Wednesday, October 23, 2013

COLUMN: Mr. Poofytail

I've made no secret over the years of my fear and loathing when it comes to nature. Some people might equate sun with fun. I usually equate it with sweating, sunburn, and the ever-present fear of death by snake bite, bee sting, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and/or quicksand pit.

But as much as I'm an unapologetic enemy of nature, I remain to this day a diehard supporter of animals -- at least those that can be classified as either cute and/or fuzzy. I grew up in the country, and as far back as I can remember, my parents always had feeders set up to turn our yard into a five-star restaurant for most of the animal kingdom. Flick open the curtains and it'd be nothing to see hummingbirds, mice, raccoons, opossum, groundhogs, deer... you name it.

Over the years, we've seen quail, turkey, hawks, foxes, coyotes, and even runaway cattle in our yard. Of course, this also meant the danger of occasionally witnessing the circle of life break out right before our eyes, but we had an even stronger force of nature: my mom. Usually before any kind of carnal bloodbath would erupt, she'd be scrambling to the patio door, yelling "Hey! Everyone play nice!"

I proudly carry my parent's values, and I'm an ardent animal supporter, even if I offer that ardent support from an air-conditioned living room. If I can help the welfare of animals, I'm down. Well, except snakes, which are less animal and more like hellspawn limbless atrocities. And bats, which are just flying rats with fangs. And bees. And spiders. Pretty much all insects. And anything that's NOT especially cute and/or fuzzy.

And now, I've discovered another animal who's just lost my ardent support. An animal whose tyrannical nature is the definition of evil incarnate. An animal that plagues our fragile earth and threatens our very way of life. An animal named Mr. Poofytail.

One of the things I first loved the most about the property I would eventually come to own was the canopy of shade provided by the large majestic tree in my neighbor's yard. But not knowing a single thing about nature, I had no idea at the time that the large majestic tree spends half its year producing large majestic walnuts -- and my house becomes the world's most boring game of pachinko. At least once an hour, I can expect to hear the THUD of a walnut hitting the roof, then the slow roooooooolllllll as gravity takes it down to the throngs of eager squirrels that have made my back yard their personal walnut paradise.

It was my neighbor who named him. We were gabbing by her back porch one day when a black squirrel darted across the lawn, looked me square in the eye, went "Fk! Tk tk thpf!" and ran up the walnut tree. "Aww," my neighbor said, "Look at Mr. Poofytail!" His tail might have been poofy, but his dead hollow eyes were a sign of what was to come.

Later that night, I was greeted at my back door by the usual evening assemblage of feral feline grifters all giving me the sad-eye treatment. They know a sucker when they see one, and every night I fall for their tragic little meows and set out a pile of cat food for them to scavenge. I had just poured them a fresh bowl when I first got whumped on the head.

Ow! What the...? Ow. Ow ow. Weighty pieces of walnuts were falling onto my noggin. I looked up. There, perched directly over my head, was Mr. Poofytail. I sidestepped. Above me, Mr. Poofytail sidestepped as well and continued his reign of walnut rain. "Why, you little...," I cursed up to the heavens. "Fk! Tk tk thpf!" he swore back.

The next day, all was forgiven. Surely that squirrel hadn't been aiming for my head purposely. Squirrels are cute and fuzzy, and I love cute and fuzzy. There's no way a squirrel could be that mean.

And then I stepped outside. There he was, munching on a walnut at the tree base. "Awww," I said to myself. That's when Mr. Poofytail saw me, chucked the walnut into his mouth, raced up the tree, positioned himself directly over my head, and spit the walnut out almost square into my eyeball. Tk tk thpf, indeed.

So if you happened to be driving through Rock Island last week and saw a strange man staring skyward screaming obscenities at a walnut tree, I apologize for my filthy mouth, but I'm at war with a filthy squirrel.

This week, though, I thought things would be over. The walnut tree had shed its load for the season and Mr. Poofytail had nothing left to chuck at my head. Or so I thought. Two nights ago, I got home from work to the usual suspects already in line at the Hungry Cat Cafe. This time, though, no walnuts and no worries. I can just stand out here, pet my favorite ferals, and... and... and why is my head WET? More importantly, WHY IS IT WARM? Why do I hear FK TK TK THPF??

And that was the day I got peed on by a squirrel. "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!" I screamed up at the tree. So if you happened to be driving through Rock Island the other day and saw a strange man grabbing walnuts and angrily throwing them up into the tree from whence they came, all I can say is that war is hell.

The cat coalition seemed far less interested in my head-o'-squirrel-urine and more concerned as to why I wasn't making with the Cat Chow. "Did you SEE that?" I yelled at them. "If you guys climb that tree right now and eat that squirrel, I promise you I will grab a ladder and rescue you." No takers. I guess it's a dog-eat-dog, squirrel-pees-on-human, cats-remain-indifferent world.

The battle lines have been drawn. As I sit here typing this, he's out there somewhere, probably plotting his next move or drinking lots of liquids. Just know I'm coming for you, buddy. Me AND my army of well-fed cats. At my next dinner party, I want my guests to rave about my poofy-tail soup (hint: the secret ingredient is VENGEANCE.)

My parents will be so proud.

1 comment:

rita coyne said...

Miss your column. Really got worried when a third week came and no Shane! Saw the explanation that you broke your ankle. (Didn't see it at first.)
Geez. Hope you didn't trip on Mr. Poofey! Take care. I look forward to keeping up with you each week. Now that nature has snowed us in pretty good, you don't have to feel you are the only one confined!