Friday, July 6, 2012

Homeland Security, Big Hill Style

The nefarious Mr. Sniffles has been raiding our home, again. This pure black, long-haired cat was a ratty, scrawny mess when he first strayed in to my neighbor, John’s, house. John named him Mr. Sniffles because of his chronic watery eyes, sneezing and general poor health. Now, several months later, Mr. Sniffles slinks through our open doors looking glossy and well-fed. As why shouldn’t he, since he’s eating all my fur children’s food?

Last night, he came through the dog door, pulled a box of dog treats from the counter and commenced gnawing on the box to get to the goodies. It wasn’t until he achieved his goal and began crunching on a dog biscuit that I awoke. I leapt for the light switch, to catch him in the act, but he was too fast. The light came on just as the dog door flap closed with a silky hiss.

We have tried all forms of discouragement short of gunfire. Even the fur children are involved. Maclovio runs at him, barking, but since Mr. Sniffles and he are peers in the size category, it’s generally a stand-off. Sometimes Panda and Mac team up, which is more effective in the short run but does nothing to discourage return visits. Sophia is more blunt: she tangles with Mr. Sniffles in unabashed hostility and the yowling is horrific. Nevertheless, sooner or later Mr. Sniffles will lurk furtively through the door, once again.

Yesterday morning I was taking a break from writing, lying down in the loft to rest my eyes. Suddenly I was awakened from a light doze by that distinctive crunching sound. I crept off the bed and looked over the railing. There, directly below me, was the silky black nemesis, scarfing Maclovio’s kibble.

An evil gleam passed through me, as a plot instantly formed. Ever so quietly I bent to retrieve my shoes. I held them out over the railing, taking aim. I released them and let gravity have its way with them. They rocketed downward and smacked straight into Mr. Sniffles. He did a maneuver impossible under any but the most straitened circumstances: he came about three feet off the parquet, with all four legs heading in a different direction. Then he ran away so fast that I really didn’t see him do it. It was as if he had simply vanished. I chortled in my glee as I descended to sweep up the kibble he had splattered in his flight.

Now, fast forward an hour and David and I are sitting on the porch over lunch. I spot a gray squirrel making the very same furtive moves, out in the vegetable garden. I watch him as he slinks along, then stops to sit on his haunches and survey the surroundings for danger, then advances some more.

I whisper to David, “Watch this!” We observe as the squirrel jumps into one of the raised beds and immediately begins munching on tender young beet greens. David, who has worked very hard to nurture these babies along, is incensed. He sets down the spoon with which he is eating half a cantaloupe. He takes careful aim. David was a star baseball player in his day and his aim is more accurate than most. He heaves the melon rind and it falls exactly where the squirrel no longer is. 

Quicker than light, it has dematerialized and is now on the back side of a pine tree, galloping upward. It works its way around until it is about 30 feet directly above the beets. It goes out on a limb and lies, its four legs hanging in space, on its belly along the branch and gazes into the veggie bed, obviously contemplating its next move.

 David goes into the house for more ammunition. “The .22’s right there, by my chair,” I offer companionably. “No,” he responds, coming out of the house with a handful of cherries, “I’d probably miss and hit Martha.” Martha being our closest neighbor to the east.

The squirrel, obviously highly motivated, makes its move. Down the tree it comes, this time to raid the bird feeder for seeds. David lobs cherries to no avail. I go for my camera and get the shot of the squirrel eating a cherry.

Then it goes for the lettuce in the cold frame. Now I’m the one incensed. This is my turf and the source of my daily salads. I focus the camera on this scoundrel as if it were a gun sight. The squirrel sits on his haunches, stuffing his little cheeks with Mesclun and arugula as fast as his little jaws can move. In one final, heroic effort to defend our boundaries, David hurls the other half of his cantaloupe, which explodes right at the feet of our foe, who levitates and dematerializes.

Minutes late, our roof is under bombardment. Green pinecones are being flung from high in the branches of the pine that overhangs the house. They resonate through the house, disturbing the wah and alarming the fur children. The squirrel has an evil gleam of its own, apparently.

For the moment, our demesne is secure. We have a watch dog and two watch cats and an arsenal of lob-able produce and footwear. We are united in fiercely protective vigilance against critters red in tooth and claw. Things look safe for the foreseeable future. Like, maybe the next hour. But we can never relax our guard. There are barbarians at the gates. It’s a jungle out there.