By Marcia E. Gawecki

It all started when my neighbor left Idyllwild over the holidays. She always gives peanuts to the squirrels.

“They don’t need any extra food,” I said, pointing to the acorns and pinecones on the ground. “They have everything right here.”

“Yes, but they’re so happy when I give them the peanuts,” she said. “They even wait for me on the porch.” She didn’t have pets, so I forgave her and their mess. The shells always ended up in my yard.

One morning, a squirrel ran down a tree just outside my window and awakened my cats. They always bolt upright whenever there’s any activity outside. All three sat and watched it disappear to the ground below.

Then a funny thing happened. The squirrel came back up the tree and stood right in font me.

“Tit-tit-tit-tit-tit!” he scolded at me loudly.

“What the hell?” I thought. Squirrels only scold me when my cats are outside. They like to chase them and the squirrels don’t like it one bit.

“Tit-tit-tit-tit!” the noise went on for what seemed like an eternity.

“What are you mad at?” I asked, looking at him square in the eyes. “My cats are inside.”

Then it occurred to me that this was not about the cats, but about breakfast. My neighbor was gone, and so was her peanut supply.

“I don’t have any peanuts,” I laughed, and rolled away from the window.

“Tit-tit-tit-tit-tit!” The noise got even louder.

“OK, OK,” I moaned, as I got out of bed. I didn’t have any peanuts, but I spread some peanut butter thinly on crusty bread, cut it into chunks, and put it out on the outside rail. The chatter stopped.

There was a wildlife lesson here somewhere. I once read an article that warned that you should never to quit feeding birds or animals in the wintertime. The snow covers the ground, including their food supply, and they’re relying on you to fill in the gaps. Even big game like coyotes search for food in the snow.

Two years ago, when I was shoveling my driveway, I came face-to-face with a coyote. My head was down, and I was toiling away, then I looked up and saw him. Initially, I thought it was a wolf because his head looked so big! But I know wolves don’t live in Idyllwild.

My heart was racing as I looked around for my cat. She was sitting on the front porch, and luckily, the front door was still open. The coyote followed my gaze, then looked back at me. I knew what he was thinking: “Can I get to the cat before the chick with the shovel gets to me?”

I managed to shout, “Get out of here!” and the coyote just sauntered down the road. It was 11 a.m.

Besides squirrels, birds in Idyllwild will let you know when they’re hungry. I forgot to feed the blue jays one morning, and was typing away at the kitchen table. I heard them squawking, but thought they were just annoyed at my cats. Blue jays don’t like them either.

Then one large male (you can tell by his crown) flew over to the window and hung on the broken screen. “Aaack, aaack, aaack!” he screeched at me.

“Oh, what is it?” I asked. “Do you want breakfast?”

I laughed at his gall for interrupting me, and for my new role as servant girl to nature.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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