A lack of affordable housing forced me to move 24 miles south of the Fort Hunt area in Fairfax County, VA. I couldn’t find an affordable house that had a view of the Potomac River.
We had been renting a home there for five years and each winter, after the leaves fell from the trees in the backyard, we could catch a postage stamp–sized glimpse of the river from the dining room.
My thinking was if a glimpse was good, how much better would a year–around view be?
I wasn’t the only one with this opinion. Evidently politicians, Democrat lobbyists and environmentalists had cornered the market. The demand for river views boosted housing prices far outside my budget.
This brush with the market may have served to accelerate my departure from the Democrat party. More ‘affordable housing’ had been the battle cry and tax–dollar black hole for Northern VA Democrats since we moved here from Texas.
Yet when I needed an affordable house no concerned Democrat was to be found.
So the family moved into a house on the waterfront of Lake Montclair that we could afford. Down among the Republicans and gas–guzzler owners, many but one generation removed from the trailer park. But I’m afraid — like many California refugees that have fled to Arizona — when I left Fairfax I didn’t leave behind all my bad, leftist ideas.
Case in point: Our back deck has an excellent view of the lake. During the spring and summer (and soon maybe year around if the warmist Chicken Little’s are correct!) I sit on the deck and read the newspaper before going to work.
Three years ago I decided to spread the wealth and each morning began leaving two peanuts on the deck rail in front of my chair. Montclair is home to foxes, raccoons, beavers, hawks, many varieties of songbirds and innumerable squirrels. The peanuts were for the squirrels.
A routine was quickly established. Each morning I would replace the two nuts that had disappeared overnight and then begin with my coffee and paper. This went on for a few weeks until one morning there was a new development: A squirrel came to get the nut while I was still outside.
He/she/it watched me from the far edge of the deck and then cautiously came halfway down the rail. After a period of watchfulness, the squirrel would dart in front of me, halt long enough to snatch the peanut and then scamper away.
This was entertaining. So much so that I began exceeding my two–nut limit, replacing each snatched nut with a new one until I went back in the house.
Then the escalation really began. I started to think like a crack dealer. The squirrel is hooked on rail nuts, how about bending him to my will and forcing the squirrel to ask for the nut? So I would put the initial two nuts on the rail and wait.
After those were taken, I didn’t add replacements. Instead I waited until the squirrel returned and then I took a peanut off my table and slooowly leaned out toward the squirrel. I looked like a geriatric at the Early Bird Special reaching for the salt.
At first the squirrel wanted no part of this slow–motion enticement — much like a conservative applying for his first food stamp — but gradually I wore down his resistance. And before cooler temperatures arrived he was taking nuts out of my hand and occasionally resting one paw on my finger to steady himself as he grabs the nut, as you can see here:
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I was so proud of myself that frankly I overlooked multiple warning signs. Rocky (what other name could there be for a squirrel?) had been missing for most of a week and when he finally returned there was a bare spot on the back of his neck where the fur had been ripped away and a big gouge in the underlying skin.
I rationalized his wound and chalked it up to a domestic disturbance that got out of hand.
Then the next summer the process was repeated. A formerly sleek squirrel (Rocky II) appeared one day looking like Rodney Dangerfield. And his neck had the same ripped fur and ugly scab.
Since the average life span of a squirrel is one year, I wasn’t dealing with a rodent that had forgotten to wear his toupee. This was a different squirrel with the same wound. It’s obvious that breakfasting at the Shannon Country Buffet wasn’t exactly burning up the calories.
Rocky I & II’s weight gain had caused him to lose a step and the hawk that perches in the mimosa tree had had taken advantage of his gluttony. The only good news was his peanut–centric diet made him so fat the hawk evidently dropped him.
The new Rocky also resumed eating out of my hand. I don’t know if the previous Rocky had passed down knowledge of the peanut program by word–of–mouth, scratched a treasure map on a tree or if it is encoded in their DNA, but the word was out. Other squirrels would line up on the rail like crony capitalists waiting for a tax break. Soon the deck looked like earmark time in Harry Reid’s Senate. In fact, the goobers were so plentiful squirrels didn’t bother to eat many of the nuts and instead buried them in the flower boxes.
This spring marks the third year of my private sector peanut handout program and Rocky III is here with his neck — so far — intact. Unfortunately with his arrival I have to face the realization that I have created a culture of dependency in my own backyard.
Now when Rocky III arrives on the rail he ignores the two traditional nuts laid out for him and instead comes to a dead stop in front of me and stares until I personally give him a handout.
And I do, in spite of the fact these unearned giveaways make me the Barack Obama of Skyline Drive.
I started out with the best of intentions, feeding neighborhood animals, and wound up running a peanut kitchen for able–bodied squirrels that are entirely capable of fending for themselves.
The worst part is that I enjoy the feeling of benevolence and superiority I get from having squirrels dependent upon me. So much so that like Obama and his ever–expanding welfare benefits, I have no intention of ending the program, even though it would be better in the long run for the squirrels.