Monday, March 22, 2010

Old Man's War

This post is not about the John Scalzi book, which I read and enjoyed very much. Rather, it’s about one man’s struggle to defend his castle against invasion by a foreign species.

My sisters (the local ones) and I got together on Sunday to celebrate Dad’s 83rd birthday. I think that it’s fair to say, and I don’t think that he would disagree, that he is an old man. For years, he has fought an on-going war against the neighborhood squirrels. It has become customary for his grandchildren to give him squirrel-themed gifts, as a way of poking fun at his single-minded crusade.

Dad has never been a hunter. His war is strictly defensive in nature. If the squirrels leave him alone, he’s content to leave them alone. He is convinced, however, that the squirrels are boarding his home via the power lines and squatting in his attic. They are mounting an invasion, and they must be repelled. He has deployed live traps, not out of humanitarian concerns – he will not extend the rights of the Geneva Convention to his furry-tailed rivals – but rather because a rifle enfilade in town would alarm the neighbors and invite an unwelcomed visit from the local constabulary.

There have been times, as in any war, when mistakes have been made. He has learned the hard way that a ground-based live trap is as likely to catch a skunk as it is a squirrel. Any squirrel that is so unfortunate as to be captured (and let’s face it, they wouldn’t have been caught if they weren’t guilty) cannot look forward to a prisoner exchange. In this war, Dad doesn’t take prisoners – they are permanently removed from the conflict with what I am certain the old man considers swift justice.

The war continues. The squirrels keep recruiting new troops to send on their raids. Their supply of reinforcements at times seems limitless. The old man, on the other hand, has just grown another year older. Eventually, the commander’s baton will have to be passed on to a new general. Either that, or the rodent menace will finally have its victory.

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