I well understand the concerns of certain folks regarding feeding wild animals. Bears and raccoons can become a problem if they learn that humans mean free food. Sadly, some of these animals are exterminated because of human foolishness. Even so, it can be pleasant to feed birds and small animals.
In the autumn of 1975, I lived at the CNIB headquarters in Toronto. While I was there, I took courses in independent living. While in the cafeteria one evening, a friend told me that there were squirrels living in the forest behind the institute. That news gave me incentive to explore the grounds.
While walking behind the buildings comprising the CNIB, I discovered a park bench. I had seen the occasional black squirrel foraging in the grass for food and wished to get a closer look at them. On a shopping trip, I purchased a large bag of unsalted peanuts. The next afternoon, I sat as still as I could on the bench after having scattered peanuts around it.
Sure enough, the squirrels quickly learned that a feast of delicious peanuts was to be had whenever I was there. It soon became part of my daily routine to feed them and enjoy their antics.
As with all good things, stupid people seek to ruin the enjoyment of others. I ran afoul of a CNIB staff member who figured she was the boss. As I entered the building where the dorm rooms were located she stopped me. “You shouldn’t be eating those peanuts, you know. They’re ruining your complexion.”
“I’m not eating all these,” I objected. “I’m feeding them to the squirrels.”
“You shouldn’t be wasting your money like that. You should be going to movies or dances.”
I felt so angry that I clammed up. After all, it seemed the safest thing to do when confronted by nosy and opinionated people. That woman’s criticism also strengthened my resolve to feed my fluffy-tailed friends even more.
Before supper one day, I was about to go to the cafeteria when I saw a squirrel in the distance. When I dropped a peanut, he or she bounded right up to me and ate it fearlessly. The squirrel didn’t even flee when I took out a camera I borrowed from a friend and snapped a picture. I felt so touched that this wild animal felt safe in my presence. No amount of movies and dances could ever give me the emotional boost I received from that rodent.
My love of small animals permeates all three of my memoirs. View the first two at Bruce Atchison’s books. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powel’s Books.