Like most American suburban families, mine is graced, or haunted, by squirrels - in our case, Western gray squirrels, sciurus griseus, a troop of whom work our massive cedar and fir trees all day every day like tiny testy farmers. They are diligent souls, the sciurii griseii, and from dawn to dusk they mill our trees and bushes and lawn for nuts and seeds and berries and bagels and vitamins and waffles and wiffleballs and math homework and other things that have been thrown petulantly off the porch by my children. To see a Western gray squirrel wolfing down a garlic bagel at dawn is a remarkable and arresting sight, which I have seen more than once because someone suddenly doesn't like garlic bagels although someone used to like garlic bagels and insisted on garlic bagels in a shrieking wheedle, but I am not bitter, not me.
However the story I wish to tell you about the sciurii griseii does not have to do with garlic bagels, about which I am not bitter, but with toolage, so to speak, and it concerns one particular squirrel, a large male called, by my children, Tub. This inquisitive mammal, the Tubster, the Tubnacious One, is the bravest and most curious of his clan -he bounds up on the porch, skitters hilariously into the house, accepts nuts from the hand, perches on windowsills to peer in at chaos and hubbub. And it is the Tubster who recently picked up a wrench in the yard and not only twirled it expertly in his facile paws but then applied it to a hazelnut to good effect and then to so many hazelnuts that we raked up the shells and lined the back path with them.
Curious about Tubbish talents, we left a series of other simple tools on the porch - hammer, screwdriver, glue gun - and in each case the Tubster mastered them within minutes and put them to immediate creative use, which is why we couldn't use the front door for a while, but that was my mistake, I take responsibility for it, and I feel that one step toward a healthy family life is to admit wrong action so that we can all move in a positive way toward reconciliation and fewer glue guns.
Anyway, things soon got out of hand, you might have read about it in the papers, because someone's good idea was to leave out a chainsaw, and that turned out to be the slippery slope, because soon the Tubster was into sheetrock, retrofitting, dormers, and cabinetry, with a sideline in porches and decks, you wouldn't believe how many people dream of decking, it's like everyone secretly thinks if they have a deck they will actually sit around out there laughing gently and sipping gimlets and wearing chinos and grilling calamari and such, although mostly what I see deckwise is people cursing gently in the rain as they apply waterproof coating for the eleventh time while their children fling homework into the gathering gloom.
Well, as you know if you read the papers, the Tubster now heads the second-largest residential repair and redesign concern in western Oregon, and there is a talk of a merger with the largest firm, which has complained bitterly about tax and labor inequities but has not to date found redress in the courts. As for us, we do not see the Tubnacious One much these days; here and there he stops by while checking work sites in the area, and he has been very gracious to us in interviews and profiles, always crediting us for his introduction to home repair. He has not, to my knowledge, made any sort of offer as regards decking on our house, on which he perched for years, but I am not bitter, as he is, after all, one busy rodent, and my lovely bride is still thrilled about the whole hazelnut shell bonanza on the path. So things are good, all in all, except for all the moist math homework on the grass, but my attitude there is I figure we have something no one else has, you know what I mean? And it may be that mathematics is good for grass. You just never know.
Brian Doyle, a Lake Oswego resident, is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author of nine books of essays and 'proems.'