Lewis Shiner, squirrels, owls

Today’s post is part of an email (used with permission) that Lew sent to me in response to my recent book. Lew is an old and cherished friend as well as being a great, great writer. His most recent novel, Dark Tangos, deals with Argentina and some of its more terrible histories. He writes:

We have squirrels on our back deck whom we feed (we buy dried corn on the cob and put it on little squirrel feeders–okay, we haven’t done it in a while, but we have done it and will again), and who share the bird seed we put out. One day I was standing in the kitchen, watching a squirrel sitting on the deck railing, when an owl swooped down and took him. I was maybe ten feet away. I could see the squirrel’s face as the owl flapped upward, still alive, her talons buried deep in his neck, the awful resignation.

How do I reconcile my love of owls with my love of squirrels? How do I reconcile the love I feel for the generations of doves we have watched hatch and grow up and fly away on our front porch (we have two nests in the eaves that are regularly used–there are two week-old babies out there right now) with the knowledge that our cats, whom we love, would torture and kill those babies without hesitation if they could get their claws on them?

Marian Wood, squirrels (and one monkey thrown in)

Part Two from Marian Wood’s series of wild life encounters.  Read it together with Kristin Livdahl’s earlier squirrel entry.  Apparently there is more to squirrels than meets the eye.  They are organized and they have demands!

The Great Squirrel Assault

Tony and I bought a top floor apartment in a small four-story coop in Brooklyn in 1984. All went well until one morning I awoke to the sound of bird feet in the crawl space above our bed. Clearly, a bird was trapped there. I had an author who was really good about wildlife and I asked for help. “Nothing you can do except wait for the bird to die and then fumigate.” Urg.  But he was right. Pigeons had managed to make their way through the front façade and we were all prisoners. The smell was ghastly. Then summer turned toward winter and one morning I awoke to the pitter-patter of running feet. I knew that sound. Back when we were newly returned to New York, my parents bought a very old Victorian house. There were squirrels and we all thought they were terrific—and fed them richly. Then, as winter arrived, they moved in. Again, in the crawl space, this time between the second floor and the third. Turned out NY State had a ruling against exterminating squirrels. Our gardener showed my mother how to deal with them: Watch for their entry (a great old wild cherry tree in the back yard), wait until they left for the day, climb up and find the entry hole and fill it with camphor, wait until they returned and decamped, then seal the hole, cut off the tree limb they were using to jump the roof, and voila. So when 25 years later my husband and I were faced with the same problem, we wondered who would help us find the hole and get rid of the creatures. Turned out, we didn’t have to look far. Our garden floor neighbor, it being chilly, decided to light a fire in his fireplace. The sound of squirrel nails across the ceiling running in panic told me they had abandoned ship.


But here is the end story: The next day, they attacked every one of the fairy lights he’d hung in his garden. Chomp chomp.


Ever since a squirrel got trapped between the front doors in that Victorian house in Brooklyn, I have to admit I have hated them. It was truly terrifying. How to get it out without being bitten? My mother managed to do the deed. Brave woman. And we never fed them again. Then there was the time we went to Nuevo Laredo in Mexico (from the Army Air Corps base in San Antonio) and an organ grinder’s monkey grabbed me by the hair and would not let go. Can’t say I have loved monkeys since—sorry. Sometimes things just happen—and they leave a scar.