The mysterious affair of the Bird-Feeder

S got a bird-feeder for her birthday from her parents.  We’d been wanting one to enhance our backyard and so that we and the cats could watch birds out the kitchen windows and because we both grew up in bird-feeding households.  Both of our fathers have gone to great lengths to find or create a squirrel-proof feeder (the one S’s dad gave her was a “squirrel-b-gone” or something like that).  So, a few days ago S bought some sunflower seeds, and yesterday we went outside together and hung the new feeder from the swingset left behind by our old neighbors.  All very exciting!  But this morning when we looked out to see if any birds had found it yet, the feeder was gone.

S and I, feeling rather upset, went out to the backyard to see if we could figure out what had happened.  Did a person steal it?  Did a squirrel or some other creature knock it down and carry it away?  Had a freak wind blown overnight and rolled it somewhere?  Earlier this morning, our neighbor had come over to tell us that her friend was missing a wad of cash and to ask if we’d seen anything suspicious.  Was it possible that the two incidents were related?  She said that her friend had searched the backyard with a flashlight last night, looking for the money or for footprints in the snow or something.  It sounds like he was rather desperate about the money.  Did he knock down the bird-feeder accidentally in the dark, or out of frustration?  If the money was stolen, rather than lost, would the thief also have any interest in a brand new bird-feeder?  S and I kept coming up with more and more implausible theories.  Maybe one of our neighbors is crazy, and hates birds and squirrels?  Unfortunately, the footprints in the backyard were too jumbled to show any clear information about the movements of people, animals, and bird-feeders last night.  And we only made them more jumbled by walking around bewildered this morning.  And we had the dog with us, so that’s another set of footprints.  Too bad she’s not a tracking dog!
shadows on snow
We did find a faint trail of sunflower seeds leading across the yard, past one of the neighboring houses, and down the driveway, but it stopped dead at the road, and we couldn’t find any other clues after that point.  I thought that if it was possible for a squirrel or some other animal to carry the feeder that far, maybe a person then found it by the side of the road and picked it up because it looked unwanted.  The problem is that none of the many theories we’ve been able to come up with seem quite possible or plausible.  What kind of animal could carry a decent-sized bird-feeder all the way across the yard?  Squirrels are too small, aren’t they?  And they don’t work in teams, each one carrying an end like a moving crew.  What about a skunk or a raccoon?  I just don’t know.  And then there’s the chance that it was taken by a person.  What a bizarre thing to steal, though.  And how did they know it was there?  What were they doing in the backyard?  We just hung the feeder up yesterday.  And it wasn’t made of 24k gold or anything.  I don’t think I’m deluded about the goodness of humanity, but perhaps I am a little deluded about the explainability of human actions.  Why steal a bird-feeder, of all things?  And where is Sherlock Holmes when you need him?

 I suspect that we’ll never know the answer.  So I guess we’ll have to get another bird-feeder now, and try again, but this time we’ll make sure that it’s really well tied down.  And install flood-lights and video surveillance.  And hire a security guard.  And fence the yard in with chain-link and barbed wire.  And strip search anyone who wants to enter.  And…

 Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, though, this reminds me of a book I read a while ago about him retiring to the countryside and getting old and senile and keeping bees.  It was pretty good, I remember, and I would sort of like to re-read it, but I’ve forgotten the title.  Oh well.  Maybe I’ll come across it again sometime.