Friday, February 08, 2013

A squirrel tale

The other day I was walking down the street on Davis Island, a suburban neighborhood just southwest of downtown Tampa. I passed a house where a man was working with his two young sons in a flowerbed beneath the house's front window. On the other side of the sidewalk, at the base of a tree, there was a squirrel writhing on the sidewalk. At first glance it looked like it was trying to scratch it's own back by squirming around on the concrete but the spastic movement indicated that something else was going on. It was kind of doing the "Ook! Agg! Ick!" thing Bugs Bunny does sometimes. I kept going because, well, I don't know what good I could do by stopping. I love animals and there are very few things I hate more than seeing one of them suffer, but... I don't mean to play situational ethics here... it was a squirrel. I don't mean "just a squirrel", minimizing it's existence because there are billions of them. I mean, it was a squirrel, in that squirrels are kind of crazy all the time; for all I knew, maybe he was, or would be, fine. And they are rodents that carry disease; it's not like I'd be doing anybody any good if some addled-out-of-it's-mind-by-rabies-or-some-other-plague-inducing-disease-but-otherwise-perfectly-fine squirrel bit my hand and then ran off as I was attempting to render aid. I thought about saying something to the dad.
"Hey, your squirrel here is messed up."
"What are you telling me for? It's not my squirrel."
"It's in your yard. I'd say that makes it your problem."
It made me sad but I kept on going, figuring an argument over a dying squirrel wouldn't make me feel better, hoping it would be okay, knowing it probably wouldn't be and looking for something to distract me from thinking about it too much. I heard the dad behind me telling his boys to hurry up and gather their tools and go inside. The next thing I heard was a loud metallic SCHUNK! I turned around and saw the dad holding a small shovel with a sickened look on his face standing over a now-beheaded crazy squirrel. He had apparently seen the squirrel the same time I did, assessed the situation and hustled his kids out of there.
"What did you do?", I asked as I headed back toward him. "What did you do?!?"
"I--I killed it", he said. "I had to. What was I supposed to do? I have kids!" He was obviously traumatized. "It was--there was something wrong with it."
"I know. I saw it. I almost said something to you."
"Why? Why would you expect me to do something about it? It's not my squirrel!"
"That's why I didn't say anything."
"Yeah, well, I did something about it."
"You sure did. Probably for the best, I guess."
"You gotta help me!"
"Me? No!"
"Come on, man. My kids are going to look out the window or come back out here any minute. You have kids, don't you?"
"No, no I don't. It's not the only reason, but a big part of that decision was not wanting to explain to kids how God needs animals to die and how sometimes He needs mom and dad to chop their heads off with a shovel because He can't be bothered with dirty work."
"Please? Help me!"
"Damn it! Fine. Give me the shovel."
He handed it over, "Here!" and ran into his house.
I carried the shovel with the beheaded squirrel gently back to my truck, laid it down in the cargo bed and drove slowly off. I had no idea what to do. Could I just dump it in one of the guy's neighbor's garbage cans? No. It would be just my luck that I'd get caught doing that and the people who live there would belong to an obscure minority group that worships squirrels and I'd be guilty of a hate crime. Could I leave it in a field and let turkey buzzards or some other carrion eaters find it and take care of it? No; although that would be nature at work, it still seemed cruel. Not that I'll have a reason to care or a say in the matter, but I'd like to hope that when I die, people don't just leave me in a field, although having actually written it out now, it really doesn't sound that bad.
Anyway, after driving around Davis Island for 15 or 20 minutes, I was getting more and more depressed by the situation when I saw a small wooded area just off the street. I pulled over and parked, figuring this was an easy and obvious solution; bury it in the woods. It seemed poetically appropriate, in fact. 
I got out and went to the back of the truck... and the squirrel was gone. The shovel was there, still with some squirrel blood on it, but neither part of the bifurcated rodent was anywhere to be seen. The bed was otherwise empty but I looked around in case the body parts had fallen off the shovel and slid around when I'd hit a bump or taken a curve. Nothing. No squirrel anywhere. I guess this is the end of the story because I have no idea what happened. There are really only two possible answers:
  1. The squirrel was still alive somehow and he picked up his head and hauled ass.
  2. A turkey buzzard or some other carrion eater swooped down and snatched the squirrel out of my truck when I was at a stop sign.
Either way, I guess the moral is don't screw around with the wildlife on Davis Island.

No comments: