One of the joys of living in suburbia is that furry little forest friends sometimes make their way into the backyard for us to observe and enjoy.
The downside is that their friends — the varmints — think they, too, are entitled to the same privileges. This has sparked an epic battle.
It all started when I bought a little bird feeder that attached to pole mounted on the railing on my deck. It was fun to watch cardinals, blue jays and other baseball team mascots fly in for a treat.
That lasted until the squirrels and their larger sidekicks, raccoons, discovered the feeder. They would belly up the feeder and completely drain the thing.
It was like bringing a plate of chocolate chip cookies down to the Mets dugout, see David Wright smacking his lips while reaching for the plate then watching Chipper "Freaking" Jones run up, grab the plate and tear into the stack like the Cookie Monster wearing an offensive Indian logo.
Our first efforts at deterring the plunders were not productive. My ever-vigilant daughter would report when a squirrel was stuffing his cheeks and I’d run to the sliding door yelling about how bad things would happen should they not scram.
Then I discovered new ammunition: "Pepper Treat" by Wild Bird Products. It’s bird seed liberally dusted with ultra-hot cayenne pepper powder.
According to the company, birds can’t taste the fiery spice. Squirrels and other mammals can, however, and one bite would send then tearing off into the woods never to darken my feeder again.
I filled the feeder then stood in hiding at my kitchen window.
Before long a little gray squirrel jumped up from the rail to the feeder and started eating like it was sample day at Costco. It only took a few seconds. The thief jumped away then started running around in circles on my deck before scampering off into the woods, probably searching for a glass of water to cool the fire.
Meanwhile, I was inside doing the patented "Yes! Yes!" dance declaring victory over all varmints except moles, whom I remain locked in another epic battle.
The Reagan-era mantra of peace through strength has kept the plunderers at bay for several years now, allowing me to get all worked up about other intruders, mainly the woodchuck that took up residence under our sunroom. I even became cocky, mixing in less expensive seed with the pepper-laced seed in a big Rubbermaid bin to spread it out a little.
But revenge for the squirrels came this week.
Usually I scoop the seed with a plastic cup then pour it into the feeder. But it’s time to replenish the supply, and I tried pouring what was left in the bin right into the feeder. Sadly, all the cayenne power that accumulated at the bottom of the bin over the years was coming out, too, especially when I was banging the sides to shake loose the last seeds at the bottom.
Then it happened.
A gust of wind.
It blew the cayenne pepper powder.
Right into my face.
Damn, that hurt.
I started running around on the deck trying to wipe my face, blindly trying to make it down the stairs, through the garage and into the kitchen so I could stick my face under the faucet and turn the water on full blast. It took a while for the pain to stop.
My Dad, a retired police officer, once told me that pepper spray was more effective than a night stick because perps would practically beg to be taken into custody after a good dose to the face. I now have no doubt this is true.
And I’m certain, that had I not been yelling so loud, I would have heard uncontrolled snickering coming from the woods.
The moral here as Opening Day approaches is that we think we can defeat the seemingly unbeatable, be they squirrels or the Braves. Occasionally, we may even get one over on them. But in the end we wind up screaming, trying to wash away the pain.
The beauty of being a Mets fan, of course, is that we shall keep trying.