Bunny is her name. I know she may have a quirky different name that squirrels know only when approached by another, but I call her Bunny. Why? The simplest of reasons is that somehow she has had the misfortune to have three-quarters of her tail chopped off. The somewhat odd effect of this tailicure is that she hops much like Peter Rabbit as she goes about the many lawns nearby and pokes her nose into the ground seeking out buried nuts. Not her nuts, mind you, but nuts left by other resourceful squirrels having the good sense not to suffer the fate of the legendary grasshopper.
You know the story of the grasshopper I’m quite sure, but to be absolutely, abundantly, implicitly sure, allow me, dear reader, to retell it to you. The tale is of two animals, known not to each other, but to us. One, the fun-loving grasshopper spends his days flitting about from grass to flower to who knows what. If the Beach Boys were writing a song again and using words familiar to all but those who live in burrows or caves, they would say the grasshopper has “fun, fun, fun until his daddy puts the summertime away.” Cute, I will grant you. Undoubtedly a bit shopworn, perhaps, but then how can we always be so sharp as to be totally original all the time? Originality is nothing more than old stuff shuffled around.
The grasshopper, in his dimwittedness, gazes with mirth at the foolish squirrel who is busy all day checking out, examining and burying nuts. Have you ever watched a squirrel check out the quality of a nut or did you think they picked up any old nut and buried it? Ah, perhaps that is what you thought. Who has time to stand, sit or gaze at a squirrel engaged in the tireless activity of examining nuts? They do examine them.
Watch carefully and you will see they judiciously flip nuts in shells around between their teeth, checking that there are no soft spots or holes and once the nut passes this inspection, it’s on to find the appropriate nut-hiding spot. This, of course, is the part of the entire process that you’ve seen but have you considered this question; how does that squirrel remember where that nut is buried? What is the purpose of all this gathering, testing and burying if you can’t find the damn thing later in the winter when you are in dire need of it?
Consider now, if you will, how crows, too, bury nuts. Oh, you didn’t know about that or that Blue Jays also squirrel (forgive the pun here) away nuts in out-of-the-way hiding spots? Both these clever birds know a bit about planning for the future without seeking out a counselor from T. Rowe Price or any other investment firm.
Good fortune planted me in a spot where I watched, awestruck, as a family of crows (yes, they live in families) flapped around a mowed field of grass. One took a nut, perhaps a peanut, who knows, and planted it forcefully in the ground. Okay, that’s done, I thought, but, no, that wasn’t the end. Next this same bird took another nut, as the family watched, fluttered and jumped up and down a bit on the ground. Now that bird flew in a straight line and planted this second nut. Again, it took a third nut, flew in another straight line and plunked the nut into the earth. Calculating it in my mind, I realized that the nuts were now in a perfect triangle shape in the ground. Incredible! Yes, but how would that help? I suppose if you found nut number one, you had a pretty good idea where the others would be. How clever.
Back to the squirrel who diligently stopped, ate a nut or two (they require only one pound of food a week) and proceeded to return to foraging and burying the winter’s larder. The grasshopper’s fate had already been sealed when fall came around with its paucity of pickings for all but the most resourceful and the grasshopper soon disappeared. Our friend the squirrel cradled himself in his nest of dried grass and leaves for a good long nap (they sleep 14 hours a day), knowing that food was at the ready whenever he wanted it.
The squirrel who has stolen my affection, if not my heart, now bounds around our many lawns. I’ve made a habit of feeding her peanuts in the shell or shelled walnuts. What won’t she eat? And, yes, she is a picky eater. Bunny turns up her cute little earth-smeared nose at cashews. Absolutely will not eat them and spits them out. The other squirrels eagerly chomp on them, but not Bunny. I have now extended her name to be Miss Jean Bunny, although she does not have a British accent and bears no resemblance to Maggie Smith. Shall we not anthropomorphize her as much as possible now? The squirrel has a definite personality. And that personality has been immortalized in videos I’ve made of her eating on the ground, hanging upside down on tree trunks and running like a bat out of hell when an aggressive squirrel chases her away from the peanuts I’m throwing to her. She is a video star in my iCloud account and my Dropbox.
Now that she sleeps occasionally in a lovely nest (on my fire escape) that a male squirrel made (he’s Rocky), she has become friendlier to me and comes when I call her name, even if she’s digging for nuts other squirrels have buried. The result is that I have grown not only attached to her, but jealous, too.
But I only recently came to grips with my jealousy when a neighbor talked about two squirrels that are on his lawn and that come together. “One has a bit of a tail,” he said not realizing how it might inflame my nascent jealousy as he went on to say how he fed this squirrel and put out water for the two of them. Hmm, Bunny is willing to take food from anyone? I must admit I didn’t want her to become dependent on me, but a twinge of disappointment got me. Now I know why I haven’t seen her for three days; she’s getting her grub somewhere else.
It’s a cruel fact of life that not everything we want to love only us will not adhere to that impossible wish. Food is where you find it and I have to resign myself to the fact that Bunny is a wild animal, not a pet, not a dependent animal and she will roam as she must. Okay, Bunny, you win. I understand.