by Frances Edstrom
I fell in love with it immediately. When I walked into the Winona Health volunteers' Fantasy of Trees at the Watkins Manor Great Hall, there it was. It was about four feet tall, and had been decorated by the kids at Central Elementary School. In my mind I could see those little cherubic faces beaming at their creation.
Peanut butter and birdseed covered pine cones were hung from the tree with yarn. Colored Cheerios and pretzels were strung on wire hoops festooned with darling raffia bows. Bird-friendly cookies were embellished with birdseed. Garlands of edibles swooped around it. It was perfect!
A movie began to play in my mind. I saw myself, looking something like Cinderella in the Disney film, bringing the tree home, lovingly placing it in just the right spot in my yard, while little cartoon birds chittered excitedly as they executed Hollywood-style choreography in the air and tree branches above me. I imagined I might even have given them all names, such friends they were. When I finished carefully placing the Birdseed Tree, as I began calling it, the birds would swoop down, grab a long trail of raffia from the tree, soar into the sky and magically fling it into the air, where it would spell out "Thank You, Fran."
I was practically in tears, the scene was so beautifully wrought.
Wrought. An interesting choice of words. Because in a mere twenty-four hours, I was wrought "” wrought up.
Before the real birds could discover this new garden of birdly delights barely ten feet from their usual feeding stations hung from the lilac tree, a quite different species from the one I had been envisioning suddenly pounced.
Did you read about the killer squirrel pack in Russia that killed a dog that was barking at them in the park?
Well, those squirrels were as pussycats compared to the gangster squirrels of Mill Street.
The day after I put the goodie-laden tree in the side yard, I looked out the window to check if the birds had yet found my treat for them.
Some of the edible ornaments had been knocked off the tree, and several squirrels were scavanging, while others sat in the maple tree above, and others perched on the picket fence.
Well, that didn't bode well, but the squirrels and birds coexisted at the bird feeders, so why not at the tree?
A short time later, we peered out of the window, and the squirrels had jumped on and overwhelmed the poor little tree, which lay in a heap on the ground, like a homeless man in an alley, surrounded by the victorious squirrels. I thought I saw that some of the squirrels, the ones who had formed a ring around the fallen tree, were actually armed with tiny rifles. And others were walking back and forth waving tiny signs on which they had written "Equal Treatment for Squirrels!" "Birds Poop on Cars," and "They Don't Call It Squirrel Flu Pandemic."
A female cardinal and a male blue jay jumped nervously around in the lilac. A few brave (or oblivious) chickadees kept right on eating at the feeder, but there were definitely no birds on the ground with the Christmas tree.
The dog wanted me to run out and scare the squirrels away and set the tree aright, but truth be known, I was a little afraid. I mean if a squirrel pack can kill a large dog with four legs on which to make his escape, what could happen to a middle-aged woman with two fake hips? Brrrrrr! The mere thought sends a chill completely through me.
But I am consoled. The money I spent on the tree went for a good cause, the Winona Health organization. I wonder if they keep a record of how many people are admitted to the hospital with injuries from squirrel attacks?