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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Country Quandary

By Chuck Nyren of Advertising to Baby Boomers

I am bucolically befuddled. As a newly minted ruralist, a rube's rube, not only my senses but my sense of justice are in chaos. Ahhh, for the simple life of the city!

I spend a great deal of time on the back porch. No railing is needed, for the deck slams into a thirty-foot high slope. There's a garden there. I don't look down at the flowers, the flowers look down at me. Bees buzz around trying to find better seats. They're never happy where they are. Every so often a hummingbird flies in, checks out the entertainment and leaves.

And I'm Oedipus. Or Hamlet. Or, more likely, some Neil Simon character - here merely to amuse Mother Nature's theatre-going public.

Those are the easy days. Rougher ones include wrenching inner challenges to deeply held beliefs. It's Paul the Chipmunk who has been the catalyst for these self-doubts.

Paul is too much fun. At first skittish at the sound of me (he doesn't see very well), it wasn't long before I was simply an obstacle. He'd stop, sniff, and nimbly negotiate my big toe. After a few days it dawned on me that most of his activities involved rummaging for food, so I balled up a section of bran muffin and threw it at him. He nudged it with nose, packaged it in his mouth and scurried away. Paul was happy.

The next morning he started bugging me. Practically perched on my foot, he looked up and waited. I assembled another treat, bent over - and before I could give it to him he jumped up and knocked it out of my hand. I guess he thought I was a tree whistling in the wind.

Paulchipmunk In the afternoon it was an apple on the veranda. I saw Paul scrounging around in the garden, trying to balance his diet. I cut off a piece of the fruit and placed it on the far end of the patio. Eventually he found it, snapped it in his mouth, sat down, settled it in his paws and started chomping away as if he were tackling a slice of watermelon. What a show. I was being entertained for a change.

Apples not having a thick rind, Paul seemed a bit surprised when his repast began to collapse. Carefully, he folded it over, turning it into a sandwich-like snack…

A rat shoots out from under a rock. I grab a shovel and try to beat its head in. The thing is too fast for me. All I end up doing is putting a dent in the shovel.

…and scaring the hell out of Paul. He was gone. Did I ever feel bad. The poor fellow was probably quivering in a hole somewhere, saying to himself over and over, "Boy, you can't trust those walking trees."

But for me, it was time for philosophical inquiry. "Here I am, feeding and caring for Paul, yet as soon as I see a rat I want to bash its head in. Hey, we're talking about Paul's cousin! Maybe they know each other, hang out together. Who knows. It's just that wailing on one and not the other is like seeing a beautiful dog, petting it, getting it a dog biscuit - and then having some smelly mutt show up and taking a baseball bat and…”

Heretofore secure in my liberal political beliefs, was I becoming a rodent racist? (To my horror, I find I even have very strong opinions about mice. Less intent on genocide, I'm more of a separatist. Live and let live - just so they don't move in.)

During my days in the asphalt jungle, it was so much easier. You killed anything with four or more legs that didn't meow or bark. Now I'm impelled to discriminate. If the tail is cute, it lives.

Soon, no doubt, I'll be forced to pensively wrestle with other moral dilemmas - like bumblebees versus yellow jackets, for example.

Ahhh, for the simple life of the city!

[The vault of new stories is running low again. If you are interested in contributing, the guidelines are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Oh I love it! And I'm going to remember "if the tail is cute, it lives." I used to have a groundlevel condo with a patio surrounded by shrubbery. I had a birdfeeder that the squirrels would raid, so to keep them at bay I started feeding them peanuts. My friends called squirrels "rats with fluffy tails" and strongly discouraged me from this practice, but I got hours of entertainment from those squirrels, it was well worth it. Now I have a proper retort for them.

We have a family of chipmunks living under our small deck. I don't pay too much attention to them so they just live their life and I live mine.

BUT, I love to watch the squirrels who live in my yard. Their antics are better than watching TV as they fight, make love, and chase each other from one tree to the next.They are so acrobatic and skilled as they scramble from one branch to another in pursuit of their quarry, be it food, friend or foe...

We cleaned out my husband's car recently and found a can of nuts that were left in the trunk somehow. I took the nuts out to the center of the yard and threw them on the ground. The first squirrel who found them couldn't believe his luck! He grabbed as many as he could stuff in his mouth and headed for his secret hiding place. By the time he got back, the other squirrels had discovered the nuts and were also rushing away to stash them for future use. It was great fun and both the squirrels and I enjoyed the time we spent together dividing up the goodies....

Thanks for bringing up this subject. I loved your story of Paul and hope he begins to trust you again.....

What an enjoyable story, Chuck. It started my morning off with a big grin.

I have a townhouse that sits on the edge of a Wash. One summer I decided to feed the birds. Every desert critter around showed up to enjoy the feast, but when a rat ran across my patio I no longer felt compassion.

Sorry, birds, you are now on their own. Some guests are just not welcome.

I decided that long ago (if the tail is cute - it lives) LOL. Spiders have no tails, though, so what do I do with them??

Thanks, everybody. Your comments certainly made our day.

Chuck & Paul

Chuck, this is a great story. Sounds like Paul is on his way to changing you into a country boy. By the way, how do you know your cute tailed friend is not a Paulette?

Chuck, I love your ironical sense of humour and style. You should think about writing a regular column on your country versus city experiences for the newspapers.


Sorry, I didn't realise you're already a columnist.

We live in the city and have raccoons gamboling about in the yard at night. Squirrels once came into our yard and made a nest in our oak tree to crack our filberts. they left sharp shells all over the yard so our grandchildren dared not run barefoot in our yard.

Once our live-in health aide went outside to smoke in the evening (before we found a nonsmoking aide)
and was frightened by "a big

My husband trapped the squirrels and took them a mile down to our local wooded park and let them loose. Then we wondered if it was (were?)any kinder because new squirrels in another squirrel's territory are shunned and may die because they cannot feed there.

We finally cut down the filbert tree and that helped somewhat. But cutting down trees is shunned in our neighborhood.

I must remember that squirrels are just rats with bushy tails.

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