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Truth written in snow: We are not alone

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As I write this, the snow that has covered the ground for the past nine months is melting away. OK, it only seems like nine months. I know it’s been only four.

I am a guy who strongly prefers winters of the snowless variety. Still, my wife, Brenda, and I learned some things from this most recent stretch of cold, wind and snow.

For example, we learned that we need to buy a snow blower. Yes, I know that if I buy one it probably won’t snow for the next five winters. At least I hope that’s the case. A few hundred bucks seems like a small price to pay for snow-free winters.

We also learned that cursing and shaking one’s fist at snow clouds only causes them to laugh so hard they drop a few extra inches on one’s head.

But perhaps the most interesting thing we’ve learned this winter is just how many animals, besides our cat, Stella, are living with us … rent free.

We’ve always been aware that a few rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks have their mail delivered to our address.

In the summertime it’s not unusual to look out the back window and see a couple of rabbits sitting in the grass. They don’t move around much, seemingly content to bask in the sunshine.

We also see the occasional chipmunk darting across the back patio and diving into a hole in the yard. And once in a while we’ll spot a squirrel scooting across the power lines.

Other than the rabbits eating the tops off some spring flowers, they don’t bother us. And since our careful observation of these critters indicates that nary a one of them earns a paycheck, we don’t hassle them for rent.

But that may be about to change.

What we didn’t know until all this snow fell and stuck around for four months … OK, three … was just how many furry freeloaders are taking advantage of our hospitality. Before the snow melted, there were so many tracks on the backyard it reminded me of one of those Family Circus comics that uses a dotted line to trace little Billy’s meandering path from point A to point B.

It would appear that word of our rent-free Shangri-La has spread to small wildlife throughout the neighborhood.

I hadn’t really noticed until one evening when I happened to be looking out the back window. The low rays of the setting sun hit all the tracks just right, casting shadows that made them stand out from the small spaces of untouched snow.

The entire yard, from the back fence to the edge of the house, was covered with tracks. It was clear that we either have way more squatters than we thought we did or we have a few extremely hyperactive critters.

These were not your normal “I’m going out to forage for dinner, be back in a few minutes” tracks. These were definitely “First one to the fence and back wins a luxurious weekend for two under the storage shed!” tracks.

Judging from the number of tracks, I would guess there were several heats, quarterfinals and semifinals before the championship race.

Shocked, I asked Brenda to come take a look. As we both pressed our faces to the window, I looked down. There, near the house, was a trail of gigantic footprints leading from one side of the yard to the other.

“Look!” I hollered. “We’ve even got Bigfoot living in our yard.”

“I doubt it,” Brenda replied. “More likely the meter reader.”

Well, I am definitely charging HIM rent.

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