The house we moved into a couple of months ago has a big, beautiful orange tree in the backyard.
I know the oranges weren’t ripe when we first moved in because my daughter Bridget would compulsively pick them before running over to me–screaming “ORANGE PLEASE” like she was warning me about an impending Viking attack–until I peeled them.
After trying a wedge, I’d shudder from its sourness and so did Bridget, but she seemed to still enjoy it and would polish off the rest of the orange (between shivers) before demanding yet another one.
Well, it’s a couple of months later now and the oranges seem ripe. They’ve been dropping off the tree all over the place, hard enough to crack the peels.
Or so I thought. One day I noticed tiny pieces of orange peel all over the yard. Weird. Was Bridget peeling them when I wasn’t looking? Did she know how to peel oranges all along?
No. The mystery was solved the very next morning while I was taking a shower. Looking out the window after a bright flash caught my side-eye, I saw a squirrel sprint along one of our trees while carrying a massive orange in her arms.
When she found the perfect spot on a branch, her tiny squirrel hands frantically tore a hole into the orange. I swear she looked me dead in the eye as she was chewing on the orange and then I smiled at her, like that would mean something to a squirrel.
I wish I could’ve taken a picture, but it all happened very fast and I was in the shower at the time, so…
I’d seen that squirrel around before. I’ve decided to call her “Alice” and maybe she did end up recognizing my smile as a friendly gesture after all, because she stopped taking pains to cover up all her orange heists.
In fact, I caught her hosting an Orange Party the very next day. Four squirrels were munching oranges on our porch swing, throwing their peels on the ground. I swear they were even swinging a little, back and forth, while chowing down on a bunch of giant citrus balls, which is probably an awesomely good time in the squirrel world.
Or maybe not. Maybe the monotonous hours of counter-wiping and Lego patrol involved in watching kids all day has gotten to me… to the point where I’m having to invent social dramas about backyard wildlife.
But it works for me, so I was carefully crouching down and readying my phone to snap a picture of the orange-eating squirrels partying on our porch swing when my daughter Brontë walks up and says, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MOMMA?”
Aaaaaaaand, the squirrels all ran away.
But on the bright side, when I told her I was trying to take pictures of the Squirrel Orange Party taking place in our yard, it made perfect sense to her. Because four-year-olds think that crouching to snap paparazzi photos of squirrel galas is a reasonable objective, so she fell all over herself apologizing for being so loud and promised not to compromise my mission in the future.
The squirrels left a huge pile of half-eaten oranges and peel dust behind. Many people would be really annoyed by this, but I’m a bit strange, sentimental, and probably a Druid deep down.
I started wondering if I could be friends with Alice. Maybe I could leave a trail of cashews along a little half-wall in our yard, slowly earning her trust with regular food offerings until she took them straight from my hand. Better than just wiping down more counters, right?
So I set up my lure and was happy to find Alice hanging out on the half-wall the next day. I snapped a photo, but wasn’t quick enough to capture what was going to happen next…
See, while I thought it would be cool to make friends with the squirrels in our yard, my lunatic dog Douglas was DEFINITELY not on board. He took one look at Alice shamelessly hanging out on our half-wall like the Whore of Babylon IN HIS FACE and tore off after her, barking doggy threats that I shudder to imagine.
She raced across the wall and gracefully leapt up to the high fence as he continued to promise grievous bodily harm the second he could reach her. She stood up on her hind legs and held a giant orange against her chest.
And then… I saw something amazing.
Alice pushed the orange away from her chest and spent a few moments aiming it just so before dropping it on the dog’s head.
She NAILED him. She made her escape as Douglas wobbled around, compulsively sneezing.
It was AWESOME. I had NO IDEA that squirrels could throw grenades. Sure, it happens in Open Season, but you don’t expect animals to measure up to their cartoon counterparts. They never wear clothes and have long discussions in real life.
But she did it and it WORKED. I was genuinely thrilled until I came back inside and found out my daughter Bridget had spent the last five unsupervised minutes opening up every banana in the house.
I hope we’ll be seeing Alice again, that she has enough grenade-lobbing pluck to show her face around this joint on the regular.