Friday, January 28, 2011

Camping and that pesky squirrel

All of this winter weather --snow, sleet, below zero temperatures--has made me long for summer. This week, I was thinking of all the wonderful times I have had in past summers, and I remembered a summer camping trip we took when my three daughters were all in elementary school. The youngest was kindergarten age.

We, my family and my wife’s sisters family, were camping along the southern shore of Lake Ontario and had one of those prime campsites with an amazing view of the lake. At night the sound of waves lapping the shoreline at the base of the twenty foot drop off lulled us to sleep. The days were filled with activity under the warm sun.

Much of that daily activity centered around preparing meals, enjoying them together, and watching out for the children running around. Everything was wonderful, except for that one pesky squirrel. He made himself known during lunch one afternoon. Boldly, he approached the picnic bench where we were eating and begged for food. My daughters were intimidated by this small grey hairball, and let me know it. “Daddy, he is going to eat my sandwich.” Daddy, he wants my juice box.” Daddy, can’t you do something?”

Not wanting to be a neglectful father, I faced my own fear of squirrels, swallowed hard, stood up, and commanded the squirrel to leave, “BEGONE!” I intoned loudly, commandingly, and dramatically, my finger pointing to the vast wilderness around us (ok, so the vast wilderness was really a bunch of other campsites, separated by a few yards of trees and brush). At which the fur ball simply sat up on hind legs, cleaned its whiskers, and glared at me. Undaunted, I raised the volume of my command a few more decibels and yelled firmly, “Go away you darn varmint!” At this I am sure he rolled on the ground in squeaks of laughter, although my wife insists he just cleaned his whiskers again.

Now I was angry, so I growled deeply, and yelled “SCAT!” as I stepped forward and slammed my size 11 tennis shoe on the ground in the general direction of the offensive, nut-hoarding, sandwich-envying, drink-box coveting pest. I don’t really wear ‘tennis’ shoes, but I am not sure if Reebok would let me use their name here, especially if it raises the ire of the squirrel lovers. As the cloud of dust settled, the squirrel scurried back into the brush and I was able to sit down to eat. After a few moments, my littlest daughter bravely announced, “Daaaadeeeee, heee is baaack.” This is how the entire meal went; I scared fur ball away and one daughter or another announced fur ball’s return.

Between lunch and dinner, we kept hearing the deep boom of a cannon firing. After much discussion amongst the adults on the trip, we came to the conclusion that the farmers must have some motion controlled electronic cannon in the vineyards to scare away the seagulls.  In between booms, we planned what to do about our uninvited pest for the next meal.

By dinner we had a plan of attack, we politely watched our neighbors progress in meal preparation. When they sat down to eat, we waited a few moments and then we sat down to eat. Success! Fur ball elected to eat with the neighbors that evening.

The last morning of camping, we were awakened at 4 a.m. by distant rumblings. Standing at the edge of the escarpment, I looked across the lake and watched as distant flashes of lightning lit up the angry looking cumulonimbus clouds slowly lumbering our way. I checked with the National Weather Service and heard what I already knew, thunderstorms would overspread the forecast area from west to east in the early morning hours. After intense discussions at the escarpment, punctuated by shining flashlights across the open water (as if the little lights could somehow illuminate the miles of water), we adults decided to pack up before the storm hit.

At 5 a.m. we roused the children and explained the situation. They, being curious and independent girls had to examine the sky over the lake for themselves. Solemnly they informed us that despite our being parents, and  as everyone knows, parents are usually wrong, we were actually correct. As we packed up, the storm over the lake drove seagulls inland, the seagulls tripped the electronic cannon, which boomed incessantly.

The eldest daughter, being much more geographically aware than her sisters announced, “That farmer must think the Canadians are invading.”

To which the youngest replied, “He probably thinks he can scare the storm away.”

The middlest offered her insight, “Wrong!, He is trying to scare that pesky squirrel away!”

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