I heard the commotion as I sat on the porch sipping my morning coffee. The cool 58 degree air was a nice reprieve from the 70 degree night that interrupted my sleep. I scanned the yard looking from tree to tree in search of the source of his chatter. Finally I saw the pine branch shake and I spotted him half way up. Not a bird as I first thought but to my pleasant surprise a grey squirrel. Yeah, I thought, finally a squirrel to add to my backyard wildlife collection. I have mule deer, great horned owls, Canadian geese, mallard ducks, quail and several other species of birds, but for 30 years at this place I have never had a squirrel. I had an occasional chipmunk, but unfortunately their lifespan was short due to the cat.
The squirrel reminds me of my childhood, growing up with a huge yard filled with poplar trees, elm and an old apple tree that my sister and I used to climb. We had one giant poplar tree out front right by the side walk that was so big my sister and I together could not encircle it's rugged trunk with our arms. We called it the King Tree. It was home base for hide-and-seek and provided shade for Dad's pickup and us with piles of leaves every fall. Families of silver grey squirrels lived in our trees. They would sit on the branches and chirp and bark at us when we passed by. Their huge fluffy feather duster tails stood up and vibrated when they barked at our old dog Blackie. He always chased them when he discovered them scampering along the ground. They often jumped from tree to tree to avoid the risk. But once they discovered that Blackie was nearly blind, they would scurry across the open yard in front of him then stop and chirp at him playing a little game of blind mans bluff, once the chase began they would hop up on the top rail of the fence and sit there chattering as if laughing at him as he ran around the trees in search of the pesky varmints.
One day we were sitting on the porch helping Momma snap green beans and shelling peas she had just picked from her garden. We noticed a huge grey squirrel sprawled out on his belly on a large limb basking in the heat--his feet dangled over the thick branch. Minutes later...THUD! We looked up from our bowl of snapped beans to see the squirrel laying lifeless on the grass.
"Oh no! He fell off the branch. I think he's dead!" I cried. Blackie jumped from the porch and headed towards King Tree. The squirrel jumped up looking puzzled, shook it off then quickly scurried back up the tree.
Seeing this squirrel today in my own back yard has stirred up some fond childhood memories. He is silent now, but I can still see his furry grey body curled into a ball sleeping on the small branch of the pine tree.
"Careful little squirrel, my dog Bear is old, but he isn't blind yet.
Sherrie Gant is a writer, photographer, and