Thursday, June 05, 2008

284 East-West

It is spring. The lawn grass is thick. And the squirrel bypass is open.

According to my online dictionary a bypass is (1) a road passing around a town or its center to provide an alternative route for through traffic. (2) a secondary channel... or (3) an alternative passage made by surgery...

1) Although this bypass actually pretty much goes through the center of town, it does function as THE one alternative route to the branches-and-wires beltway that encircles our yard, potentially providing access to every bushy tailed tree-rodent on the planet. This high-speed/high-altitude route leads into a network of "blue highways" within our property that allows any one who uses them an easy entrance to all of the tourist sights therein.

2) It is most definitely a channel. Again borrowing from my computer-based list of words and their meanings, a channel is:
- a narrow gap or passage...
- a tubular passage or duct...
- a groove or flute...

That's exactly what we've got - a groove in the grass.

3) It was created by an act of surgery - albeit not one that was performed with the noble goal of reestablishing a life-nourishing flow of blood to an artery-clogged patient but rather done with the intent of providing its practitioners with even faster and easier access to free food. So I guess, in at least some sense of the word, it does aid circulation.

The squirrel bypass is most visible in a lawn needing mowing but is of sufficient depth to be easily discerned even when the grass has been freshly cut to its recommended height of five inches. In fact I would calculate the depth of the ditch (DotD) as: DotD = (H - M) where H = the current height of the lawn and M = the matted down thickness of several blades of grass repeatedly run over by rapidly moving squirrels laden down with pouches and stomachs full of sunflower seeds.

The path of this pedestrian parkway runs from the base of one of our oak trees to the base of the flowering crab apple that holds our cache of birdseed feeders. It is, I am absolutely certain, the most direct route from one point to the other. The thoroughfare has existed for probably as many years as we have had feeding stations and squirrels to raid them - about thirty. Although invisible during the grass dormancy months (except when snow covers the ground) the tree-rats seems to have no trouble at all staying on the road as they dash across the yard in single-minded pursuit of their sunflower seed prey.

I have never scientifically determined it, but I would suspect that it has followed, within a fraction of an inch, the exact same track all of those years. While we may think that the squirrels' food procurement antics are amusing, acrobatic, and even artistic I suspect that they approach these meal missions with an obsessive efficiency matched only by that of a deadly heat-seeking missile, honed in inexorably on its hapless target. Extra travel time means less time at the dinner table - lack of haste makes waste.

Mars was saying just the other night that we ought to do something to make the squirrels' dinner theatre more challenging and hence more entertaining to us. Maybe we should decorate the path with some tiny little barriers such as those used in dog agility trials - tunnels, teeter-totters, tire jumps. weave poles, and orange plastic cones.

Faced with the choice of altering their beeline byway or learning new tricks, I have no doubt that they would choose the latter. And, after a momentary increase in the pace of their commute, they would quickly learn to negotiate their newest challenges with no resulting loss of face-time with the feeders.

Who knows - it might actually increase traffic on the thruway. After all I'm sure that even Tiger Woods, known for his extremely intense focus on the putting green, would enjoy the challenge of hitting one through the windmill blades and into the clown's mouth every so often.

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