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Animal Behavior

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Oh, those squirrels!

I’ve got a squirrel friend! Not bragging, just never had one before. This particular little rodent goes by the scientific moniker of Tamiasciurus Hudsonicus (red squirrel). I’ve decided to call him Newton for his understanding and use of gravity.

He seems to have chosen us as his benefactors. This is new you see. Until recently, we’ve pretty much always had an outside kitty. Mitty, and later, Snowball,who should have been tagged "Decon" and "Raid!", kept the order Rodentia away from paradise. The Chip ‘n Dale show didn’t play at our little homestead. Neither did Mickey, Bugs, or the Roadrunner. Bulwinkle and Booboo did, however, do an occasional one-act play.

Well, after 23 years, this little corner of Careywood is temporarily "feline free," opening up an opportunity for Newt to claim his own version of eminent domain.

I first noticed our little buddy while lying on the couch. Not my normal position, I was just recovering from a hernia operation the day before.

Being motionless and with plenty of spare time, I caught most of the show. I should have protected myself. I assure you, after such an operation, laughter is not the best medicine.

As "chief inspector of everything" Newt had a lot to do and appeared to be happy for the work.

I dozed off and on, thankful for the distractionfrom my aching midsection. Sophie was a bit distracted also. She’s our Aussie blue blood who is damn proud of her own inspection service, and couldn’t lay down for fear she’d miss something important and thus not be able to report on it right away.

I rose up out of a fog...eyelids first. Newt was checkin’ out a basket on the woodshed wall. This basket contained a water nozzle, potting spade and fork and underneath were some old gloves.

It seems that these last articles happen to be on my new friend’s list of things to be hauled away and he earnestly began to extricate one of ’em... with aplomb! I was near applause, motionless, but putting my hands together in my mind. Newt was clearly pumped, and started thrumming his hind legs like a mongoose. Well, he lost his footing and bailed out into space (the glove may have pushed). I actually saw him flap like a bird!

He landed like he planned it, ran back up the wall into the basket and showed that glove what a chewin’ out was all about! I was still holding my water, but should have taken note of the warning signals. I was primed for open-faced laughter.

That’s when my fuzzy-headed friend developed a new move. With glove in mouth, he proceeded to scale the woodshed wall... for about two seconds.

Both my eyes were open now. "Where’s he think he’s going with that?" I quickly liken this maneuver to my scaling up a climbing wall with a five-fingered sleeping bag in my mouth. I was fairly skeptical of his success.

Squirrel and glove vaulted into open air at turn one. Seven foot descent. Glove and squirrel tango then bounce. Newt... about two feet up and three feet sideways, landed again, looked around for any witnesses, then scampered up the woodpile. The glove played dead. I heard it snicker or was that Sophie?

In any case, I must have passed out from all the "medicine" I should not have taken right then. When I opened my eyes again, not only Newt, but both of the gloves were gone.

I missed the second act. Damn! Had he learned anything from the first round? And, how long would he be needin’ them gloves?

Those and other questions concerning the locals have arisen from time to time during our sojourn in the woods.

Like, how many woodpeckers does it take to eat a house? Will it survive the debt owed on it, or had I better start collecting all the slivers and woodpecker poop and fill in the holes as we go along? I’ve been silly enough to leave an old dead tree standing for a couple of decades now just to give them a home, where they sometimes hang out when they’re not attacking my carpentry.

Or, how many stinkbugs does it take to drive you legally insane, on average? Well, approximately7,435,500, give or take, according to the most recent government study.

Last fall we were only 17 short of that figure.

Or, can you make mincemeat pie with the pecans that moose seem to leave scattered through the woods in small piles? A mystery in itself. The answer is - probably, but I’d open the windows fer sure. And wear gloves.

Or, does anyone make a door mat that removes turkey doodle, or is carpet the only thing that performs this task? Although, if I leave my well-doodled boots by the door with the soles exposed, elves come in the night while I’m sawin’ next season’s firewood and clean my boot doodle. Nice job too! I think our dog lets ‘em in.

Or, what’s a reasonable head count for tree frogs to houseplants? I’d say one to five or six, kind of depends on yer bug load or how often you leave the doors open. If you’ve never experienced the magic of a twelve-inch tongue plucking a mosquito hawk out of your line of sight, well...ya just aint livin’ right.

Or, how much mind altering consternation should one bestow on that ancient source of dread - a skunk under your house or shop preparing a maternity ward? I’d start with a bushel and work towards smoke bombs and eventually a third of a stick of dynamite. If that doesn’t work, try loud music; local bands are great for this as they typically don’t care what their audience looks like. Start a nice bonfire, utilizing all the kindling you just created with the dynamite, pass out some beer to the gathering crowd of interested neighbors and try to enlist some help rebuilding whatever it was the skunk enticed you to destroy.

I’ve always been more scared of skunks than anything else, if nothing other than for their ability to render you socially unacceptable!

Co-existing with critters can often mean straightening out your garbage can after the nocturnal inspection service, or even doin’ the same to your shorts after blundering into an outbuilding unannounced. Always knock first, and try and recall why yer goin’ in there in the first place, ‘cause interrupting Yogi during his quarterly cat food inventory session can completely erase your short-term notebook.

I tend to have the bad habit of letting things air out when it’s warm enough, thus inviting long-lasting memories. My life is full of close calls, I guess that’s why I’m still here. Close only counts in horse shoes and I haven’t even been near a hand grenade. Lucky I guess.

But I’ve gotten off cheap. Well, cheap humor anyways. I’ve met some of the less fortunate. Those that haven’t had the pleasure of wildlife interaction.

Like hangin’ out by the pond and demonstrating the Heimlich maneuver to any garter snakes you fmd suckin’ down your pet goldfish. With a refresher course in first degree whiplash.

But when you see a doe starin’ at you through the kitchen window and you realize by the look on her delicate face and the fact that she hasn’t moved in ten minutes, that she’s just given birth to one or two and would be deeply pleased if I’d take Sophie for a walk in a different direction... Well, that’s my pleasure! I trust we’ll be ‘seein’ spots’ before long. You too, I hope.

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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