All story: Golf Ball Bandits, written by Karen Lewis and illustrated by Kelly Dorman.
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Golf Ball Bandits, written by Karen Lewis and illustrated by Kelly Dorman.

Thursday, 7 June 2012
Golf Ball Bandits

The squirrels were having a meeting in the hollow of an oak tree. They swished their tails around a lot, which meant that they were worried, and their noses were twitching more than usual.
"We want to keep things the way they were," declared Siggy, who was the leader. He was bigger than the others and his tail was much bushier. "This was always a nice quiet neighbourhood."
"Until the golf course moved in," agreed his friend Suzy, who was quite tiny. Everyone agreed that something would have to be done. They had already tried to scare the golfers away with loud and angry scoldings, but it hadn't worked.
"We were here long before them, and this land belongs to us," stated Siggy. And he suggested that they switch tactics and try to drive them out another way.
"But how?" asked Suzy, biting into an apple. "You may not have noticed, but they're a lot bigger than we are, and there's a lot more of them."
"I'm not intending to march on the clubhouse, if that's what you're thinking," Siggy retorted while munching on a hazelnut. "No siree. If ever a situation called for guerrilla warfare, it's this one."
A magpie flew by, making a grab for the squirrel's meal. "Get outta here," yelled Siggy. "And the plan I have in mind will take care of these pesky critters too," he added angrily.
"Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak," mused Suzy glaring at the magpie. And the other squirrels demanded to know how this was to be done.
"It's simple really," explained Siggy. "Golf can't be played without balls. And if we grab enough of them they're sure to get fed up and move on somewhere else."
Everyone nodded in agreement. The balls would be easy to pop into their mouths, for they were just about the size of a crab apple. But what, they wondered, would they do with them afterwards?
"If they manage to find the balls again?" said Suzy. "Then all our efforts will have been in vain."
Siggy finished off the last morsel of his lunch before answering. "Not if we chew them up so badly, theyÕll be fit for trash only," he replied.
"And the magpies," questioned Suzy. "How will this chase them away? They don't play golf."
"No, but they live in our tree. And if we stash the wrecked balls in their nests, they'll soon be looking around for another place to live."
It was a marvellous plan, and everyone was anxious to get started on it right away.

The squirrels concentrated their efforts between the 10th and 18th holes, which were side by side. Grabbing the balls as they rolled to a stop and haring off with them at lightning speed.
"Hey, come back here," yelled angry golfers, but although some gave chase, they were never fast enough to catch the squirrels, who could run very fast indeed. And soon hundreds of chewed-up balls were hidden up trees and buried all around.
"Look! We're becoming famous," Suzy exclaimed, pointing to a newspaper article about their activities.
"It's our fifteen minutes of fame," Siggy remarked dryly, although he was secretly delighted by the coverage. As everyone had been working really hard and it was rewarding to receive attention of this sort.
"I wish they would publish our side of the story though," Suzy lamented. For she was upset about being called a "Golf Ball Bandit" and a "Thieving Rodent."
Suzy's nest was located high up in the branches of a fir tree. And it was just as Siggy popped his head out to see what the weather was doing that he noticed the young woman prowling around far below.
"I bet she's a newspaper reporter," he cried excitedly. "This might be our big chance. Quick, Suzy, spruce yourself up and let's get down there. And smile, we want to make a good impression."
"Does she have a photographer with her?" asked Suzy, grooming herself hurriedly. "It would be lovely to get a shot of ourselves on the front page."
"I didn't see anyone else," Siggy admitted, disappointed already at the prospect of missing out on a photo op.
But although they hurried down the tree as fast as they could, by the time they reached the ground the mysterious visitor had disappeared.
"Darn," said Siggy, wiggling his nose. "There goes our chance at a little desperately needed publicity."
"But she may not have been a reporter at all," Suzy consoled. "Come on, let's go home."

The golfers were getting angrier all the time. "If I had my way, I'd trap the little varmints and ship them miles away," raged one man. And this threat was overhead by a timid little squirrel named Tyke.
"I don't want to be locked up in a cage and taken to a strange place," he wailed. "We have to stop stealing the balls now." And some of the squirrels, who were growing tired of the war agreed.
Never had a meeting drawn such a crowd before. "It's time we took a vote on this," declared Sonny, who was almost as large as Siggy, and longed to replace him as leader. And the air was electric with excitement as the squirrels jostled each other for a better look at the speakers.
"It's up to me to decide that," insisted Siggy. "I am the leader."
"None of us want to risk being trapped," said Tyke's mom Cindy. "I say we stop while we're still ahead."

And so the hollow of the oak tree rang with the angry sounds of a community divided.
But it wasn't just the fear of being trapped that was swaying community opinion against the war. Now that the golf course had been established for a couple of years, there were certain benefits that were being noticed.
For one thing, it was easier to get around over the short turf than struggling through tall grasses. The increased human presence had also scared off predators such as hawks, coyotes and cats. But the really big plus was all the tasty treats like filberts and almonds that were being left for them.
"And there's a couple of lovely old dears who bring us peanuts," declared Cindy, as she munched on the goodies. "The kind that are roasted in the shell and unsalted so they're good for us."
But Siggy remained stubborn and refused to quit. He feared that if he gave in now Sonny would be seen as the winner. "The battle must go on," he said.
And so the golf ball snatching continued, if not as enthusiastically as before. Until something happened that convinced even Siggy that it had to stop.
"Golf Course Attracts Record Numbers Because of Plumy-tailed Pirates," declared the headline in the newspaper.
"Good grief,"exclaimed Siggy, nibbling on one of the peanuts that had become a tasty addition to his diet. "First we were bandits and thieves, and now we're pirates! This is hardly unbiased reporting."
But it was what the article said, that caused him the most concern. For it seemed that the squirrels' activities were attracting even those who hated golf.
"Can you imagine that?" Suzy pondered. "They're coming here just to watch us make off with the balls."
A meeting was called by Sonny, who demanded that the golf ball-snatching stop immediately. "The very last thing we want is to attract even more people here," he said. "We've become part of the problem rather than the solution."
And everyone agreed that all hostilities must end.
So it was that peace once again reigned on the golf course.
Until that is, one mischievous little squirrel named Moxy raced across the green at the 18th hole and nabbed a ball that had rolled there.
"Another move like that one and you'll be banished," warned Siggy, although he secretly applauded the action.
"It was a grand gesture," he told Suzy.
"And it signalled the end of an era," she replied wistfully. For it was destined to be the last golf ball to be "squirreled" in that way.

Some quick squirrel facts:
Squirrels' eyes swivel around constantly on the lookout for danger. A trait that makes it risky to feed them by hand, as they're likely to bite unsuspecting fingers. Their incisors grow six inches a year to compensate for all the hard chewing that they do, sometimes stripping almost two-hundred pine cones in a single day.
Squirrels can eat mushrooms that would be toxic to humans, as their digestive tract is able to neutralise the poison. Before burying food for winter, they lick or rub it against their fur for the scent. Their highly developed sense of smell enabling them to detect a pine cone buried a foot beneath the snow.
Squirrels live in "dreys," which are nests built of sticks and leaves, and lined with feathers. They live alone, except for mothers and their young. Or, if it's very cold, they might double up for warmth. They have well-curved claws designed for purchase, in their rapid descent down trees, and can be very vocal, with a raucous selection of rattles, screeches and growls as part of their repertoire. They can run at speeds of up to 25 kilometers an hour.
Squirrels communicate with each other using a series of chirps, and by flicking their tails.
And there is nothing more important to a squirrel than its tail. Because not only does it serve as a status symbol Ð the fluffier the tail the bigger the squirrel will appear, but is also relied upon for so much of its daily activities. While jumping through the trees it's a rudder for steering, and for safe landings a parachute. It's a blanket in winter, an umbrella when it's raining, and a parasol in the sun. And they can even be employed to escape a predator by shedding its sheath and some of its bones.
Author's Note: This story is based on the recent activity at an Edmonton golf course, where the squirrels are making off with the balls.

                                                        THE END


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