This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange
It’s never to late to learn something new. After feeding the squirrels at Texas City’s Nessler Park for a few years now, I can report that there are several facts to which I can attest.
Fact one: Humans can train squirrels but the squirrels are even better at training us. When we run out of home-grown pecans, we promptly run right out and buy some more. And pecans, as many of you know, aren’t cheap.
But, as I tell my husband: “They don’t understand the words ‘we’re out of pecans’.” The sight of their disappointed little faces is devastating to me. “No pecans” is apparently a crushing experience. They’re very good at this training thing.
Once, when I leaned over to tell a very persistent squirrel that there were no more nuts left in the plastic bag I was holding, he just jumped up the leg of my jeans and clung to my knee in order to get his message across.
That was an experience I won’t easily forget. Fortunately, no humans or squirrels were injured during the event.
Fact two: You can’t pass off poor-quality nuts on a squirrel. Sometimes a dried-out pecan becomes mixed in with the top-quality ones these little guys have become accustomed to being given.
What happens when a squirrel is given one of these low-quality nuts? First he spins it around in his front paws, taking a few sharp-toothed bites out of it.
Then, realizing he’s been scammed, he tosses it to the ground and looks up at us accusingly. Squirrels are very good at giving you the Evil Eye. They also do excellent guilt trips.
Fact three: Squirrels are quick learners. They seem to respond well to sounds – clicking noises, like the ones you use to make a horse move along, nuts rattling in a plastic bag and human voices, just to mention a few.
I have trained “my” squirrels to come to my voice. Unfortunately, though, they prefer to hear me coo the words: “Come to Nana, precious; I have a pecan for you.”
You don’t want to do this in front of strangers, who might think you’re slightly crazy. OK, there’s no “might” about it. They’ll know you’re crazy.
But, then, who cares what non-squirrel people think?
Fact four: If you anticipate something happening, eventually it will. Every so often a while back, after we had fed an especially friendly squirrel, I’d say to my spouse: “One of these days, we’re going to finish our walk where we parked the car and one of our little guys will be waiting for us there.”
Sure enough, a week or so after one of those occasions, we arrived at our car to find one of our tamest little friends was right in front of our vehicle, watching for us. Unfortunately for him, we’d just given away our last pecan.
And that’s how I wound up with a squirrel clutching my knee through my jeans.
(Note to self – never wear shorts when feeding squirrels!)
A special thanks to First Christian church on Loop 197 North in Texas City for a really funny sign this week. It reads: “The second mouse gets the cheese.”
There’s a lesson in that for all of us.