.B.s were insufferable little pests but "Oh Baby," their hero, would always quickly scurry out and supply them with their every need.
The cost to me soon became overwhelming. I worked hard 40 hours a week to see more and more of my pay going to support an ever increasing number of lazy, demanding squirrels. It got even worse. One day one of the squirrels was somehow injured. "Oh Baby" forced me to take it to a veterinarian and pay for its health care out of my own hard earned, already heavily taxed, increasingly uncertain income! I call this outrage "Oh Baby-Care," but that's another story.
I hoped she would change (but we all know how that went). Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. "Oh Baby," the L.I.B.s and the rest of the squirrels had to go! After four long years "Oh Baby" and I were divorced. The feeders soon came down. At first the squirrels barked complaints bitterly. Some of them suffered greatly, but eventually learned to fend for themselves. Occasionally, if one was sick or desperately in need of temporary assistance I was glad to help. Soon my yard was populated only by hard working squirrels, proud and happy.
And with the money I no longer spent on squirrels I was able to start a small business and eventually employ five people.
The moral of this goofy little story: stop feeding the squirrels and they'll take care of themselves.
Joe McQuiggan is a Bear Lake resident.