SQUIRRELS DON'T UNDERSTAND a lot of things, but the thing they don't understand the most is that they can't have all the peanuts in the world. Every morning we give our backyard rabbit, Dolly, one or two peeled peanuts, and a rasher of birdseed. She-since she is the biggest animal in the backyard-eats all the birdseed she wants and then moves on to lettuce, vegetable scraps and as a last resort, her alfalfa pellets. Then the birds and squirrels duke it out for the rest. Jays favor peanuts too, and it's usually a close-run thing who gets more, bluejays or squirrels. Our friend Fred has chosen the path of futility, and actually tries to keep his backyard squirrels away from the birdseed. Mesh enclosures, a wrist-rocket loaded with malted milk balls and other clever stratagems boot naught. Our theory is that everybody should get a little something for breakfast, even squirrels.

Squirrels are rather brighter than you might think, and with their little one-track minds, they sooner or later figure out that the source of all peanuts is not the low sundial in the backyard. It's inside the house. The peanut bag rests just inside the door, and in the morning we sit on the stoop and have coffee and breakfast and feed the transient menagerie. Turn your back, and quick as a wink, there's a squirrel creeping up toward the door. Every now and then one actually comes into the house, and gets a nut. This morning, the boldest of them all, a very Hector, grabbed the entire peanut bag and began dragging it toward the fence. Apprehended, it turned fiercely as though to say, "Touch this peanut bag, and die." Even as a mountainous human bore down on it, this hero among six-ounce quadrupeds attempted to fight off the raider and run up the back fence with the bag in its mouth at the same time. We now keep the peanut bag on a shelf. It won't be long before one of them figures it out.*

I admire these scrappy little mammals because I figure they're a lot like we were about 65 million years ago. Tiny, smart survivors in a world of huge, dangerous thunder lizards. Give the kid a peanut. You never know what he'll be when he grows up.

August 4, 1994

*Oh, my prophetic soul! One of them did indeed figure it out not a week after this was written. It got into the house through the barely-open bathroom window, found the peanut bag, and took up residence (at least intermittently) in a nest it built behind a shelf of books in the living room. How long this went on I cannot say, but I became aware of its existence when it set off the motion alarm and both I and the police discovered nothing that might have triggered it. The next day the alarm was again tripped, and in my investigations I caught the culprit dashing for safety, flushed it out of hiding, herded it out the door, cleaned behind the books and tacked a mesh barricade over the bathroom window. No false alarms again until, three years later, a spider ambled across the motion detector sensor lens, which dutifully reported that something as big as a barn was moving through the dining room. Fortunately, the spider was still in residence nearby when the alarm repairman looked for possible causes, or we would never have figured it out.

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