dontravis.com blog post #624
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I’ve been posting this blog for something over twelve years, and I can count on one hand the times I’ve missed a posting time. It’s always been because of illness or some other emergency, but this time, I simply let it get away from me. I’ll blame it on my TV going out and an ongoing fight to get a new one delivered and set up… no mean task for the electronically challenged. Took a solid week.
You have my deepest apology for my mistake.
Here we go again with my tale of Buddy. As I said last week, this is therapy for me.
BUDDY, THE GRAY SQUIRREL
A Biographical Story in Two Parts
I only recall going on one other squirrel hunt in my life, and that was in the following spring, which seemed no less freezing at that time of the morning than the previous fall. We didn’t bag any squirrels that hunt, although my father did find a baby squirrel so tiny, it still didn’t have a coat of fur.
He held the naked little creature in his hand. “You want it?”
“Why was it just lying on the ground?” I asked.
“Something probably happened to its mama, and the little guy got pushed out of the nest somehow.”
“So the mama’s gone?” I asked.
“Most likely. You wanna take it, or do you want me to put it out of its misery?”
“No!” I said, a ripple of fear rolling up my back. “Don’t kill him.”
“If we take him home, you’ll have to take care of him.”
“Feed him with a bottle dispenser.”
“You know, the kinda bottle cap you use to dispense medicine. Has a rubber thing on top to squeeze.”
“Oh. I can do that. What’ll I feed him?”
“Milk, at first.”
So my dad put the helpless little creature in his warm jacket pocket, and we headed home for an adventure that lasted a couple of years.
For the next few nights, I got up almost hourly to take the little creature—which we named Buddy—and fed him milk through a dispenser cap. Each time I crawled out of bed, I was certain the squirrel would be dead, but he persevered… and grew.
After he was weaned off milk, my mom took over the task of feeding the little guy at more reasonable daylight hours. I don’t recall what she used to nourish him, but it worked. He kept growing. We were reluctant to let him outside for fear a hawk or something would get him. So he lived in the house.
He slept with me at night, and roamed the house… usually hovering close as I played. Sometimes, he played with me. Those were the days when I was fascinated by little plastic dinosaurs, humans, and other animals. The dining room windowsill was my favorite hangout, and Buddy liked it too. Often as not, I’d get into the swing of a play-story in my head, when he’d butt in, scattering my story characters all over the place and demanding his share of attention.
Surprisingly my mother put up with this… until Buddy got so big that climbing the curtains tended to rip them to shreds. Then she put her foot down. Outside.
That was a catastrophe, at least to me. How would he live? Something would get him. Eat him. (Surprisingly enough, my father hadn’t suggested that we do exactly that.) She pointed out that we had five oak trees in the yard, all of which could be reached from the roof of the house except for one.
So, sniffing back tears, I took my four-legged pal and placed him on the bole of one of the oaks. He froze for a moment, and then scampered up the tree and disappeared into the foliage. Convinced I’d seen the last of my friend, I waved a sad goodbye and went back into the house.
How wrong I was. Buddy thrived in that environment. There were more acorns than one squirrel could handle. A faucet in the front yard leaked enough so a small puddle at the front afforded him water whenever he had the need. He hid in the trees and chattered happily at anyone who entered the yard.
One day, as I played beneath a tree, I was startled when something fell onto me. And there was buddy, perched on my shoulder, as big as you please. And he stayed right there, adding his chatter to mine as I went about whatever game I was playing. And that established a pattern. I’d come outside, and he’d come for a visit… and a treat, of course, something my mother concocted for him.
I think Buddy had been with us for something like a year when one of my mom’s uncles gave us Boots, a beautiful collie that was reputed to be the best squirrel dog in Arkansas. (Don’t know how she’d stack up in Oklahoma, where we lived.) Wherever she stood in the world of squirrel dogs, she was down a few notches by the time she went back home.
Of course, Boots discovered Buddy the day—probably the hour—she came to the house. And Buddy discovered her, remaining high in the trees and venting his spleen in agitated squirrel chatter while she barked non-stop. No more riding on my shoulder or playing with me. He stayed in the trees.
Then a game of another sort began. One oak tree at the back of the house leaned quite noticeably. One day, we heard Boots putting up such a racket, we went outside to investigate. There was the dog jumping and wiggling in agitation, and there was the squirrel sitting on the bole of the tree just out of reach, resting on his hind legs, forelegs folded as if in prayer while he nattered at the frustrated dog. They played that game often after that. I’d see Boots getting a running start at that oak and run halfway up the slanted trunk while the squirrel scrambled to get out of the way. The little rodent enjoyed the game. The canine did not. I’m sure she was worthless as a hunting dog by the time she went home. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she was more determined than ever to help catch any squirrel she could.
Buddy was with us for around two years or so. Then one day it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard any chatter and hadn’t been joined at play for quite some time. We never found a body or any clue to what happened to my childhood friend. I can only hope he expanded his horizons and discovered a seductive female of his own species and lived a long and fruitful life post his childhood at the Travis household.
And so ends the story of me and my rodent pal, Buddy. At the time, I was a sickly kid and a loner, so the little squirrel’s friendship was especially meaningful to me. Thank you for living through it with me again.
Stay safe and stay strong.
Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!
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See you next Thursday.
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