A turkey is beneath the bird feeder, our local dining room, and is intimidating the regular customers. Some peek through branches, others from the shrubbery, and more are around the corner. They wait while the turkey hogs the space. It doesn’t belong there. This is just plain wrong. (Image by 272447 on Pixabay)
A young squirrel, late for breakfast, blasts around the side of the house, sees the turkey, drops down spread-eagle onto the sidewalk, and holds its breath. “Now what?” Being a gray squirrel, it decides caution is always better than valor and so rises slowly to carefully walk away.
Hiding in the shrubs, a chipmunk finally pops out to move in closer to the dining hall. It has work to do. There’s always so much work to do. It pokes around the edge of the dining room because there’s too much bird inside it. Finding a seed and tucking it inside a cheek, it hopes to find more before a chipmunk from the wrong clan shows up.
On a broken branch above the scene, a red squirrel squats. It’s twitchy with annoyance, considers stamping its feet, thinks bad thoughts, and growls softly. It doesn’t like that bird, doesn’t like the gray squirrel, and doesn’t like the chipmunk either. It barely likes itself.
The turkey loses track of what it’s doing and leaves, the grays hop in to eat side-by-side with only a few minor disagreements, the chipmunk’s family shows up, watching for the rival tribe, which must be chased, and the reds arrive, glaring at everyone, at each other, and growling in perpetual annoyance. The chipmunks are too busy to care, but the pacifist grays move off a small distance. Better safe than sorry.
Inspired by this scene to run a search for squirrel books, I found a lot for children. Here are some outstanding choices:
“Scaredy Squirrel” by Mélanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel stays in his nut tree because dangers lurk elsewhere, from tarantulas to green Martians. He clings to his tree of safe sameness, keeping an emergency kit just in case. And then he quite suddenly finds he’s out of his tree where all those scary things exist, but where, he eventually finds, there are truly good things too. An amusing warning is at the beginning: “Scaredy Squirrel insists that everyone wash their hands with antibacterial soap before reading this book.” (Ages 5 through 8)
“Those Darn Squirrels!” by Adam Rubin
“Old Man Fookwire was so old that when he sneezed, dust came out. He was also a grump.” He only liked birds, and in an attempt to keep the birds happy enough to not fly south in winter, he built beautiful birdfeeders, filling them with luscious food. Quite attractive. To the squirrels. We all know squirrels hatch clever plans when it comes to birdfeeders, which is what they do. This book for ages 4 to 7 will amuse the grownups too with all the shenanigans of both Fookwire and the squirrels.
“Merry Christmas, Squirrels!” by Nancy Rose
A story illustrated with photos of squirrels blended into settings where they build snowmen, wear sweaters, and open gifts may seem for children only during the holidays, but do children really care about appropriate times? No, they don’t. They’ll enjoy the Christmas-loving Mr. Peanuts and his Cousin Squirrel as they celebrate in their own adorable way. (Pre-school to grade 1)
Alas, there was little of value for us grownups, but something was needed, and so I created a garden flag on Zazzle.com:
My final wish is that the worst of our troubles be a turkey in the back yard.