Defending the Last Ripe Melon:
A Story of a Squirrel, Two Boys with BB Guns and the Dallas Police!
By Anne-Marie Miller (Dash)
Author’s note: Things have been pretty serious on here on the homestead, so I thought we could all use a good chuckle. Yes, just in case you wonder, this is a true story. Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures of this incident, because unlike others on the net, when encountering a stressful situation, I sometimes stand there in utter horror. I might duck or run, but I don’t ever whip out my phone and film it. My bad! Enjoy.
A few years ago, the community garden was growing strong. It was, as it is now, melon time. Our mouths watered with the thought of the taste of a good ripe melon. Unfortunately, the dream of a ripe melon was all our mouths were going to get, because the squirrels were getting them first. Now let me just say, that there is nothing quite like the desperation of a gardener, who has produce just ripening up, realizing that it is ALL being eaten by those “rats with good P.R.” A friend of mine called me the other day with that wild sound to her voice, desperate to defeat that clever rodent and be the FIRST to sink her teeth into a fresh sweet ear of corn. This is a VERY tricky problem for gardeners everywhere, but especially in the city.
I explain all this because this is the circumstance that was responsible for the idea to send in my son and his cousin, with BB guns, to defend the LAST ripe melon. Picture the squirrel on the movie Ice Age—he would do ANYTHING for that last acorn. Ironic, isn’t it! How the tables have turned.
So, I loaded up these two sweet young boys with BB guns and extra ammo, with full knowledge that it was against the law to shoot BB guns in the city. Let me just say, for the record, that certain other adults also thought that this would be a good solution to our melon-stealing bandit. However, I guess I must add here, that all of these people I am referring to also had melons growing in the garden. Guarding one’s produce can be an all-consuming obsession that will make you spend more money and take actions that you never thought you would!
To be honest, don’t tell them, but I figured it would be VERY unlikely that these two youngsters would shoot or harm anything. I just wanted to get them off the couch, pry those video game controllers out of their clutching hands and give them a real life, outdoor adventure.
Forgetting the last outdoor adventure I sent them on, which we refer to as the “The Outbreak of Poison Ivy of 2012,” I sent them off with instructions to hunker down behind the okra and wait for the thieving, fluffy-tailed creature to present itself. Of course, it would be just my luck that a well-meaning community garden member happened to decide to visit the garden at just such a time as this. Let me just pause here to ask: Have you ever met anyone with the middle name “Drama?” Well, I have. This was her. She promptly, as was her civic duty, dialed up 911, which alerted the Dallas police. We have no idea what exactly she reported to the dispatcher, however, judging from the prompt and urgent response by police, I would wager a guess that she probably mentioned something about people with guns in the garden. I am also guessing she left out a few critical details, such as: KIDS and BB guns.
As was their duty, the Dallas police responded with 3 squad cars, and quite the response it was too! Through the parking lot and onto the grass they drove, surrounding the garden just like you see in the movies. Except this wasn’t the movies, this was real life, my real life! Shielded by their car doors, loudspeaker in hand, they shouted towards the garden for the armed men to drop their weapons and come out with their hands held high. On that sunny day, there were two young boys, who stepped out from the shade of the okra patch, with hands held high and urine running down their legs. Kidding! I would probably have been wetting my pants, but then again, I have birthed five kids. These boys held strong.
The police officers quickly summed up the situation, cursed the added DRAMA from the caller and approached the boys with a friendly attitude. In fact, the police officers felt so bad about the “I almost made you pee your pants part” that they tried to make up for it by showing the kids the inside of the squad car and letting them turn on the lights and siren for just a moment. Really? In my view, as a parent, the inside of a police car should never be a fun, pleasant, exciting place to be. (Unless, of course, you are going to work your butt off to be in the driver’s seat. In that case; God help you and keep you! Support our men and women in BLUE!)
Wait for it, there’s more: Here is the part where I get dragged into the situation. So, when the nice officer offered to give the boys a ride home in the back of his squad car, my son says, “Well that doesn’t make sense for me to ride in your car when I can just walk across the street.” Pointing, he adds, “There is my home right there, with my mom in it. She is the one that told me to do this in the first place.”
“Son, when a police officer asks you nicely to get in the back of the squad car, just do it! Also, NEVER throw the parental unit, that got you into trouble in the first place, under the bus! She cooks your food.”
He had strict instructions to, if he was questioned, claim he was an orphan desperate for a meal of squirrel and veggies. He was then to dolefully look up at the person (I never imagined it would be an officer of the law) with his dark brown, soulful eyes and add a little chin quiver (I know he can do this because he has tried it on me successfully on more than one occasion). This tactic would skillfully avert all attention off me and effectively throw the Pastor of the church (who oversees the garden) under the bus. O.K., even I admit, it was a shaky plan at best and perhaps not the most ethical path to go down. But really, who can walk into a church, call out and dress down a pastor? Besides, this pastor has a congenial, easygoing personality and calm, reassuring presence. I had full confidence that he could talk his way out of any conflict that happened to land in his lap. In my desperate melon-saving frenzy, I wasn’t thinking very clearly (or at all, it seems), when I gave that wee bit of instruction. Thinking back, I can see that this was not one of my more stellar parenting moments.
Meanwhile, back at the house, looking up from cooking dinner, I couldn’t help but notice the lights, the noise, the drama going on across the street and stood at my window, open-mouthed, watching in horror with two things going through my mind: 1) Please, please don’t shoot my kid and 2) I hope he doesn’t forget to throw the Pastor under the bus.
So, this is how my son got his first ride in the back of a squad car, which he enjoyed WAY too much, just sayin’! This is also how I got a thorough and correct explanation of the law from a kind but shaky police officer, who had just surrounded and called out two wee boys with BB guns from behind a tall okra patch. Truth be told I felt so sorry for the man, as he was still visibly shaking! It is not an easy job to be a police officer, that is for sure.
I wish I could report that we learned our lesson and that we locked up our BB guns forever, but I would be lying. I REALLY cannot express to you the desperation of a gardener that has worked ALL season for a few ripe melons to have them stolen just at the point of ripeness by a cheeky bandit with the twitch of his tail! However, I am pleased to report that this tail-twitching bandit has become cockier and we have become smarter. We tempt them to our backyard, where all bets are off! This is the time to purchase that Red Rider BB gun that your son, spouse, or you have secretly always wanted. A strategically placed stump, a sacrificial melon or, my favorite, a large head of a sunflower and you have yourself a solution.
If you are a squirrel lover and I have offended you, well, all can be forgiven. I will lay off your furry friends if you will just come to my house each week with an organically grown, vine-ripe cantaloupe, 6 vine-ripe tomatoes, sweet corn on the cob and a bushel of peaches.
Not interested? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I rest my case.
Legal Ways to Defend Your Melons:
The moral of this story is to investigate all your urban farming options before jumping in to an unlawful one. It could turn out differently then you could ever have imagined! There are many other ways to defeat this sneaky bandit that will NOT result in a dramatic police response. I personally want a motion-activated sprinkler! It is way out of our budget, but I can’t help it, I still really want one of those sprinklers! Who can resist with the name:
“Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler”
I think it’s the “Yard Enforcer” part of the name that gets me. Like you have just hired the terminator to defend your melons! Oh, I want one! Taking a deep cleansing breath here. I can see that this sprinkler might be a bit of an overkill. If we are going to feed our families we must look for inexpensive, problem-saving options. Right? (If you get one and try it, please let me know if it works! I REALLY, REALLY want to know!)
Holding strong and looking for free or almost free options:
First free option: Call and request a “Have a Heart” live trap from your city. Most animal control units will issue a trap, free of charge, if you leave a check with them, just in case the trap never comes back. However, you can’t keep this trap forever and I am going to say right now that if you are not willing to buy a bb gun with a scope, or an amazing terminator sprinkler then, you are going to need that trap forever. You can buy one at your local feed store for about $30.00. We questioned the man at the animal control center about what to do with the squirrel once we caught it. We asked, “Can we kill it?” To which he replied in horror, “Oh no, you have to drive out and release it somewhere safe.”
We asked him for his address.
Second almost free option: Make a melon protection cage. Although this will not work for acres and acres of melons, it can work for the home gardener.
Take a tomato cage and cut off the top, leaving long spikes to push down into the ground. Cover this “cage” with chicken wire. One circle for the top and a long piece wrapped around the sides. I gave my boys, along with some of the neighborhood kids, ice cream in exchange for making mine. It’s amazing what hot kids will do for something cold in the summer. That is, if you can coax them outside and pry the video game controllers out of their hands. That is a big IF! Once you have your protection cages built, push the stakes into the earth (making an impenetrable cage over your melon) and there you have it, perhaps the most diabolical solution to your problem.
That cute little fluffy-tailed enemy can see the melon. They can smell the melon. They just cannot eat the melon. Here, give your best villain laugh from the depths of your melon-defending self. “Maw ha haaaaw!” Then give it again, just for fun. “Maw ha haaaaw!”
Oh, but I forgot for a moment—we are the good guys. When your enemy is so cute, it is hard to keep it all straight. I have to remind myself: “Good guys, we are the good guys.”
I hope you had or are having a successful melon season. My wish for you is that there is lots of sweet, dripping-down-your-chin, melon goodness in your future!
Anne-Marie or Dash (for the hyphen in her name) is an urban farmer in Dallas, Texas. She raises chickens and rabbits on less than ¼ of an acre. Plus, she has turned her front yard into a large stand-out-in-the neighborhood vegetable garden. In addition to the farming she does on her homestead, she helped create a community garden literally from grassy field to thriving garden. What stands out about her little urban homestead is her determined out of the box approach to overcoming obstacles. You can follow her adventures on her little urban homestead by visiting her blog, BloomWhereYourPlanted.com.
That was hilarious!
We have finally put most of our garden up and out of reach of the ground squirrels. They have gone to bed for the rest of the season and I thought that we had it made. NOT! Pack rats have begun stealing my tomatoes as they ripen. I have found half eaten tomatoes and even vines on their path from the garden to their nests below the garage overhang. The rosemary and herb spray that is supposed to deter them does not. They are also undeterred by the solar powered predator lights that look like the red eyes of weasels or snakes. Netting cages that my girlfriend constructed around the plants may work. Heaven knows I can’t get through them. I would really like to kill the little thieves but have been shamed into resisting the urge by the self same girlfriend. What to do? So much for this year’s salsa and spaghetti sauce.