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Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Squirrel's Nest

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

In the summer of 2002, I went to the family reunion in Saluda, South Carolina. There were 50-75 kinfolks there. It's amazing to me that now, me and my first cousins are the "old folks" and there are many children running around that I don't know.

After a wonderful potluck dinner (12 noon), we sat around sharing memories. Cousin JF was there and he said, "I remember when my family and I went to see Aunt Vera and Uncle Luke. We said hello to everybody but Mary Elizabeth - we couldn't find her. She was just a slip of a girl then, not big like she is now.” (Nobody else would dare to say such a thing - but he's family - he gets away with it.)

"Finally," he said, "I looked up in the trees and there she was, watching all of us look for her."

When I was a kid, I loved to climb trees! I thought that was the greatest. I had favorites in our yard and special limbs that I liked to sit on. From my special perch I would survey the kingdom, "my home, yard, pasture and farm.”

When people would come visit, they couldn't find me until finally I would say, "Yoo hoo, here I am." Then we would laugh and I would come down and the visit would begin. Therefore, I acquired the nickname, Squirrel.

I taught my sister and brother how to climb trees. They would go first and I would come behind them - they would step on my arms, push up and then I would go up, then they would step on my arms and push up and then I would go up. If they felt scared, they stood on my arms. We did that over and over until they could climb - but they never enjoyed it like I did. It was just my thing.

So from very early in my life I developed an affinity for squirrels. I think they are the cutest things. They are so curious, interested in everything, alert and persistent. These are attributes I appreciate in anybody. You can almost see their brain working as they gaze at the bird feeder and think about how to get to it. Usually they work it out.

Now I'm all grown up, in my senior years and am surrounded by squirrels. They seem to know that their job is to entertain me. I live in a wooden house on a hill in the woods. The woods are filled with squirrels. I look at them running from tree to tree using the outstretched limbs. Oh, how I envy them.

I say the limbs are their highways. I sit on my porch and watch. This doesn't mean that I always think that they are just wonderful! Oh, no! They drive me crazy, stealing from the bird feeders, digging up my potted plants and even getting into the eaves of my home.

I always put out a tray of seeds for them and the ground feeder birds hoping they'll understand that that's where they're supposed to eat. Often I go running out of the house yelling like a banshee and waving my arms to scare the squirrels from my bird feeders. It works, for a little while. The neighbors, my dog and cats have gotten used to this strange wild woman that emerges ever so often.

A few years ago, a squirrel adopted me. Yes, that's it. For some reason, he wasn't as scared as most and with patience and food, we became friends. I would hold out a peanut and he would come along the deck rail and take it.

After some weeks of doing this, I'd hold out a handful of sunflower seeds and he's come slowly and carefully and nibble out of my hand. Oh, I had not planned to feed him out of my hand - I was worried that he could bite - but he was so cute and trusting and I became trusting too. He never bit me.

I called him Pet. My granddaughters, ages seven and eight at the time, were duly impressed and also tried to feed him, but they were not calm, patient or trusting enough and just before he would decide to nibble, they'd scream and run away and so would he.

Now at this time I had four cats. In the spring and summer, I would often leave the sliding glass door open and Pet started to come inside - I suspect the bag of roasted peanuts was the bait. At first, I was afraid that he would get scared and create all kinds of havoc but he never did. When he got scared or bored, he would just leave by the door.

Pet the Squirrel

I began to put a tray down on the living room floor filled with sunflower seeds. Pet would come in and begin to eat. If one of the cats felt frisky, he would chase Pet around the chair a few times and then quit and Pet would go back to eating. Nobody was upset. Amazing!!

In the spring of '98, I went home to South Carolina for a few weeks. When I came back, Pet came up on the deck and ate from my hand, but he was hurt. That was the last time I ever saw him. Oh, I did enjoy my time with him - about a year!!

Before Pet, there was Sam, the white squirrel. I had never seen a white squirrel before but on the farm we had a white mule and his name was Sam. My brother always called any white animal Sam. I decided it was a good idea.

Sam the White Squirrel

Sam was beautiful. I could never decide if he was an albino or a real white squirrel. The granddaughters loved to look for him and he'd stand out except in the winter snow. He was around for about two years before he disappeared.

The squirrels continue to entertain me and drive me crazy. I'm not sure whether they frustrate me more or entertain me more. I just know that I'd be lost without them - they're an intricate part of my environment.

So I named my home The Squirrel's Nest. It seems so appropriate.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mary, I love this story. I can just see you sitting on your porch and talking to the squirrels - and sometimes yelling at them.

I liked squirrels too until one fell down our chimney while we were away and ate our window sills trying to get out. That was an expensive event plus finding a dead squirrel in our living room was not pleasant.

This is an entertaining story! I too love to watch squirrels "do their thing."

Thanks for the story, it was a fun read.

I have just recently had squirrels come to the garden. I have purchased their own squirrel feeder so birds and squirrels can live in harmony. The white one you have is wonderful.

We really enjoy squirrel watching, but I understand it is not so pleasant if they keep invading the attic. Squirrels have not discovered out bird feeders, but a big, fat racoon has so we have to take the feeders in each night.

I love the photos--a nice interweaving of long ago memories and more recent treasures in your life! Wish I could have seen the white one. A town, Olney, IL, near where I grew up had a population of 1000 white squirrels in my childhood years, but I don't remember seeing them.Even though they protected them, the number dwindled to 200 at this time.
Wouldn't that have been a sight?

Thank you all. I'm glad the squirrels also gave you some enjoyment.

Mary, you are such a wonderful story teller. I felt right there with you - in the trees of your childhood, and enjoying your recent friends. My own relationship with squirrels has been tempered by their love for the contents of the birdfeeder and for corn. They did more damage to the corn than the racoons. But they certainly are cute.

Thank you Brenda. I understand your aggravation.

I have a large family of the little guy's they like to plant corn and sun flower seed , it cracks me up, the chase each other from tree to tree , I Love feeding them and watching them play, love the white guy he is so cute thanks for the story.

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