(Editor’s Note: Parts of this op-ed column by Beth Dalbey previously appeared on Patch.)
The frost isn’t out of the ground yet, but I can already feel myself caving.
I’ll give and buy the chipmunks a tomato plant again this year.
I swore off playing at urban farmer after my last few tomato crops were devoured by an exploding chipmunk population that seems dangerously out of control in my neighborhood.
They’re heartless creatures. They wait until the fruit is at its ripe, succulent best, then get up early in the morning and take a big bite. Big Boys, Better Boys, Beefsteaks or Romas – they’re not choosy.
History tells me tomato farming in my 'munk infested neighborhood is not a good idea.
History also tells me that when it comes time – winter will eventually end, won’t it? – I won’t be able to resist that well-established tomato plant beckoning me at the garden center.
I hope the … er, buggers … don’t take this as a sign I want to be pals and will stop calling them bad names. Neither should they let up their guard because I don’t step out the back door and find them in the sights of a .22.
My friend Liz does that.
"Every species has a social deviant."
If I’d been through what she’s been through, animal-lover that I am, I might, too.
Liz’s chipmunks have been as officially diagnosed – or as officially as diagnoses ever get with chipmunks – as social deviants.
This isn’t quackery, but the conclusion of an actual university extension mammal behavior scientist – a chipmunk head doctor of some sort – she consulted after finding a cache of chipmunk skulls neatly arranged in rows, like chipmunk serial killer trophies of a sort, in her basement ceiling.
It’s a long, hilarious story about how Liz discovered this horror – something to do with the chipmunks hauling in pea gravel for their winter condo and causing a major ceiling cave-in – but the bottom line is this, according to the chipmunk behaviorist:
“Every species has a social deviant.”
Interesting. Chilling, even.
If there are cannibalistic chipmunks running amuck, should we be gentrifying them by calling them “squinnies,” as they’re called in the area of the country where I grew up? Isn’t that like calling Charlie Manson something less than a monster?
Squinny isn’t even a real word. Chipmunks are rodents, basically better looking rats. They can wreck just as much havoc as they gnaw, rat-like, through wiring and whatever else is in their way. They may be cuter than rats, but they are still rodents.
And remember, Ted Bundy was cute, too. He worked it. That’s why he was able to lure as many as 100 women to their deaths.
Chipmunks work that cuteness, that squinny-esque quality, too.
I say, let them.
Consider this: If it really is a gang of socially deviant, possibly psychopathic chipmunks who went underground last fall and built who knows what kind of underground fortress where who knows what goes on, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to rile them up.
Nooo. Not. At. All.
Given what I now know about them, it’s not a stretch to think they gave their winter meals the big come-on and enticed them into their lairs:
Come on in, baby. Sit down and chew on this piece of wire. You can leave any time you want. But before you go, we’d like to have you for dinner.
Then, before the younger, less experienced chipmunks wised up, their captors were doing some ritualistic sicko chipmunk dance around the heads of their recently devoured bodies.
Yes, given all that, you’ll understand why I’m willing to negotiate this standoff over my tomato crop.
If they’re willing to break precedent and allow me the first ripe tomato, the kind songs have been written about – “there’s only two things that money can’t buy; that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes” – I’m willing to share the rest of the season’s bounty.
We can coexist.
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