By Chuck Woodbury
WRITTEN IN 1987
Note: Before I became politically correct and nature-smart, I fed wild animals. I fed bears as a kid in Yellowstone. I fed deer in Yosemite. I fed blue jays. I fed gray squirrels. I fed chipmunks. I fed anything that was cute that wasn’t interested in eating me. This is one of my favorite stories from my early days as a roving reporter. Shortly after writing this I stopped feeding wild animals.
Chipmunks can wage war. I know that now. This afternoon, in an Oregon state park near Bend, a couple of chipmunks hit me up for some food. One stared at me and wagged its tail — just like a cat. Another one stood on his hind legs and sniffed.
So I broke down and fed them some Cheez-Its — a monumental mistake! The chipmunk grapevine works fast here, and in a few minutes there were a dozen chipmunks around me and more on the way.
I fought to keep them from jumping on my lap, but it was a losing battle. Finally, I hid in the motorhome.
About a half hour later, the coast clear, I went back outside to read. But within minutes the chipmunks were back in full force. I tried to ignore them but they wouldn’t cooperate: “Cheez-Its, Mister, give us Cheez-Its.” I told them my Cheez-Its were gone. But they wouldn’t listen. I told them they were bothering me. “Go away,” I ordered. But they continued to demand Cheez-Its.
So I did next what any angered human would do: I declared war.
I went to the motorhome for my weapon. Outside, the enemy waited, some on their hind legs sniffing their button noses for the first wonderful whiff of crackers.
But they got no such treat. I returned with a fully loaded spray water bottle, adjusted to shoot a straight stream of tap water with each squeeze of the handle. So the rodents who sought Cheez-Its got water instead — right in their cute little faces. To my surprise, they did not surrender.
Soon, wet chipmunks were attacking — veterans of an earlier assault. The thought struck me that they were enjoying this war!
One made at least eight trips, each time reaching within a few inches of my shoes. “Shoot me, I dare you!” he barked. So I shot him. He would shake his head when hit, make a squeak, then retreat to the woods. Out of my range, he would roll in the dirt and prepare for his next attack. “I will get the human’s Cheez-Its,” he mumbled under his breath. And then he charged again.
SOME WERE MASOCHISTIC — coming very close to me then taking two or three blasts of water before retreating. These were the kamikaze chipmunks.
As I fought bravely to keep these aggressive mini-beasts away, I noticed a boy of about eight in the distance. He was running through the woods with a green “machine gun” squirt-gun — raging his own battle with the chipmunks.
This campground was under siege! Then the terrible thought hit me: The chipmunks were winning!
As I considered possible defeat, I recalled another chipmunk encounter near Lassen National Park. I was inside the motorhome writing at my kitchen table. The front door was wide open. Suddenly there was a noise. I looked up and a chipmunk was standing on its hind legs checking me out. I knew what he wanted.
But before I could even move, he had raced across the floor and leaped onto my lap. He stood on his hind legs and stared at me with huge brown eyes. “Mister, I want Cheez-Its. You give ’em to me now, and there won’t be any trouble, okay?”
Well, I wasn’t going for it, so I shook my leg, sending him flying into the air. He landed softly on the carpet, only his pride injured, and he darted out the door.
But my present battle wasn’t ending so easily. In fact, it showed no sign of ending at all. Finally, after 20 minutes of fighting, my ammunition and confidence were running low. Rather than prolong my inevitable defeat, and waste ounces of precious Pacific Northwest water in the process, I retreated to the motorhome, a defeated man.
The rodents shook paws and celebrated.