Two Squirrel Tales - Twenty Years Apart

by Uncle Bear
(Hickory NC)

Twice in my 70 plus years I’ve experienced something special while watching squirrels. The first took place when I was all of 5-years-old, while the second happened when I was twenty-five. The first was exciting but at that young age a bit frightening. The second can only be described as absolutely awesome.

In 1944 I was adopted by an older couple. My memory of first few months with them has been lost in time, with the exception of my first encounter with a Sciurus carolinensis. One warm spring Saturday morning my new father asked if I’d like to join him on our front steps. Like most any child who liked to be outdoors I jumped at the chance.

After we had been sitting for a short time, my father leaned over and instructed me to sit as quietly as I could and watch the base of a tree a short distance away. He laid a peanut a couple of inches in front of his shoe. I watched in utter amazement slowly a gray squirrel came down from the tree and cautiously advanced toward the goober. I was both excited to see this wonderful creature and a little fearful. When the bushy tail retreated I assumed that was it. He had been fed, left, and wouldn’t return. I was wrong.

As the gray became more comfortable with us humans, i.e. me, he made some moves that must have taken a lot of time and patience to perfect. The squirrel came to take a peanut on my father’s shoe. Next he took a peanut from my father’s outstretched hand. To top the morning off I watched with bated breath as the squirrel came to the shoe, proceeded to the hand, slowly climbed the arm to the shoulder, and very politely removed a peanut from a pocket and scampered away.

For reasons unknown to me I never saw my father feed any squirrels again. I suspect his wife feared I might try to emulate him and forced him to stop. However, because of that brief Saturday morning encounter with a wild creature, I began to learn about all kinds of animals.

Twenty years later a second experience involving a squirrel gave me thrill. The encounter lasted no more than a half minute; however, not one iota of it will ever be forgotten.

I had landed a temporary job with the Milwaukee Road. The railroad’s proper name was the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (CMStP&P). I can’t recall anyone ever referring to the railroad by any other name than the Milwaukee Road.

In mid-fall Minneapolis Minnesota can become a bit chilly after the sun sets. The crew I was assigned to worked from 4 p.m. to midnight. We took a short break around 6 p.m. It was twilight but still enough light to clearly make out any object 15 or 20 yards away.

On that wonderful memorable evening an older men asked if I’d walk to the edge of the tracks to sees something interesting. As we arrived we stood facing a wooded area, I wondered what did this man desire to show me? All he had done so far was toss assorted bits of food toward the woods but never quite into them. Then very quietly he whispered to me to look carefully for a squirrel who had ventured out to get a free meal.

As my eyes adjusted to the dwindling light and existing shadows, I spotted a totally jet black squirrel. While his coat had a soft sheen, it was his eyes that I recall the best. They were small black pearls that glistened in the falling light. I simply stood watching him, mesmerized. Suddenly he turned tail and headed back into the woods.

I never saw that beautiful creature again. Looking back I estimate my total time of viewing him at no more 90 seconds. Now a lifetime later, while I’m unable to dredge up images of anyone I knew then, I can close my eyes and see a magnificent black squirrel with the shiny black pearl eyes.

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A Squirrel's Conversation
by: Jane/ Texas

After spending the morning volunteering at a senior center I came home and started watching the activity outside my window. This story came to mind.

I watched as a squirrel came scampering across the street in front of my house. It is a major highway and I am glad he got across without any problems. Since there are railroad tracks over there I assume he is here from out of town. No suitcases, just a guess.

My resident, Mr. Sq, scampered down one of the pecan tree branches he had been working on all day. I know there was chatter because they were looking at each other while flickering tails and twitching at each other.

The traveler took just a few short hops to the trunk of the tree and ran down the tree branch over to chat with the resident. Their tails were flickering as they met. Mr. Sq waved his arms as if to tell the guy that all this was his. He jumped over to another branch of the tree that had not been picked clean of pecans. Now, you must understand the ground is covered with pecans.

There was no reason to go to so much trouble. Mr. Sq did what he did yesterday; he scampered to a branch out on a twig and snatched the pecan on the end. The traveler followed and did so… on another twig. The two met on a larger branch and proceeded to enjoy their bounty. As they were snacking I watched with great interest to the mannerisms Mr. Sq was making. The conversation must have gone something like this.

"I just do this for fun. You know in my previous life I was a lion. Boy, that was the life. I could sleep all day if I wanted. I had a lot of hair around my neck and down my shoulders. All I had to do was sit each day in the sun, lean back once in a while and shake my head … like this. Then I would yawn, see and show everyone my teeth." Like, this… see? You see my teeth?" Mr. Sq tilted his head back with his mouth wide open and shook his head. I had seen this before so was sure of what was being said. "Now, I’m a squirrel. The wife doesn’t understand I’m working at a handicap. See, when I was a lion it was up to her to do all the killing and getting food. I was just supposed to show up and eat. I always got to eat first too. The only thing I was supposed to really do is service her (you know what I mean) when she said she wanted it. Every once in a while I got stuck with the kids, but even then all I had to do was throw my head back (show’em how Purdy I was) and yawn. You want me to show you my teeth again?"

All the chatter stopped when Mrs. Sq showed up. Once again she is chattering and nudging him in the back of the head and finally taps him on the shoulder with one hand only to nudge him again in the same spot. Then she chatters to the traveler. "He been tellin’ you he was once a lion?" She shook her head. "He tried to tell me that stuff too. I never heard of a lion. All I know is squirrel. And he is a squirrel."He interrupts her and flickers his tail. "I know what you were in your previous life, you were a mare." She throws both hands in the air, turns, and scampers away down to the ground to gather more pecans. The traveler sat quietly for a few minutes and then he dared to ask, "What is a mare?" Mr. Sq answered, "I’m sure she used to be one. That is what they give race horses when they retire from the track, a nag. They remind them when they are supposed to do stuff. They call them mares."

The traveler scratched his head; said his goodbyes and ran down the trunk of the tree. He chatted with Mrs. Sq for a second, snatched a couple of pecans and stuffed them in his jaw, and ran off down the street.

I know what he was thinking. One short visit had educated him about lions, racehorses, and mares. He shook his head. The poor guy has it all wrong. When I was a crock all I had to do is show up to get my dinner and make everyone scatter. I did not have to show them my teeth. And what is a yawn? He is wrong about mares too. Mares have strips on them and run with a whole bunch of other mares, not racehorses. I don’t know what to think of a nag.

Yeah, poor guy has it all wrong. Now you notice that he talked about being a lion but never asked about me. I guess I’m glad he did not ask, no tellin’ what he thinks a crock is. Being a crock was great, but being a squirrel is a whole lot easier and dryer. I don’t have to wrestle a pecan in order to eat.

He glances over at another tree and saw two squirrels handing upside down. I am sure he said to himself... used to be monkeys.. for sure. Boy, now that is entertaining when you are laying in water up to your eyeballs. Boy, they like to argue about everything. I might go hear their story. I think I have a new hobby. Getting to know the other squirrels in this life.

I may have to listen to a lot of nuts. It is all good. Yes, I like being a squirrel. Poor guy, when is he going to realize he is a squirrel? He is not what he thinks he used to be, but a squirrel. He is not what he thinks he is going to be, but a squirrel. We both are squirrels. It makes no difference what I "was", today I am a squirrel. Thank you father, I’m doing just fine the way you made me. I’m going to be the best squirrel I can be today. Nothing else matters. Everything else is just plain nuts…

He scampers across the street and up the tree with the two squirrels hanging upside down. It only took a few minutes of listening to the chatter. He had to ask, "Now, what was it like being a monkey?" See, he tells himself, I was right.

I just wanted to pass along one of my first stories about squirrels. I have several stories and two pet squirrels. I too am adopted. Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed it.

Squirrels everywhere
by: Sheila

I loved your squirrel story, Uncle Bear. I too feed squirrels every day.

I live in a seniors' complex that has a wooded area with a paved walk and I take peanuts to the little rascals. I call them rascals because they mess with the other tenants plants, so I try to keep them in the woods by feeding them there.

They too come close once they know I am a friend and would climb up on me if I would let them. Chipmunks, too, come and love the peanuts and take them out of my hand.

This is something my husband and I used to do, but he died a year ago, so I keep feeding them and hope he watches us.

Squirrel Tales
by: Joe W.

Uncle Bear, Welcome! I really like your squirrel tales and your smooth, free flowing writing style.

What are you doing in retirement now? I suggest to you that there are probably many people in this group and others that have a squirrel tale to tell you, including myself.

Collecting all the different squirrel stories in North America and elsewhere you could probably have enough information to write a non-fiction book on the behavior of different squirrels.

Oh yes, my own personal experience is I would see a squirrel coming down from the top of a high tree, then he would dash across a golfing green pick up a golf ball on the green, and then dash away to hide in a dense brush area. The squirrels would use these golf balls as a building material for the homes they built.

Joe W.

I'm from Hickory too!
by: roger

Loved the story and thanks for sharing!

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