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The Thunker

by Sarah Holdt

October is Squirrel Awareness Month and the Abert's squirrels in our neighborhood are determined to vex us into acknowledging the tribute. They've succeeded to the point where yesterday I stood on our driveway and glared up at the treetops, my fists planted on my hips. "Don't make me come up there," I hollered at them. They dropped a stripped pinecone on me and tittered. "Okay, okay," I tried to reason with them. "We know you're up there. It's Squirrel Awareness Month after all. Satisfied? Now stop leaving your rubbish all over our driveway!" A piece of bark flew down and landed at my feet. On the driveway. Yes, we are fully aware of the squirrels around here, in October and every other month of the year. In the ten years we've lived in this house, this is the first year we've had middens (refuse heaps) pile up on our driveway below the branches of our largest ponderosas, thanks to the black, tufted-eared squirrels. The Abert's have made visits to the neighborhood in the past but this year they've moved in. They're delightful to watch as they chase each other in corkscrews up and down the tree trunks, round and round and round they go, but the mess they leave in their feeding wake is a worse than popcorn at a melodrama. The Abert's squirrels eat the ponderosa seed almost exclusively, with a little bark, fungus, bones and antlers thrown in to spice them up. Seeds from up to 75 cones may be eaten per day per squirrel. While twitching their tails to keep their balance (they also use their tails to communicate and to keep warm), they pick off the spines to get to the seeds wedged deep in the cone and those spines, when dropped along with the cone skeletons, one hearty dinner after another, create middens. The squirrels also eat the inner bark of twigs, which is why needle clusters add to the middens-the fluffy-tailed varmints clip the twig, remove the outer bark, consume the inner bark, and then discard the twig. In the winter a single squirrel consumes about 45 twigs per day. Talk about roughage! It seems like my husband Mark and I have been cleaning up after these fellers nonstop since they've set up residency in our trees. We've swept the driveway so many times our broom bristles have worn down to resemble the stubble of a five o'clock shadow. When we sit on our deck in the evening we've been scolded by these guys as if we're invading their territory. What do they think: that they were here first? Sometimes, as an automobile comes down our street, I've watched a walnutbrain wait until the car is really close before it plays rushin' roulette-he will dodge across the street, stop, then start, retreat, then advance, as if he wants to dance with the tires of the approaching death mobile. I've learned that this wacky waltz is an attempt to confuse the oncoming vehicle, a logic that would make sense only to any animal subsisting on nothing but pine seeds and bark. Although they often lose at this game of roulette, Abert's squirrels are more likely to die from food shortage or broken teeth. (Their teeth grow six inches a year but never get too long because they wear them down from gnawing on bark and bones.) By now we think all the edible pinecones have been plucked from our trees, their remains dropped onto our drive and diligently swept away by us homeowners. We've grown weary of this exercise but have come up with a consolation: at least we won't have to rake pinecones this fall. There aren't any left to rake! You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address, donoholdt@gmail.com.

Early Announcement From Friends Of Library Regarding 2013 Book Sale

The Friends of the Estes Valley Library are already making plans for the 2013 annual used book sale and want to let everybody know about a slight change on the calendar. "Traditionally, our summer used book sale have been held during the first weekend in August," said Friends Board President Jim Kiple. "But because of a schedul- ing conflict with the Conference Center, we had to change the event to the second weekend in August 2013. We want to be sure that those making early vacation plans and lodging reservations know of this change so they won't miss out." The 2013 Friends of the Library summer book sale will be held August 9, 10, and 11, 2013. The book sale will remain at the Rocky Mountain Park Inn's Conference Center on Hwy. 7. "The community has always been very generous with their donations and we expect next year's sale being better than ever. We hope with this change in dates, that everyone who looks forward to this special event will be able to attend." More than 38,000 used books, CDs, DVDs and audio books were available for sale in this year's event which raised more than $28,000 that directly benefit the Estes Valley Library. To stay informed about this and future sales, contact the Estes Valley Library at (970) 586-8116 or check out the library's website which you'll find at www.estesvalleylibrary.org.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Page 9

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