Birds and squirrels are always hungry. So it seems whenever we visit my sister-in-law, who has a backyard bird feeder. The problem is getting the bird food to the birds and not the squirrels. Thus begins our true story.
Bird watching was so much fun, we bought a simple hanging feeder and a bird cake that is a combination of nuts, seeds and honey. We had heard it takes about a month for the local birds to find the feeder and arrive daily. We waited patiently, but no birds. Then, as advertised, a few birds flew in on week four and by the end of the week we had a large following in the neighborhood.
The first to arrive were the wrens of many color, including those with necks of red, blue and yellow. We were amazed by the organization and military style of their visit. As one or more ate, others carefully watched from the back fence and the porch. This was most evident when the baby birds ate.
The order was upset one day when a squirrel (we named him Sammy) found his way to the hanging food by a series of well–planned routes using the pillars and porch. We kept chasing Sammy away only to find him back in a few minutes via some other devious route.
One windy night the feeder was blown to the ground. The next day my wife picked it up and placed it on the nearby table. The following noon we noted the birds peacefully gathered around the table and chairs – sort of a winged society luncheon.
In subsequent days and weeks new birds and species arrived en masse. Sammy arrived one day with a girl squirrel. He now could afford a wife. Then a menacing flock of crows flew in, including one that was huge and well known in the ’hood as Charlie. Once a group of tiny lizards was noted eating the food that had fallen to the ground.
We expected chaos, but instead harmony prevailed. The intruders and the regulars worked out a schedule that worked for everyone. The wrens ate early in the morning followed by the crows and then the squirrels.
As the food supply dwindled the animals learned to eat the leftovers that had fallen to the ground. When the ground was bare and clean we supplied a fresh cake. The animals thrived. Sammy doubled his weight. There was never a fight.
So why can’t we the people just get along?
It seemed like the backyard animals were teaching us something:
* Be courteous.
* Treat others fairly.
* Respect those with different backgrounds than you.
* Share with the needy.
* Don’t fight.
* Don’t make a mess of your food or life.
* Clean up after yourself.
Of course there are some limits. I actually found Sammy the squirrel waiting for me by the backdoor to the porch the other morning. It was as if he were saying, “Where’s the food?”
* A squirrel shouldn’t be a pig.
* Once you give someone something for free they will always expect it for free.
Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., Newport Beach, is an ornery curmudgeon who is on the National Advisory Board of The Physician Patient Medical Association and Legal Advisory Board of California Citizens Against Law Suit Abuse (CALA).