The squirrel and the barbecue grill / by Beth Winegarner

I was lying in bed reading the other day, enjoying a breeze through the open window, when I heard a scraping noise outside. I tried to ignore it -- my mental image of "me time" just then didn't involve that particular sound -- but I couldn't. 

Scrrrch, scrrrch, scrrrch.

I turned around and saw one of our backyard squirrels on top of the dome of our barbecue, nibbling the white plastic handle. 

"That is not food!" I said, because I talk to animals as if they can all speak English.

I climbed out of bed and went out the back door, waving my arms like I was trying to flag down a police car. I figured if I looked scary enough, the squirrel would associate the delicious grill-cover handle with danger and not want to eat it again. It skittered up the wooden fence and disappeared into the trees.

It doesn't seem like any good can come of a squirrel eating our grill handle. A, the squirrel is ingesting something that isn't edible. And b, it leaves us without a way to lift the cover on the barbecue, including when it's hot. And it's not like we are starving this animal. We fill our bird feeders regularly. The squirrels leap onto them from nearby trees and hang upside down to get at the seeds. It's impressive, actually.

Now, maybe this is one of those times you're supposed to let nature sort itself out, but I just couldn't. I tried to think of something I could cover the handle with that would make it seem even less like food. Foil! Nobody likes biting down on foil, right? I wrapped a layer around the grill handle, feeling clever.

A few days later, I went outside to see how my plan was working. I had to chase the squirrel away from the grill again. Not only had it not been turned off by the foil, but it had peeled off a long strip to get to the handle. I looked around on the patio for shredded aluminum, but found almost none.

Great. Now the squirrel thinks the foil is food, too?

Meanwhile, the critter was sitting on top of the fence, halfway behind a frond of leaves, as if it believed I couldn't see it. It sat very still, regarding me with one cautious eye.