"When the frost is on the pumpkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock . . . ."
I had to learn this poem by James Whitcomb Riley when I was in elementary school, although even way back then, we weren’t hearing any gobbling turkeys in our neighborhood. (Well, truthfully, every Thanksgiving, a turkey yard opened a few miles away from our home, so when we drove by, we heard lots of kyoucking and gobbling.) ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is, the poem evokes autumn.
Autumn: the vibrant yellow, orange and red leaves (or, if you live in Virginia, the mostly dull, brown ones). Fall: the crisp air, the Halloween costumes, the suicidal squirrels.
Squirrel suicide seems to be a local phenomenon, one of those things that, no matter how many box stores you put in, will remain unique to an area. In Princeton, it was dogs sleeping on the sun-warmed residential streets (this was waaay before leash laws). I remember my Mom swerving to avoid them because they wouldn’t move for nothin’. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
Here in Northern Virginia, it is squirrel suicide. This is the time of year when the squirrels are industrious, finding and hiding nuts for the winter. Even though I took down our bird feeder several years ago (and, yes, I do remember that I promised you the bird feeder/raccoon story. It will come.), we live in a wooded area, and the squirrels proliferate. Their coats grow thick and shiny with the abundance of the oak acorns.
When we first moved here, I’d be driving to and from work in the Fall, taking the kids to their activities and whatnot, and I’d see little dead blobs of squirrel bodies on the roads. I wondered if people were aiming their cars at the squirrels, or if there were perhaps hundreds of careless drivers. I discovered it was neither. No, something seems to happen around here, something in the weird little squirrel brains. You’ll be driving along, careful as pie, and out from a pile of leaves at the side of the road, a squirrel will throw himself under the wheels of your car. Splat.
It’s disheartening, really. I mean, you can’t avoid ‘em; they’re on a little kamikaze run. Splat, there it is again. Splat. You’d think it would decimate the local squirrel population, but it doesn’t. Every year, there are just as many squirrels as the year before.
Last week, I was sitting on my screened-in porch enjoying the last of the year's warm afternoons, and that blasted squirrel, the one I've written about,l was half-way up the side of the the pine tree scolding and screaming at me. Why doesn’t that one throw himself under a bus, huh? Splat.