A cautionary New Year’s tale, or Homo not so sapiens

Subject at left: innocently sampling first nickel bag.
Subject at right: jonesing big time for more, and unlikely to take “No” for an answer.

Our local hospital’s ER saw many cases of bodily misery this New Year’s Eve, some perhaps even stupidly incurred. But none was more stupidly incurred, I’m quite sure, than mine: squirrel bite. Essentially self-induced squirrel bite. Worse yet, self-induced squirrel bite on a body way overdue on tetanus vaccine. On a body whose beloved is more than ready to burst with child any moment. For this reason, said body cannot afford to degenerate into the stiff-limbed, lock-jawed illness that tetanus can bring on, one to two weeks following a puncture wound from a wild rodent. One to two weeks from now I hope to be knee-deep in newborn.

It all started innocently enough, weeks and weeks ago, when I began to coax a comely local gray tree squirrel onto our porch. I’d put nuts out and the next day they’d be gone. Then after a time, in the mornings the furry little customer would scurry up onto the railing and peer in the window looking for me. I’d come out with nuts, and she’d scamper off, but return later to eat furtively. Finally, she began to simply dart a short distance away and watch me lay out the booty. I’d hustle inside and gather my daughter up to the window, and together we’d behold the sight of this little darling holding nut after nut up to her busy mouth and nibbling away. It was an urban chapter of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and I was Marlin Perkins and Saint Francis of Assisi all rolled up into one.

“Look sweetie, a squirrelie!”

I’d watch our daughter’s face light up, think sweet thoughts about her unfettered connection to Nature, etc.

Then the squirrel started to get cheeky.

Did I hear the warning sirens? Did I heed the writing on the wall? No, I did not. I thought, proudly, that I was demonstrating for our wee bairn the value of dogged determination. In an attention-deficited, rapid rewards-obsessed world, I was showing her the richness awaiting those with patience. I was bridging the divide between we the domesticated and they the wild, illustrating the value of the long view.

The squirrel had the long view too, and it encompassed every edible fruit and nut in our household.

By the afternoon preceding New Year’s Eve, I had managed to plow through most of our baking and cooking nut supply. The squirrel was hopping up onto the railing, scurrying up to the front door, and glaring at me. If she could have fashioned her tiny claw into a fist and pounded it I’m pretty sure she would have.

“Look, sweetie, the squirrelie!”  I said to our daughter as I rummaged through her snack supply for more nuts. Aha! Her bag of yummy toasted almonds!

Out I went, impressionable daughter following close behind. The day before, with the walnuts, I had begun to hold the nut in my hand for the squirrel to take. “Fool!”  I hear the zoologists among you cry. “Idiot!”  call out the worldly-wise. Ah, but there’s no talking sense to a Baba on a mission, and my mission was to show my girl how kindness and generosity triumph over all — including the proper, healthy boundaries between Homo sapiens and one and a half pound, sharp-fanged rodents with bushy tails.

I had been made careless by the walnuts. As anyone will tell you, a walnut is a nice, spacious nut. One can hold the edge of it and leave a wild rodent plenty of room to grab safely. Back then, the day before, the squirrel was careful and precise, still probably skittish and convincing herself that I was friend, not foe. But in the course of that afternoon she had a veritable walnut orgy; ate several Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie batches worth of them, in fact (so many she began to simply pack her mouth full and go off and bury the excess). In a short time I had moved from potential foe, to certain friend, to utter patsy.

Almonds, I discovered, are a smaller nut than walnuts, and if one is fool enough to hold it between thumb and forefinger, one will notice that once the almond is plucked up, the forefinger remaining bears a striking resemblance to another almond.

Or so the squirrel thought.

“OUCH, you little fucker! Leggo my fuckin’ finger!”

She had clamped down and was distressed to find the almond-ish looking object was attached to my hand, was indeed part and parcel of the hand itself. I had to whack the almond bag on the railing to get her to disengage. Even then all she did was hop a few feet away and watch me.

Our daughter studied my face, carefully memorizing the pronunciation and usage context of “fucker”  and “fuckin.”  Then she looked over at the smart, fat furry thing, nibbling away at the almond she did manage to score. Then she looked back at the dumb, finger-clutching, now squirrel-hating Baba.

I wagged my punctured appendage at the glib little creature. The squirrel that is, not my daughter. “You ungrateful little wretch! You, you, you future handbag you! That was no nut, that was my digit!”

One feverish online search and an advice nurse phone-chat later, I was headed for the emergency room for a tetanus shot. There I waited for five precious hours, five hours during which I’m certain I could have completed dozens upon dozens of newborn-preparatory tasks. Or provided countless foot and lower-back rubs to the obscenely pregnant beloved. Or even written on a chalkboard, hundreds of times, “I will not feed the squirrel, I will not feed the squirrel.”

Oh, I could have been stupider. I could have placed the nut in my daughter’s tiny, innocent fingers, and held them up to the squirrel. In five hours of soul-searching, while poor schmucks more wretched than I ralphed and moaned and doubled over in the ER waiting room, I managed only to conclude that:

    1) Innocent looking, furry little wild animals with bushy tails might be cute but they’re still frickin’ rodents;
    2) There’s a reason a huge gulf separates the wild from the domesticated; and
      3) You can be DAMN SURE I won’t be feeding that squirrel any time soon. Okay, or if I do, it will be on a little plate. Or maybe with

a nice, thick glove


14 thoughts on “A cautionary New Year’s tale, or Homo not so sapiens”

  1. Owwwwwwwwwww!

    I’m so sorry!

    And at the same time, you got a great picture, and a great story, and in addition to the lesson you intended to teach your little girl, she also learned another valuable one: things do not always work the way you expect them to work. Hence the wild, in wild animal.

    I hope your finger heals quickly, and that you and your daughter laugh for years about the time Baba got bitten by a squirrel. (Plus it’s a story that she can taunt her new sib with — you weren’t even born yet when I saw Baba get bitten by a squirrel!)

  2. I picture you shaking your hand with the squirrel still attached, a la Rikki Tikki Tavi and Nag, the cobra. And though it makes me a bad person, that image makes me giggle. A little.

  3. Ouch!

    We have some squirrelies who live in the oak tree in the front yard. In our case, however, Fergus the dog makes sure they never get too close. They sit on the telephone lines and tease him.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery. (Too bad it wasn’t a radioactive squirrel–maybe you could have gotten squirrel super-powers.)

  4. Hilarious! I could not help but laugh through the whole post! Thank you for sharing. Oh my God, your outbursts sound just like mine. My favorite word. I’m hoping when we have our child that it’s not first word she learns.

    You’d think the squirrels would be sweet and cute and harmless…too bad it’s not true. It’s now Wednesday evening. Are you feeling better?

    jon – I like the super-powers idea!


  5. Thank you. Three days later, the tetanus shot area is still sore, and the finger’s fast recovering, but I’m sure my pride will never be the same again. At least I hope not.

    And good luck with the potty mouth. Folks like us need it.

  6. Ah, yes. Well, we have a dog, and she once in her life clamped a squirrel in her jaws, and was almost more shocked than the squirrel (dropped it when we shouted at her). She’s a lab mix and is far more interested in things that take less effort to eat. Now she’s geriatric and has a heart condition and I try to keep her from bolting at anything, so as to stave off the inevitable coronary. Heavy sigh.

    Here she is at her most intimidating:

    Boodily takes a bath

    If you were a squirrel, wouldn’t you kind of just snicker? Not that it’d be nice. But it would be appropriate.

  7. So I just discovered the world of blogs (at age 27 I know I’m a late bloomer)… but since my partner and I are embarking on our journey to concieve I thought I’d learn from those who have been (or will be) in our shoes. I stumbled on to your blog which I have secretly been reading while at work an hour (or two) a day (I have to start everything from the very begining) and I’ve come this far… January of 2007 – and my cover was just blown wide open after reading this post and laughing histerically all by myself to which my cubicle neighbor asks “are you ok?” ….”of course I’m ok I’m just laughing!”

    Anyway I don’t even know if you will read this since its been so long since you posted but I will try and comment once I am caught up! Thanks for the laughs, the tears, the anger and excitement! I look forward to reading more!

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