WASHINGTON. — In these first glorious days of spring I look out at my lawn and realize that I have become a hater.
Of squirrels. Red, black, albino, gray -- squirrels of every origin and color.
This is when my flower beds are supposed to be crowded with tulips poised to burst into red and yellow elegance in April. But the squirrels, fooled by weathermen predicting a long, hard winter, have stolen most of my tulip bulbs.
My flower beds look like a drought-stricken corn field in an Oklahoma dust bowl.
Adding insult, these cheeky rodents are back digging up the bulbs they missed in December.
They say you've got to be taught to hate. Well, I'm well schooled regarding squirrels.
I've spent more than half my life losing to squirrels. During the Great Depression people in my part of Tennessee would eat rabbit, and in really tough days, a coon or a dreadfully fat possum.
But they never stooped to cook a squirrel. Worthless critters!
In the early 1950s my wife and I bought our first house, in Minneapolis, only to discover that squirrels were rooming in the attic. ''Soak some rags in creosote and put them in the attic,'' we were told. ''The squirrels will flee like a burglar.''
I crawled into the attic and deposited the creosote-dripping rags. A couple of days later I went back to the attic to find squirrels nesting comfortably on my rags.
I've tried high-pitch and low-pitch noisemakers to scare these pests away from my bulbs. Squirrels have hearing disabilities.
Someone suggested spreading mothballs in the flower beds. Squirrels began picking up the mothballs and depositing them in the forks of my dogwood trees.
My wife tenderly trapped a few of these furry scoundrels and drove them to new homes 10 miles away in the countryside.
She got back to face the toothy grins of other squirrels saying, ''Thanks for this urban-renewal program. You move some out so others can come in!''
In December, as we watched an explosive increase in little craters dug where tulip bulbs were supposed to take root, my wife got a no-fail tip.
Just hang a phony owl out in the garden and POW! Goodbye varmints! No squirrel would come within a mile of an owl.
My wife bought two owls. The squirrels are ''yoo-whooing'' at the owls as they -- past with their March loot.
Somewhere in an ecological system that leaves eagles and whales and Coho salmon endangered there must be a grand scheme of natural genocide for squirrels.
And believe me, I'm gonna find it.
Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.