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Pamela Loxley Drake reflects on the pests and predators of her past, and those that now plague her bird feeders.

COURTESY PHOTO - Pamela Loxley DrakeOK, let's get this straight. I'm not really talking lions and tigers and bears, although I feel like I might as well have them in my backyard.

Cats and squirrels and blue jays, oh my.

My bird feeders are constantly under attack even though I am well-armed with the squirrel spoiler on the feeder post, the squirrel pepper-powder scattered around the post, the flower pots on the deck railing and the "squirrel-proof" bird feeders. Yet none of these deter already fat squirrels and those cats whose owners forget that they live in town where cats are not free-roamers.

I can do nothing with the blue jays but scream at them on occasion, which, by the way, does not affect them in the least. Sassy birds.

We had pests on the farm. I never saw rats, but my sister swears we had them. I know we had mice. Rodent-proofing was impossible in an old two-story log house surrounded by corn; mice infiltrate no matter what.

Of course, the barn was home to mice and birds. Dad would often chase away or cart off barn owls who tried to reside in the dark recesses of the barn. They always came back.

Occasionally, we were visited by larger creatures. Once when I was searching for the most recent batch of kittens, I started to reach into a barrel from whence (my British roots) hissing emitted. I pulled back a piece of burlap to find a possum hissing at me. The scream heard around the world.

A raccoon would mosey around the chicken house, hankering for an egg or two. Groundhogs would lumber along the creek, resembling small bears. Once in a while a skunk, who obviously had been conversing with the raccoon, would try to find breakfast in the hen house as well. Hawks soared overhead, looking for something small to carry away. And, a couple of times I had even seen a fox, probably hoping to bypass the eggs and go straight for the chickens.

My predators are benign in comparison, yet I claim these birds at the feeders as mine. The cat has a home where food is furnished. Someone is feeding the squirrel corn and peanuts. (I know because I find them buried in my garden.) So why can't they leave my bird feeders alone?

Some days, I'm tempted to add a squirrel and a cat to my garden, but refrain from violence. I could do what Dad used to do and sit with a shot gun, waiting for a varmint to show up, but I don't believe in guns. Or maybe trap the critters and make little fur jackets for hairless dogs.

It is a quandary how woman and beast should live together. I am gaining patience from this standoff, as well as sprinting and leaping prowess in my attempts to foil bird-devouring efforts.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Where the heck are my ruby slippers?

Pamela Loxley Drake is a Beaverton resident and self-described lifelong "farm girl."


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