Friends in Florida continue to send me photos of the latest alligator sightings. Last year it was a 7-footer swimming by a nearby quay. Then there was the photo of city workers with a 13-foot gator caught in a storm sewer. And finally, a shot of a supposed 23-foot monster snuffed between Orlando and Titusville. The fellow standing beside the strung-up gator was supposed to be six-foot-five and he looked like a munchkin. Between gators, sharks, and hurricanes, is it any wonder that the dream of nearly every boomer generation retiree appears to be a trailer or more in sunny Florida (irony)?

I suppose this fixation on gators is an attempt to take Floridian’s minds off the hurricane season. But what do the residents of Florida expect? They are systematically developing every square inch of the state and filling in every swamp so they can develop more. I have no doubt the gators are being pushed to the limit of their patience. “Take away our swamp and what can we do: patrol the canals in subdivisions. Take away our prey and what can we do? Attack anything that moves including early morning joggers. After all, we gators have to eat. What would the high-end handbag business be without us?”

Oh sure, we have our problems with nature in Fairfield Glade. If you are a gardener I know you understand why the deer love your efforts. If you are a golfer, you know skunks love to dig divots for grubs on the fairways. If you feed the prolific assortment of birds in the Glade, you know the squirrels adore you. Certainly we residents of the relatively isolated Cumberland Plateau have been warned that black bears may soon appear from the Smokey Mountains and coyotes from the west. But were we warned about the hoards of reddish brown stripped rodents that would descend upon us this spring? Is the government here to help (more irony)?

Have you ever seen as many chipmunks in one community? This entire area of the Plateau is probably aerated with tunnels and burrows of these incredibly industrious and ingenious rodents. Our entire community could settle 10 feet with a strong rain. Some people call them ground squirrels; however, if you have ever seen one scurry up a 40-foot tree as if it were a drag strip…well, the name doesn’t apply. They eat nearly anything, are smarter than squirrels, multiply at an alarming rate (and I thought they were playing tag, how cute!), and are virtually indestructible.

My wife was given a solution by a friend to discourage a ground squirrel that was undermining a concrete slab by our side garage door. “Poor Epsom salt down the hole; that will do the trick.” She came home with two large bags of Epsom salt. “What’s that for?” I queried. “To get rid of the chipmunks,” she replied. “You think they are going to leave because you give them a foot bath? Forget-about-it!” She proceeded to fill the hole with Epsom salt. The next morning there was a pile of Epsom salt outside the hole and a pile of gravel from underneath the concrete slab. I pushed it all back into the hole and tamped it down. There has been no retaliation by the chipmunk since that last challenge. I told you they were smart. I think they have moved away from the foundation and meanwhile they are undermining the front walkway, if not the entire house. And one female can produce eight or more offspring in a season! Then what? There are rumors of a four-pound chipmunk sighted in the Glade. I can’t verify this sighting but it is almost too horrible to contemplate. A chipmunk of that size with their incredible survival instincts, it’s just horrible, horrible! ... I’m okay I’ll just go watch some B-horror movies from the '50s and '60s and I’ll be fine…just fine. Maybe gators aren’t so bad.

Kudos, gripes, suggestions? E-mail dfbackus@aol.com.

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