During the holidays, my wife's brothers come in town with their families. The three of them reside in New York City. I have been there for fun, but I would never live there. Rachel's brothers are unbelievably funny. Mike is a writer and a filmmaker; Jon is a videographer and film editor; Sammy is an artist. None of my wife's family are the outdoorsy type — well, maybe Sam. The closest the others come to nature is the Outdoor Channel.
Wine, beer and gut-splitting laughter has become somewhat of a holiday tradition for us. It never fails but as the night progresses they want to hear some of my crazy animal stories. I grew up with a fishing rod in one hand and a shotgun in the other. I also liked to catch animals. I caught everything from spiders to mammals and have eaten everything from chipmunks to elk. Yes, I said chipmunks. My dad always said, "If you're going to shoot it, you're going to eat it." So, the day he saw me shooting robins and chippers in the back yard, I learned exactly what he meant.
But that's not this story.
The brothers-in-law wanted to hear a story, and for them it better be a funny one. With so much stupidity in my youth, I'm never short of anecdotes.
One day not so long ago, in a place not so far from here is where our story begins. I was on my way to my parents' house, no doubt to do some form of repair or manual labor. So, as usual, I was in no kind of hurry. When I found myself driving behind an older woman, who was obviously in no rush to go anywhere either, I was unbelievably OK with it. After all, I was going to do work under my father's disciplined eye, which meant I could easily be there forever.
While driving at a snail's pace, and resisting every temptation to override my self-imposed governor, I began to daydream of a nice squirrel or rabbit dinner. Then, just like manna from heaven, the woman in front of me hubcapped a squirrel that was running across the road. My meal went tumbling through the air and bounced off the curb and into the road. Without missing a beat, I eased my vehicle over to the squirrel, opened my door, reached down, grabbed the furry little animal and tossed him to the passenger side floorboard.
It was too perfect! The squirrel didn't have a mark on him! This could be just the distraction I needed to postpone my work sentence! My father would probably tell me similar stories of his youth. Everything was working out great until I glanced down at my meal and saw him sitting up and staring at me! We probably saw each other at the same moment because we had one of those awkward silences.
That's when all hell broke loose. He was on my dash, on me, on the ceiling, on me, on the floor, on me. I was swerving from curb to curb while trying to avoid those claws that can climb anything, or his teeth that can open nuts with the ease of a hammer. He made for my head rest as I gracefully dodged to my left, slamming my face against the window.
Then the squirrel ran down my leg and under my brake pedal. I couldn't hit the brake, and I surely couldn't speed up. Of course, by this time I was wondering when the squirrel was going to make the dash up my leg and go for what squirrels naturally eat.
As I was approaching my father's driveway, I nudged the animal with my foot and it took off under my seat. Turning fast while slamming on the brakes I went fishtailing into my father's drive. I had no time to be proud of my driving skills, however. I had other issues to think about.
The garage door was up, so, hopping out of the car and leaving my door open, I strolled into the garage. I knew exactly what I was looking for — leather gloves and a piece of 2x4. Finding both, I was ready to extract the squirrel from my car.
This was going to be easy, I thought. I looked under the driver's seat ... no animal. I looked under the passenger seat ... no animal. I looked on and under the back seats ... no animal.
Maybe he ran out when I was in the garage.
Perplexed, I plopped down in the driver's seat to take a moment, when I heard him. He was still under the seat! But where?
I put half my head under the seat, not liking my vulnerability in that position. That's when I spotted some fur way up under the seat. As I grabbed for the fur, the squirrel started burrowing farther into my seat.
It was a tug of war — man versus beast — and the score was tied at zero. I pulled and it tugged back. Then the squirrel tried to reposition itself and that's when I got him by the back legs. I knew that if I didn't get him behind the neck, he'd spin around and drive his teeth into my forearm. This was not my first rodeo. So, as I pulled the squirrel out as fast as I could and, with one fluid motion, I grabbed it behind the neck with my free hand.
Bingo I had him! Then I grabbed the 2x4 and was ready to dinnerize my squirrel when he threw me a curve ball. He had a secret weapon — big black eyes.
I repositioned myself for the deadly strike when I saw those big black eyes just looking at me, as if to say, "After all of our history together ... this?
I put down the 2x4, petted the squirrel for a few seconds and let him go. He didn't run like I thought, instead he looked back and hopped onto a stump, barked, fluffed his tail and trotted off. I felt OK with calling it a draw. Then I heard a voice from the garage.
"Wuss! Let's go! I've got work for you to do."
I miss you, Dad!