The Flipped Lid: Jewelry for peanuts

Sep 26, 2006 at 7:32 pm

Recently, while driving in Old Louisville, a friend witnessed a canine hit-and-run. The driver, she said, slowed down after hitting the dog then drove off. My friend stopped to check on the dog. No serious injury had occurred as far as she could tell; the dog seemed OK. What wasn’t OK was the driving off. But, as a different friend commented, “The world is more and more like that.” Like that.

I’ve cried watching cars and trucks smash turtles and squirrels. I also cried post-road kill watching three deer on the side of Highway 42 looking at a deer (kin or friend) that had just been hit. The scene reminded me of a family in shock, the three survivors looking back as if it would get up soon enough.

A few days ago I felt a different kind of shock. I’d dropped off my engagement ring and wedding band to have them sized down, and when I picked the ring up, the jeweler, Melvin Moore, charged nothing. I hardly believed him. After all, the rings fit fine when we bought them. It was my fault that I’d lost weight.

The day I picked up my re-fitted rings, I discovered another happy fact about Melvin. As he walked me to his front door, I complimented his sunroom. He then shared that a squirrel was nesting in the roof over it, and had been ringing his doorbell. The door ringing was annoying, sure. But Melvin seemed less annoyed than he did amused. In fact, when I asked him about the door-ringing squirrel a day later, he explained that he’d checked with an electrician to make sure the voltage wouldn’t hurt the squirrel. The same day, when his doorbell rang again, he seemed disappointed that a customer, and not his squirrel, stood on the front porch.

Melvin then told me he feeds squirrels in his back yard and, when I told him how much I love squirrels, he took me back. The back yard makes up most of his Highlands’ home half-acre, and the 300-square-foot deck (multi-leveled) and 2,000 gallon Koi pond (built by Melvin) define the space closest to the back door. Water moves over the pond’s falls, and a tall, old pine borders the yard’s west. A birdbath springing from ferns sits close to the pine. An iron bench and chair sit at the east border. The effect is wildlife refuge meets suburbia meets regional park.

Most of the squirrel feeding happens from the deck, or even in the house. This is why Melvin was featured in an article in The Voice Tribune last spring. Squirrels have learned to help themselves to peanuts when his back door is open. After spending many days, weeks and months throwing nuts into the yard, the squirrels eat from his hands and tug on his clothes. Melvin even leaves a vinyl bag with nuts on the kitchen counter and squirrels come in like little furry help-yourself-trick-or-treaters. However, as much as I love the thought of squirrels enjoying the Melvin Moore peanut buffet, what I really love is how much Melvin does to know and love animals.

He’s named several of the Koi in his pond (Blondie, Casper, Shadow, Burt and Cupid, for example) and knows which two among the 40 or so stand up to eat. As we sat on the deck, a few of the fish came to the water’s surface and kissed the air over and over. “That’s so sweet,” I said. He knowingly explained, “They want to eat.” The fish eat pellets and the occasional peanut. Blondie eventually swallowed one whole. The first time a peanut accidentally got lobbed in, he called a local pet place and was assured the fish would be fine. And as much as he loves his fish, rather than trap a raccoon trying to hunt his Koi, he built a rock wall to discourage it.
Melvin claims “animals are a lot smarter than we are,” and smiles as he admits the squirrels have “got him whipped.”

I’ve often wondered how to overcome my sensitivity to animals in urban and suburban areas. Living close to Central Park, I fear for the zillion squirrels there and have tiny heart attacks every other day when someone almost runs one over. Having met Melvin, I feel less fear of that.

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