Charles Kocher, Pilot staff writer

Like any big tree, the biggest Douglas fir close to our house is an apartment house for any number of creatures.

And like any apartment house, there are sometimes individuals with habits that the rest of the neighbors could do without. We are, in fact, considering some sort of eviction notice on the this summer's resident squirrel.

The canopy of this 100-foot fir spreads out over the blacktop that is both our parking area and primary sunny-weather patio.

As spring became summer, it was no surprise and no bother that the squirrel was chattering at us whenever we were under the canopy. It was just part of the neighborhood symphony - the hawk, the doves, the jays, the wind and the squirrel.

This week, however, the fir is sporting an incredible crop of cones that are still green and hard - golf ball hard. I thought it odd that so many were falling to the blacktop prematurely, but I just figured it was something about the weather.

It wasn't the weather, or any kind of tree disease. It's the squirrel, who has discovered that the cones make great ammunition against our intrusions into its space.

The humans, the dog and the cats all cringe and scurry with every "k-whack" against the blacktop. As this week wore on, the squirrel seemed to expand his territorial claim, as if encouraged by our reaction.

This barrage is not just one cone for every scold; there are multiple shots in the time it takes for us to cross the bombing zone. I swear there's an automatic pitching machine parked somewhere up there, loaded with a bucket of cones.

Nor does the danger stop and end under the canopy. He's started dropping them from so high that they carom off branches and - after a percussion riff that would make any drummer proud - liable to bounce out a considerable distance.

At first I thought it strange that the squirrel is wasting potential food in these attacks. When the weather turned warmer this week, I saw that I was wrong. As the green cones dry on the blacktop, they open to reveal the tender unripened seeds. I'll bet the squirrel is coming down to feast whenever we're not home - another cause for protecting the territory.

I'm sure the squirrel is far more perturbed that we are, but the neighborhood really hopes the barrage is over soon. An eviction process might be more trouble than dodging cones.