The All-Mighty Squirrels of Houston
My wife and I went to Houston on a Saturday to take our teacher certification tests. While there, we stopped at the Natural Science Museum, to meet some friends and see the exhibits. That was the “Lord of the Rings’ movie exhibit for those taking notes.
We sat on a park bench and read for a bit, waiting. The missus commented on the size of the squirrels. Half joking, I said, “here squirrel” and made cute squirrel-like sounds. Four little fuzzy heads oriented on us like mammal missile launchers.
The leader of the pack… pride… doom of squirrels, a rather robust individual who was more obviously male than most dogs I’ve seen, approached. He sat and looked cute, waving his paws in the air. Oh boy, was it a trap.
I went to the car and found something for them to eat. I wouldn’t call it healthy, even for humans, but these squirrels were obviously on the fast track to clogged arteries. Fortunately, they live across the street from the largest hospital complex in Houston. The mind boggles at the idea of a 2nd year intern trying to perform a triple bypass on a four- pound squirrel… anyway.
The treat that I found was an old bag of cheese Ritz Bits ™. I said, “Well, I’ll show him.” and held one of the delectable and stale sandwiches in my outstretched fingers. I continued to make cutesy little noises. The squirrel approached me with the bravado of John Wayne making an example of a few hundred Mexican soldiers at the Alamo.
I got an excellent view of the special feature of order Rodentia as he delicately reached out and grabbed the morsel… from my now shaking fingers. You see, rodents specialize in teeth. Teeth that grow continuously, unless sharpened and honed to a razor edge by sharp foods like acorns and human fingers. Unfortunately, this leader of the ‘rat pack’ hadn’t eaten anything tougher than Wonder Bread and bologna for far too long. His incisors were a wonderful length for picking a painfully small Ritz cracker from my fingers.
Emboldened, the remainder of the mob approached. I quickly handed out sandwiches and observed these obese squirrels chewing on them like fat little four year olds. The smallest squirrel, ironically having the longest and bushiest tail (having bright eyes would be too obvious a joke here), was assaulted by a pair of grackles, thinking him an easy target for their murderous beaks (get it? Murder of crows… nevermind). Obviously, no animal smaller than a great dane would attack the leader of this squirrel herd. That little, small squirrel, holding onto his morsel like Lance Armstrong holding the lead at the Tour de France, made slashing motions with his claws. Grackles fled the scene, embarrassed at their inept theft attempt. This leader had trained his squad mates well. No mere bird was going to cash in on their cuteness factor.
Finally, after each squirrel of the pod… gaggle… whatever, extorted a handful of treats from us, I came to a painful realization… the Ritz Bits were gone. That’s when things turned ugly. I had lost sight of tactical reality and found myself surrounded by a pride of agile rodents who meant to get their treats. I faked left and dove for the car to find another bag of anything. My wife was left to appease the flock.
She began getting nervous when the runt, He of the Longest Tail, started making eyes at her ponytail and approaching (on the picnic table) with amorous intent. I returned with nothing more than a half full glass of water and some squeezed lemons. The leader was NOT HAPPY with this development. I sensed our relationship had taken a turn for the worse.
We decided that the restrooms and cool, air-conditioned, rodent free confines of the Museum offered a way out.
Thus endeth the tail, not with astounding victory or bitter defeat, but all the world looking like we had been chased out of the park by four squirrels. Look damnit, they were huge squirrels!