Bob’s Squirrel Syndrome is sure sign of fall

Bob's Squirrel Syndrome is sure sign of fall By Bob Karolevitz I can't write a column this week because I'm too busy with my fall-time tasks.

I call it my Squirrel Syndrome, although I'm not into gathering nuts. I really don't know what happens, but each year as summer ends, some bodily juices start bubbling and I find myself making like a Dakota pioneer.

We don't burn much winter wood, but for some reason or other, an inner urge causes me to cut and stack more than we'll ever use.

"Why are you doing that?" Phyllis wants to know. "You've got piles of boxelder and Chinese elm from eight years ago. We don't need any more!"

It's hard to explain to her that some inbred force is driving me to the woodpile. Maybe it's like the animal instinct which motivates bears to hibernate, birds to fly south and, yes, squirrels to gather nuts.

I usually don't like to dig, but when there's the first fall chill in the air, I'm drawn magnetically to my potato fork to get the spuds out of the ground. Somehow a freshly dug bushel of potatoes becomes more of an achievement than a completed manuscript.

Onions have to be gathered in, too. I guess I've got some latent homesteader gene which goads me into stockpiling a food supply for the harsh months ahead. Oh, I know it's just a token thing because it's so much easier just to go to the store, but still I'm compelled to make that token effort, futile though it may be.

Sometimes it seems that I was born a century too late. Had I lived in those earlier years, I'd probably have made sausages and had the root cellar full of good stuff to eat. There'd been lots of hay for the oxen and plenty of fuel for the fireplace, even if I had to go out and pick up buffalo chips. Phyllis doesn't agree with me, however.

"You'd have been a lousy pioneer," she says. "You like electric lights, Monday night football on television and transportation that doesn't require harnesses or oats."

"Your Squirrel Syndrome is fine now when it's mostly symbolic," she adds, "but if you HAD to cut the wood and gather in the vegetables, it'd be something else again. I'm letting you do it just to satisfy whatever that crazy impulse is."

I suppose she's right, but that yearning to tackle the autumnal chores of yesteryear cannot be denied. I've got to get it out of my system even though she doesn't think it's very important.

I must put the hoses away, for instance, because they'd freeze up into all kinds of serpentine shapes if I didn't. The mowers and the rototiller have to be winterized, too, or we'd have more trouble come spring than we usually do.

So there's more to the Squirrel Syndrome than spuds and winter wood. All I know is that there is some inborn inclination the prods me into uncharacteristic action when the season rolls around.

Call it what you will, but I'm caught up in the desire to work outdoors with hand-tools like my grandfather used to do. This too shall pass, of course, and I'll eventually go back to my typewriter. But for now, though, I'll be swinging an axe and digging in the dirt.

Phyllis is glad that it's just a short-time seasonal thing!

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