Don’t Shoot The Squirrels!
I learned early on there ain’t no gettin’ rid of the squirrels ‘round here.
The damned critters run back and forth across my roof all day, chew my wood siding, nest in my attic, and steal peppers and tomatoes out of my garden. They’re annoying as hell, but I don’t want to wipe ‘em out. Above all else, they’re living creatures. Plus, they scare the shit outta me.
I live in Prairie Station, Texas, a small town about 80 miles west of Houston and 80 miles east of San Antonio. A lot of folks pass by us on Interstate 10, but they rarely stop. Probably too rural for ‘em. Now and then someone does stop. Maybe for gas from the Quik Stop or lunch at Ruthie’s Diner. They like the place so much, they stay. That’s how my neighbor, Dylan, ended up here.
Dylan was raised in the Houston suburbs, but he wasn’t the suburban type. “Them homeowner associations got too many rules,” he told me. “I had to find me some open space.” Although folks here consider our acre lots at the end of Main Street to be “in town,” they’re country enough for Dylan. He bought the old Garcia place next to mine and moved in just after Thanksgiving. We both got tons of trees in our yards. Big ol’ oaks, elms, and sycamores. Problem is, lots of trees bring lots of squirrels. And I mean a shitload of ‘em.
We ain’t got written rules or owner associations here in Prairie Station. But we do aim to be good neighbors. One afternoon, Dylan was running his lawnmower. It was early spring and Texas hot—eighty-eight degrees, full-on sun, and steam-bath humid. My wife Rosie made a pitcher of hard lemonade, and I waved him over to join us.
“Real scorcher today,” I commented as I handed him a tall glass with lots of ice.
“Yeah. The squirrels’ll be breedin’ soon,” he replied as he wiped the sweat off his face. “Those varmints drive me crazy. I seen ‘bout five or six scamperin’ in the yard since I been mowin’.”
“I’m with ya,” I said. “They’re a bother to us, too.”
“I’ll take care of ‘em for ya.”
I wondered how Dylan was gonna “take care” of ‘em and decided I better throw him off that track. Can’t do much about the squirrels here. I took a big swallow of Rosie’s lemonade. “Thanks,” I replied, “but I got it covered. I’m getting me a cat to chase ‘em off.”
Dylan raised an eyebrow and gulped his drink. “That’s one plan.”
I shoulda told him then how things work here in Prairie Station, but I didn’t. Then a week later, Dylan was shooting targets in his back yard. When he took a break, I hightailed it on over.
“Hey, Dylan, whatcha shootin’?”
“Air rifle for hunting small game. Check it out. Shoots .177-caliber pellets at 1,200 feet per second. Uses a 10-shot magazine.”
I’m not the kinda guy that keeps guns, but I figured I’d be polite. “Sweet. What’re ya huntin’?”
“Squirrels.” He pointed his air rifle at another target and pulled the trigger. “Their numbers need thinnin’ out.”
“Yeah, uh… we don’t shoot squirrels here. We let ‘em be.”
“You trap ‘em?”
“Nah. Nothin’ good comes from huntin’ or trappin’ ‘em.”
“I don’t get it. Squirrel season’s year-round in this county, with no bag limit.”
“It ain’t Texas Parks and Wildlife we worry about.”
Dylan scratched his beard. “Then what the hell you talkin’ about? Why shouldn’t I dispose of these pesky bastards? ‘Specially if I’m huntin’ ‘em in my own yard?”
“They’re hard to get rid of, Dylan. I’m tellin’ ya now.”
He eyed me for a moment, grunted, and reloaded his rifle. “Yeah. We’ll see.”
It was real early the next morning, around six o’clock, when I heard several loud cracks. I knew it was Dylan firing his air rifle. I rolled over in the bed and nudged Rosie, who was lying beside me.
“You hear that, hon?” I whispered. “I bet Dylan’s shootin’ at them squirrels.”
“If he is, there’ll be hell to pay today,” she mumbled as she pulled the blanket over her head. “I’m stayin’ inside.”
I got up and looked out the bedroom window. Sure enough, Dylan was aiming his rifle at squirrels and taking shots. I opened the window and yelled at him while he reloaded. “Dylan, I told ya. Don’t shoot at the damned squirrels. Ain’t worth it.” But he didn’t listen. Gave me a quick nod and kept firing.
I made a pot of coffee, poured myself a cup, and parked myself at the table next to the kitchen window, which gave me a clear view of Dylan’s property. A few minutes later, Rosie came along and sat with me. We both watched and waited. We knew what was coming.
Three squirrels perched in Dylan’s tree branches were screeching and barking alarm calls. Dylan reloaded his air rifle. He took a shot and nearly hit one squirrel, which fell out of the tree and laid on the ground for a few seconds before it scooted away. Two minutes later, six or seven squirrels scampered into his yard. They darted around the trees, also sounding their alarm cries. Dylan aimed his rifle and fired, pausing after every shot to cock the rifle. He discharged all ten shots in the magazine but didn’t hit any of ‘em. As he reloaded again, about twenty more squirrels scuttled into the yard. They dashed up tree trunks and jumped from tree to tree. Soon, even more of the critters rushed onto his property. About two dozen or so.
Those squirrels kept a-comin’. A large group of ‘em bunched up in the street in front of our houses, then scurried into his yard. Lord help me, it was like an infestation of Texas-size roaches. From where Rosie and I sat, we could see Dylan’s eyes widen and his jaw drop open. Then, like a crazy man, he spun around in a complete circle, firing pellets willy nilly. When he stopped to reload, the damned things rushed him. Squirrels in the grass climbed up his legs, and the ones in the trees jumped down on his head and shoulders.
Still gripping that rifle, Dylan frantically waved his arms, trying to swat them squirrels away, but he lost his balance and fell. The dumb-ass didn’t have a chance after that. Those damned squirrels swarmed his body until his legs, torso, and back were covered with their furry little grey bodies. All we could see was his outstretched hands and that ol’ ball cap on top of his head. As he crawled toward his house, Rosie and I could hear him screaming. He made it to the steps and dragged himself up to the front door, slapping at the little bastards that still clung to his clothes. Although he was all scratched up and bloody, somehow Dylan managed to push the door open and limp inside.
“Should we call animal control?” Rosie asked as she sipped her coffee.
“Nah, they’ll leave soon,” I answered as I got up to make toast. “He knows better now.”