Squirrels

{Just some fun stories for now, without any “deeper meaning,” but I think I have an inkling where this one might go, with a revision of perspective . . .}

Back when I taught at SMSU in Springfield, the campus was overrun with squirrels; they were everywhere, into everything, expecting and receiving free handouts along with the leftovers in the dumpsters. I wonder if any of them even ate nuts or other natural squirrel food.

It’s beginning to look a bit like that here. I don’t think they’re getting handouts yet; I do see them nibbling on acorns and such in the triangle, that grassy tree-filled space between the library, the student center, and the ad building. However, they are becoming much too comfortable with our presence. A couple of weeks ago, one did run from the sidewalk to a convenient tree as I approached, but I looked back to see him clinging to the trunk only a couple of feet above the ground and staring directly at me to see if I’d come any closer. Surely a natural squirrel would have been in the branches by that time.

Then there was the one that loped down the sidewalk just ahead of me last week, keeping only a three- or four-foot distance and glancing back now and then to make sure I wasn’t gaining too much. He had plenty of cover he could have chosen, plenty of trees he could have climbed . . . but no, he just bustled along the walk like a student not quite late to class.

The one that still bothers me, however, is the one I saw last Friday. Walking to class, enjoying a breezy cool day, I saw him on the walk ahead of me. He stopped, looked at me, stood his ground. I kept walking. He didn’t move. His beady little eye stayed fixed on me, and I was unpleasantly reminded that squirrels are just rats with prettier coats and fluffier tails. I stopped two feet from him and we locked eyes for several seconds, his glossy with malevolence. When I took my next step, he gave in and ran across the walk in front of me into the grass, putting perhaps three feet between us again. Then he stopped and watched me go on, waiting, I suppose, for me to get out of his territory.

His territory? Since when? The sidewalk’s mine, buddy. You ought to be in the branches above me, scolding if you must, but safely out of the way of any moving object so many times your size. Just who do you think you are?

All this has led me to recall my friend Jenny’s close encounter with a squirrel back in grad school. She called me at our shared office at the university one early morning and asked me to tell her students she would be a bit late and to wait for her because she couldn’t get out of her apartment. Every time she tried to open the screen door, she said, a squirrel hurled itself at her, intent on entry or on attack. She had called animal control and was waiting for them to remove it before she could get to campus.

I nearly died laughing that morning at the image of my gutsy friend held hostage by a rabid squirrel.

Yesterday, watching from the window of our house, I saw a much more natural squirrel. Relaxed at first as he wandered in the yard between ours and the neighbor’s house, looking for something worth eating, he began to be on guard as he approached the house fronts. The dogs next door hadn’t even barked yet when he sprang off, leaping two or three times his own length (including his tail), headed for the safety of a telephone pole. No dummy, he. The Yorkies barely outweighed him, but he wasn’t going to wait around to see if they were friendly. Nor did they offer any quarter; Maggie sat beneath the pole for at least twenty minutes keeping him at bay, letting him know who was in control.

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2 thoughts on “Squirrels

  1. Do you ever see black squirrels? I don’t mean dark gray, I mean midnight black — there are scores if not hundreds of them in my new hometown! I’ve never seen them in any other place.

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