Paul, my husband, was an intellectual. He loved books and read almost constantly when at home. However, at some point he realized that man cannot live by books alone. Searching for a hobby, he tried leather tooling, wood working, hiking, and then bird watching. Bird watching and hiking go together, so these hobbies lasted longer than most — until he engaged in a duel with a squirrel. Or, maybe it was squirrels, since you really can’t tell the difference between them. In short, he lost not only a battle, but the whole war. It was a war with deadly intent on his part.
You see, winter arrived, and it was too cold for us Texans to go hiking and bird watching in the D.C. area. So, Paul decided to put a bird feeder about 6′ outside of the kitchen window, where he could watch the birds while he ate breakfast. We were both too cranky in the mornings to talk, so this seemed to be a fantastic solution to the silent early meal. There would be no need to talk unless there was a reason. The birds might provide one.
On a Saturday, Paul went out and bought a 4″x4″ piece of wood about 8′ long, dug a hole, and actually mixed concrete to set the wood in. This accomplished, he bought a bird feeder with a metal pan and an attractive little wooden roof over it. He found a piece of wood the right size to mount the feeder on. He nailed all of these together. He bought bird seeds. If you knew Paul, you would agree that not just starting, but actually finishing, all of this work was, indeed, an amazing feat for him.
The next morning, Paul had a happy, satisfied expression on his face. Before breakfast, he filled the feeder. He lingered at the table, drinking two extra cups of coffee. A robin and two sparrows came, dined, and departed. A blue jay dropped by. Another robin alighted on the feeder. And then a squirrel deftly climbed the 4×4, swung himself around the little platform, and landed on the feeder.
The squired scared the robin away. He dug into the seeds, scattering most of them, except for the sunflower seeds, on the ground. When he had eaten all of them and left, there were no seeds in the feeder. Paul was not happy. He left half of his last cup of coffee, dressed, and stalked out of the house. Not a word was said.
Paul returned with a roll of electrical tape and a box of thumb tacks. He pushed the tacks through the sticky side of the tape, about 1″ apart. He wrapped the tape completely around the 4×4, from the ground to the platform. He refilled the feeder.
Of course, that was no deterrent to the squirrels. We lived in an old brick house. The kitchen window had a small brick ledge on the outside. A few minutes after Paul had begun a fresh cup of coffee and was waiting for the next bird to arrive, a squirrel landed on the window ledge and jumped to the feeder. He ate the sunflower seeds and left the other seeds on the ground. Paul marched out the back door, a grim expression on his face.
When I heard the car drive up an hour later, Paul didn’t come in the house. I went looking for him and found him standing on a ladder outside the kitchen window. He had gotten some thin wire screening, the type with the metal arranged in little hexagons. Somehow, he attached it from the top of the window to the underside of the ledge.
Paul came in, sat down at the kitchen table, and nicely requested that I make another pot of coffee. I did. Before the coffee perked, a squirrel flew through the air, having jumped from the picket fence around the back yard, and landed on the top of the feeder. He climbed down to the feeding pan, scattered most of the seeds, ate all of the sunflower seeds, and departed. Paul buried his nose in a book for the rest of the week.
The following Saturday, as we sat at the breakfast table, Paul had a thoughtful look on his face. He was staring at the old, non-working dishwasher that had come with the house and that we hadn’t gotten around to replacing. It was next to the kitchen sink. The kitchen sink was under the window.
Paul got a screwdriver and some electrical wire. He went to the basement and turned off the electricity to the kitchen. He opened the cover of what looked like a light switch that was over the dishwasher. He attached the wire to the switch. He poked a small hole in the kitchen window screen and pushed the wire through it. He went outside and pulled it through the hexagonal screen. He attached the wire to the metal feed pan. Paul then went downstairs and turned the electricity on.
Back in the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee, he sat down to watch the birds come and eat. The blue jay came and two sparrows. A squirrel leaped from the fence to the feeder, scared the birds away, and started digging through the seeds. Paul went to the switch and flicked it on. The switch spat out sparks and made a loud popping sound. Paul had blown all of the electricity in the house. The squirrel, unharmed, continued to dig and eat.
We called an electrician. Paul stuck his nose back in a book. The hiking and the bird watching were over. And the bird feeder was never filled again.