In my garden for many years
I’ve maintained large feeders
Crammed reliably with sunflower seeds.
Mostly my customers are birds
Of familiar ilks—bluejays, sparrows,
Finches, cardinals, doves.
But in among the avian regulars
I always have a dozen or two of
Big-tailed squirrels, fox squirrels –
They go by a variety of names
And are not picky what I call them
So long as it’s for lunch,
Supper, breakfast, mid-afternoon snack,
Whatever. Some folk mock me
For feeding what they call vermin.
Rats with a good press agent
I’ve heard them described
By those who do not know
That if truth were told
(As it rarely is) without these
Sometimes scruffy, sometimes messy
Mammals of the woodlands
I literally might not be here,
Me or many of my family.
Somewhere in my dusty set
Of cookbooks I have a recipe
(an entire column really)
Detailing how one cleans
And cooks up squirrels
To make them edible.
The preferred variety is gray
But my red ones
Are on the list along
With drawings how to
Skin them, foot firmly
On the tail to hold it down.
I’ve never doubted
That the hardy folk I come from,
Folk who lived for generations
On what they found to eat
In woodlands much like mine
And couldn’t always shoot a deer or bear,
Made it through the bitter winters
Slurping squirrel stew
From oaken porringers.
So how can I begrudge this crew
A meal or two at my expense?
©2023 John I. Blair, 5/31/2023
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