Tree Rats On The Roof

Daryl Gay's Back Page, July 2020

Daryl Gay | June 28, 2020

“You know anything about sighting in a rifle?”

Wait. Is this a trick? I’ve known this guy for 40 years. And put my complete faith and trust in him.

For about 10 minutes of that span…

“Uh, I’ve done it once or twice, why?”

Be cautious, be cautious, be cautious; you don’t know what he’s holding behind his back…

“Just wondered. I’ve got one with a new scope, and I don’t know nuthin’ about getting it to shoot where I think I’m aiming but obviously I ain’t.”

Yep, that’s what he said. OK, I’ll bite. But my mind’s eye I’m seeing a .460 Nitro Express elephant gun that’s going to knock me into the middle of October and leave an eye ring that borax and vinegar won’t get shed of.

“What kind of gun is it?”

“A Henry .22 lever action.”

(Excuse me for drooling on your Back Page.)

“Nice try, but really, where’s the hook I’m about to be jabbed with?”

I’m fully aware that the extent of this ol’ boy’s hunting activity is chasing winged creatures with a flyflap.  He shoots large loads of bull, but I’ve never known him to propel anything with gunpowder. That’s exactly what I’m thinking as he opens his truck door, reaches in and extracts…. yes, the neatest little Henry .22 lever gun I’ve ever fallen in love with at first sight. They may not do anything for you, but when you’re plinking around feeling like John Wayne, these little buggers are more fun than mud wrasslin’ with a trio of redheads.

Well, maybe a pair…

Besides, I been having this little problem with no visible solution—until right this minute.

“Uh, I’ll see what I can do.”

And he actually HANDED me the gun! Didn’t try to take it back! And I ain’t even signed nothing!

OK, allow me to set this problem up for you so’s you can get a ideee why this little plinker is about to come in mighty handy. They’s going to be some facts and figures throwed in, so pay ‘tantion.

At each end of my home is a large tree. One, highly prized and on the carport side, is an oak that was here when Columbus put his boat in the water. The other is just a tree. For squirrels to climb. So they can hop out, run the length of my roof and get to the oak.

See the problem? It’s two-fold: squirrels are too stupid to make the trip overland; and I intensely dislike the pitter-patter of scruffy claws on my roof.

Their modus operandi is to race the length of the house, drop down atop a 6-foot wooden fence, then tip-toe exactly 37 feet to the base of the oak.

Sometimes—when squirrel season is not in—they make it.

Up until the Henry arrived, beside my back door leading into the carport has rested a Winchester .22 bolt-action single shot. It’s less than 10 feet from where I’m typing this. Forthwith is MY modus operandi: 1. hear thud on roof; 2. grab  Winchester—which I received for my 10th birthday, by the way; 3. bolt out through the carport; 4. ascertain target; 5. solve problem(s).

In case you’ve never tried this—and I’m bettin’ you ain’t—be advised that my favorite part is playing with a squirrel’s mind. (Just before putting a bullet through it!)

You see, timing the dropdown is the key. And what’s a dropdown? Well, the fence levels off at 6 feet. So would my chin, assuming it was level. And one of the first lessons I learned at 10 years of age is that we NEVER shoot a rifle on a level plane. So, as I reach the end of the carport, I drop to one knee—hopefully just as the tree rat is hopping off the roof.

Squirrels, for the uninformed, have this thing: they kinda nut up, to turn a phrase, when something catches them unexpectedly. A total of 991 out of the last thousand—I warned you about facts and figgers—went into complete lockdown on top of the fence as the dropdown was executed.

And, while frozen and hoping for all they’re worth that they ain’t been spotted, they got this cockeyed gaze in my direction—‘cause they definitely ain’t gonna turn their head. The look is somewhere between, “Uh-oh” and “Ooohhh, BLEEP!”

Now, I got one chance. He may be friz up, but he ain’t gonna stay that way for long. It’s either I miss and he completes the remaining 35 or so feet—or I don’t and the trip is 3 feet sideways with a landing in the backyard and no more worries about where he hid his nuts.

(Did I mention how long I’ve had that gun? It’s killed everything from a trainload of his ancestors to nine ptarmigan for supper late one afternoon 2,000 miles up the road in Ontario.)

The Winchester’s only hint of shortcoming is its capacity. One of my rules for this game is that if I can’t get my target stopped with the dropdown—don’t shoot.

Know how many bullets a Henry holds?

Man, I got up to 21 shorts! Or 15 long rifles! I can see it now: tree rats hopping, skipping and leaping from limb to limb in that old oak, lead ripping all around. Maybe they’ll learn what true aggravation is all about. And that’s BEFORE I get the scope set!

Afterward? Well, that little single-shot has been mighty good to me, and I’m thinking it may be time to at last provide the rest it so richly deserves.

What’s that? How about returning the Henry when asked? Well, I’ve come up with a standard answer that I want you to remember just in case my buddy happens to ask  anything about this situation: “Rifle? What rifle???”



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