I have to confess something: I’m scared to go to the Park.
It’s not the fear of junkies or garbage or any of the other unsavory things you might imagine inhabit an urban park. . .
It’s the SQUIRRELS!!
Yes. The squirrels.
They’re out to get me.
They have almost succeed twice in nearly as many days.
Oh you can sit there and smile smugly, hiding safely behind your laptop or iPad, hollering at my insanity, but mark my words, if YOU go in that Park, they’ll be after you too!
Heed my warnings!!
A few days back, I took Mac to the super-fun, super-sized playground in the Park (reasoning that the positively frigid weather surely killed the germs that could possibly be lingering on the playground equipment). It was overcast and threatening to snow so the playground was devoid of almost all other life. . .almost. . .
I took the stroller into the enclosed playground area, popped the brake and started to extract Mac from the 5 point harness. I turned away from the stroller and was just about to put Mac on the soft-cork playground surface. . .but was stopped dead in my tracks mid-stoop by a squirrel!
He was inches away from the stroller, in the exact spot I was planning to plop down Mac!
His shiny little dark eyes squinted confrontationally at me. He was in an upright posture. He meant business.
I could see he wasn’t planning to budge, so I side-stepped and put Mac down about 3 feet to the left of him.
“Go on, Squirrel. . .Go on!” I implored him.
But he bounded a few steps closer to Mac. Mac of course was delighted and I could tell he was contemplating petting him.
This struck terror in my heart. You don’t just “pet” squirrels. They have sharp teeth and mites! (Trust me. I have this on good authority. I had to stuff a squirrel once for an undergrad Vertebrate Zoology class. That squirrel was COVERED in disgusting little bugs).
“Go ON Squirrel!” I say in a loud voice, taking a calm assertive step towards him.
Hmmm. . .seems the Dog Whisperer doesn’t know shit about squirrels because that little lunatic took a few steps even CLOSER to us.
My heart was racing. What if the squirrel was rabid? What the hell was he doing? It’s not natural for a squirrel to want to be so damned close to a human!
“GO ON, SQUIRREL!!!” I practically scream making a little shooing motion at it with the toe of my sneaker. “GO ON!!”
Mac is surveying the scene carefully, clearly aware from the tone of my voice something is awry.
My sneaker move halted the squirrel’s forward progress momentarily but I could tell he wasn’t about to back down. Seizing my opportunity, I held my right foot out towards the squirrel, bent my left leg, scooped up Mac and ran like hell 15 yards away to the little bouncing thing Mac likes so much.
“That was a close one,” I whisper to Mac as I place him on the bouncy seat. I start bouncing Mac up and down trying to have fun but scared to look back at the stroller, which I had carelessly abandoned in my efforts to get away from potentially rabid Mr. Squirrel.
Mac and I moved on to a few other pieces of the playground equipment. A couple of times, I warily glanced back at the stroller. It appeared the squirrel had vacated the area after my stealth sneaker shoo technique. I didn’t see him anywhere.
As we wrapped up our time at the playground, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief the squirrel was gone. I could bribe Mac with a cookie, get him back in the stroller, and get off of creepy Mr. Squirrel’s turf.
I gathered up Mac and carried him to the stroller, but as I rounded the front of the stroller, I couldn’t believe my eyes!
That deranged effing squirrel was IN THE STROLLER!! OH DEAR BARBARA!! HE WAS SITTING IN THE SEAT OF THE STROLLER!!!
Don’t panic, Deni. Don’t panic. Just do what Chris would do if he were here. . .he’s good with this sort of thing, remember that time he gave you the Heimlich when you were 36 weeks pregnant and choking on half a pound cake? Yeah. Do what Chris would do. You have a kid to think about here, you can’t go running off screaming like a little bitch. . .Plus, there could be people watching. You’re in a public place. . .
I grasped Mac tightly and rounded the back of the stroller. I tipped the stroller forward gently. The squirrel held his ground.
I bounced the stroller back down hard. The squirrel hunkered lower, dropping his center of gravity but otherwise remaining firmly entrenched.
“GO ON SQUIRREL!” I say while bouncing the stroller up and down. Mac is cracking up.
This isn’t working. This squirrel is completely demented. He’s a raving lunatic!
In a brilliantly effective tactical maneuver, I pull Mac’s cookie from my pocket, I wave it in front of Mr. D. Ranged Squirrel’s face and then hurl three-quarters of it as far away from the stroller as I can chuck it. D. Ranged took off like a shot after my peace-offering.
After a few days, I ventured into the park again. . .with much trepidation this time. I wanted some exercise. I wanted to see some birds. I wanted Mac to get some fresh air. . .but I was still reeling from our squirrel encounter. . .
So this time I came packing. I had equipped the stroller with half a loaf of bread, a bag of Cheerios, and the remainder of sweet Aunt Elaine’s stale Christmas cookies. If we got cornered again by this rogue squirrel and any of his associates, we would be covered.
We always do a lap around the boat lake first. Part of the lake was just starting to ice up and all the birds were concentrated at the far side. Mac and I headed towards the boardwalk. My stomach lurched a little bit as we headed that direction because typically we see a LOT of squirrels in this area.
I stopped midway ’round the boardwalk to look for a wood thrush that had been wintering over in this area. I was searching the underbrush with my binoculars when I felt something at the back of my left leg.
I turned sharply and noticed a squirrel just inches from me!
“GO ON!” I hissed at him shaking my leg a little bit.
But as I was bringing my binoculars back to my eyes, I caught a glimpse three or four other squirrels headed towards us!
“I JUST WANT TO SEE THE THRUSH.” I announce loudly to them. “I’M NOT HERE TO CAUSE PROBLEMS.”
Mac begins saying “Squir, Squir, Squir!!!” excitedly.
“GO ON!” I say loudly as I search in vain for the wood thrush.
I could feel them all staring at us. We were surrounded!! There were at least 8 squirrels circling us and they were closing in!!
I sneak the bag of Cheerios out of the mesh pocket of the stroller and very quietly open it and place in on the folded sunshade of the stroller. If confronted, I will fire.
I brought the bins to my eyes one more time. The wood thrush was eluding me. My eyes strained behind the binoculars, desperately seeking movement in the underbrush. . .
Something was on my calf! Something SIZEABLE. . .with heft and holding power and sharp little claws that were just about penetrating my yoga pants and the leggings beneath them.
I shook my leg violently and turned around just in time to catch a glimpse of an asshole squirrel retreat from my leg. . .Resting no more than a foot away. . .his tail was twitching in a victorious fashion. I SWEAR he winked at me!! I SWEAR!!
That was all I could take. Abandoning my mission to locate the wood thrush, I heaved the entire sandwich sized bag of Cheerios at the Squirrel Gang, placed my mitts firmly on the handle of the stroller and retreated with Mac as fast as my nearly middle-aged, jiggly thighs could go!
Think it’s so funny now?!
That asshole kingpin squirrel scaled my leg!! MY LEG!!
It’s evident he protects his turf and he demands respect.
I dare you to go into the park unprepared.
Let this be a warning.
As a serious aside, these squirrels behave this way because people feed them from their HANDS! Please, if you (or your children) want to feed ducks or squirrels and the local regulations allow it, PLEASE toss the food to them at a healthy distance. Please DO NOT encourage “wild” animals or feral animals to feed directly from your hand! It’s not good for you or the animals. If the regulations or posted signs state that you shouldn’t feed the animals, please honor them. When in doubt, do not feed or approach any wildlife. Any. Please. And. Thank you.