A squirrel cut my watermelon harvest by half!

OK, so he (or she) decreased the harvest from two melons to one, which is hardly a huge difference, but still.

Like many others, I took up vegetable gardening during the quarantines of 2020, thanks largely to a free, virtual, self-paced New Mexico State University gardening course called Seeds to Supper. It even included free seeds.

Argen Marie Duncan

Six or seven years before, someone had given me a packet of watermelon seeds for reasons I don’t remember. I was living in an apartment with no private yard at the time, so the packet just sat in a drawer.

I don’t even really care for watermelon. (I know, I know, that’s practically unAmerican.)

In 2020, I figured I might as well see if the seeds were still good, since I was planting anyway. Feeling less than optimistic, I dumped the whole packet into a mound of soil.

I briefly watered that watermelon mound with the rest of the garden. Then, I decided the seeds were too old to sprout and gave up.

Weeks later, the monsoon rains came and, to my surprise, up popped watermelon plants — so many that I had to uproot some of them. I had obviously underestimated the longevity of seeds.
By then, it was late in the growing season, so not many melons had time to develop. I watched two or three tiny melons grow.

The Ornery Neighborhood Squirrel hangs out on news editor Argen Marie Duncan’s back wall in a previous spring. Argen Marie Duncan / Observer

Meanwhile, I noticed a squirrel hanging out on my cinderblock backyard fence on many mornings. I designated it a “he” and took a few photos, because that’s what we do when we see something cute in the 21st century. The squirrel sometimes raided the compost in the garden. He left discarded produce scraps lying around, but he wasn’t really hurting anything.

One day, I found the biggest, but still unripe, melon had been pulled from the vine, rolled a few feet away and chewed up on one side.

The culprit had to be the squirrel.

Now he was messing with my harvest, and I was miffed.

My neighbor across the street said a squirrel often ran along her back wall as her two dogs barked madly and raced after it in a frenzy. It seemed like the rodent was taunting the dogs.
I don’t know if it was the same squirrel, but teasing dogs seems in line with stealing watermelons.

I named him Ornery Neighborhood Squirrel, or Ons for short. Still, it was fun to see him on the fence, so I didn’t do anything about him.

A single watermelon ripened before the frost that year, and I split it between two friends.

Ons disappeared during the winter and reappeared briefly on my fence in March 2021. I haven’t seen him since.

I guess he either moved on or met his demise.

I harvested six or eight watermelons last year. No one stole or chewed a single one.

It was nice not to have to worry about a furry little garden thief.

Still, I miss seeing that Ornery Neighborhood Squirrel on my fence in the mornings.