I was on the back porch practicing with one of my slingshots. And, yes; I mean it when I say one of them. I am a grown man who owns multiple slingshots, and I practice with them. Anyway, I was practicing with one of them shooting chickpeas at a six-inch steel target on a metal sculpture near a tree about twenty yards away.
The advantage to shooting chickpeas is that they are light and cheap. Unlike, say, a lead ball of similar size, they don’t go very far. Also, they don’t accidentally break the neighbor’s window or kill his cat if I miss the little steel target. The disadvantage is that between being very light and frequently marginally to moderately ballistically eccentric, they don’t always fly straight and true.
So, I’m plinking away at the target and getting a resounding ping about half the time when all of a sudden a squirrel pops out from behind the tree just above my target. Naturally, I looked at him. Equally, naturally, that changed my point of aim… just as I let the chickpea fly. Now, if some chickpeas wander a bit in their flight path, then this was the speeding bullet of chickpeas. No deviation. No variation. It flew from my slingshot to the target without wandering even so much as a hair from its flight path.
Thwack! I got him square in the hindquarters. Now, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t seriously injured and I actually do feel pretty bad about hitting him at all, but hit him I did… and it was enough to knock him out of the tree. I’m also – and I say this having heard the squeaks and squawks he made upon impact with the ground – reasonably sure I was roundly cussed in squirrel tonight.
My dog Ladybird was on the back porch with me and she was, as she customarily is when I am shooting chickpeas out into the yard, only moderately interested in what was going on… that is, until she saw her arch-enemy the squirrel suddenly and forcibly decamped from its tree and deposited unceremoniously in a heap on the ground. Instantly, she had laser focus. She knew an opportunity when she saw it and she was not about to let it pass without taking immediate action.
‘Bird was off at top speed in a straight line for the squirrel. Now, the squirrel could have just gone back up the same tree he came out of… but that would have meant taking a step-and-a-half toward a charging, snarling, slobbering bundle of bloodlust and fang, and squirrels just don’t do that. (Note: I am being dramatic in ‘Bird’s description for the sake of the squirrel’s little remaining dignity. In truth, she has never snarled in her life. And if she did one day happen to catch the squirrel, I am quite certain it would end badly for her. I am equally convinced that the squirrel is out there somewhere in a tree sharing a walnut with a squirrel buddy and saying, “I swear to the Nutfather… the last thing I heard before being beaned with a bean was someone shouting ‘At my signal, unleash garbanzo hell!’”)
So the squirrel spins and charges up the next nearest thing. A chain-link fence.
It was at this point that the neighbor’s boxer decided to lend an assist. It was also at this point that I knew that neither dog was really serious about catching the squirrel, because the slow speed chase that ensued down the length of the fence was absolutely hilarious, and either dog could have quite easily snatched the squirrel off the fence at any time.
Though the squirrel’s diminutive little squirrel legs were enough to propel him awkwardly along the chain-link fence, they were not long enough to lift him clear of the points on the fence, each of which took its turn poking him in his soft, squirrelly undercarriage, which of course only succeeded in adding to the insult and injury that he was suffering.
It was about a fifty-foot run down the fence, which must have seemed like an eternity to the wobbling, cussing squirrel but passed entirely too fast for the dogs, who though saddened by it were forced to abandon their pursuit when the squirrel made it to the next tree and was able to make good his escape.
Ladybird returned to the porch with a doggie grin on her face spreading from floppy ear to floppy ear and, I am quite certain, the notion that I had purposefully knocked the squirrel down for her. As for me, I hope squirrels do not have much of a long-term memory, otherwise I expect to see that squirrel out front as I leave tomorrow, ready to rain walnut death from above.