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September 29th, 2016

My Little Gray Friends

By G. E. Shuman
Okay, so, if you have read many of my previous columns, you have probably already guessed who my little gray friends are. If not, your wait is over, as I’m going to tell you who they are, right now.

For several years, I have been feeding the gray squirrels (See, I told you already.) that live in the trees behind our house. Some people I know have looked at me a bit strangely when I tell them I feed the squirrels, but they are not the only people who have ever looked at me strangely, so I don’t care too much about that Some people just don’t understand people like me, and feel that God made squirrels for target practice, or something, but He did not. He really didn’t. He made cats for target practice. (Please forgive me, my cat-loving sister Jan.) Squirrels were made to scamper about in the trees, looking cute, and also to visit the feeders of people like me.

If anyone cares, including my wife, who probably doesn’t, I have always been very frugal regarding the cost of my squirrel feeders, and, until very recently, in the cost of their food. For years, I have taken great pains to pay absolutely nothing for the feeders I use, making them from stuff that is just lying around the house. I have considered it a challenge to go into my cellar, and to find scraps of wood, metal, and used screws and nails, and come up those stairs an hour or so later with a pretty decent squirrel feeder. I only put out one feeder at a time, in that particular spot on that back yard tree, but they do wear out, as does everything else, and need to be replaced each year or so with a new and improved model, the challenge of making such I take great pains in accomplishing.

To make my feeders I have often used those great little wooden crates that ‘cuties’ tangerines, or whatever those miniature oranges are actually called, come in, although lately those tiny fruit are being sold in cardboard boxes and mesh bags. (Why do changes like that have to happen? You can’t make much of a squirrel feeder out of a mesh bag.) I have also used plastic shoe boxes and other things to make feeders. You know, it’s really easy to use the cover of one of those shoe boxes to design a little roof for your feeder, if you’re interested. Okay, so you’re probably not interested, and, okay, maybe I am overthinking all of this.

A few months ago, right at the beginning of winter, I am proud to say, I produced the ultimate invention in luxury squirrel feeders. I really did. We had just cancelled our service with one of the satellite TV companies, and they didn’t want their nifty little dish antenna back. Evidently, the dish I had been paying a lot of money for, every month, for several years, wasn’t even worth the price of shipping it back to them, so I put up a ladder, unbolted it from the side of the house, watched it gracefully plummet into the lilac bush below, and finally made some good use of it. I made it into a really sturdy roof for my newest squirrel feeder. The great news is that it works much better in its new occupation than it ever did receiving signals for our TV. If it gets snow on it now, I don’t get snow on my TV picture or lose the satellite broadcast altogether, and the squirrels don’t lose their lunch.

About two paragraphs ago I stated that I had also been very frugal, until recently, in gathering the food that I provide for my little gray friends. For a long time I just fed them old bread, stale dry cereal, and even leftover pie crusts and crusty old muffins. (Hey, ‘crusty old muffins’. Somehow I need to use that in a future column. I think it could actually refer to someone like me. I will have to cogitate awhile on that one.) Then, one day, months ago, Lorna and I were in the wonderful Hannaford’s grocery store that we visit together every Saturday morning, and I spotted a display of five pound bags of peanuts in the shells. I picked up one of the bags, and it seemed like a good deal, and was actually pretty heavy. It must have weighed five pounds. It was also reasonably priced, I thought, for such a heavy bag. I looked at the display, and saw that I had the choice of salted or unsalted nuts, and immediately decided on the unsalted ones. (It would be wrong to give my little gray friends high blood pressure or hardened arteries by feeding them salt.) So, I bought the unsalted peanuts, and have been buying another bag every Saturday since. By now, squirrel nests all over the neighborhood must be chock full of very healthy, protein-rich, non-artery-clogging nuts. I know a bargain when I see one, believe me.

I am at a loss as to how to end this particular column, other than to tell you that people come first. If you have a chance to help other people, you need to do it. Then, if you have a chance to help some of God’s other creatures survive, you should do that, too. One suggestion is that you could feed the squirrels. My little gray friends might not actually THANK YOU, but I will, and I just did.

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