Saturday, August 04, 2007

Welcome to the Neighborhood

We have a new pet. It seems he came with the new house.

His name is Hoppy. Alannah gave him the name. We do not know if he was ever given a name by the previous family who lived here.

Hoppy is a squirrel.

To be quite honest, Hoppy does not truly reside on our premises. In fact he only uses the back rail of our fence for commuting between the walnut tree he scavenges and the maple tree he lives in. Both trees are in the neighboring yards.

Hoppy uses our back fence like commuters in Chicago use the El train.

He is quite industrious. He constantly makes trips from the maple tree, across our rail, to the walnut tree. There he collects a green walnut in his mouth, and travels our fence back to the maple.

As he crosses our yard on the fence rail, he hops over the fence posts that protrude higher than the top beam.

So Alannah calls him Hoppy.

I guess now we all call him Hoppy.

But Hoppy does not have free reign. He has competition. A bully squirrel we have yet to name; perhaps we will call him Sluggo; likes to ambush Hoppy, and contest him for his walnuts. Hoppy usually prevails. No fights ensue. And then Hoppy makes another trip.

This morning, Darlene was sitting on the deck having a morning coffee and reading the paper. Hoppy was returning from the walnut tree. Sluggo was waiting. Up popped Sluggo, and off ran Hoppy, walnut in his mouth. The got to a corner of the fence, and all that could be heard was the trickle and thud of the walnut as it fell down the wooden fence and hit the ground below.

Shortly after, Darlene saw Hoppy emerge to the fence top with the dropped walnut. There was no sign of Sluggo. He hopped a couple of posts, and then flopped out on the flat fence top – all four legs sticking over the side – as if to say, “"Whew! That wore me out!!” After a minute or so of resting, he hopped back up and finished his commute.

Later this morning, on a subsequent trip, Hoppy had two walnuts. One walnut is bigger than his head. Some how he had snagged two, most likely by a joined stem. He stopped in mid-trek, put one down, and proceeded to eat the other.

All the while he was watching us watching him.

We had several squirrels at our last house. They sat in our crabapple tree and ate nuts from the neighboring yard. The nuts are still green, and they turn the nut like we would turn an ear of corn, chomping circles around the nut until the nut is consumed. All the while, a green dust falls like sawdust from a cutting saw.

Darlene turned and said “Look how pretty Hoppy is”. I turned to look. “His fur is nice and full and shiny, and his tail is so fluffy and soft”, she continued. I knew where she was going. The squirrels at our old house had patchy fur and scrapes and scars from battling the neighborhood pets. One’s tail had been broken and carried bent and crooked. They were tough squirrels.

Hoppy looked so soft and clean, you might think he was a house pet.

Amazing how you can tell you’re in a nice neighborhood, eh? Even the squirrels are of a better quality.

After I came in, Darlene continued drinking her coffee. She was reading her latest Nora Roberts novel. She heard a “Thumpity- Thumpity- Thumpity- Thumpity- Thumpity…” from the pool deck. She looked up.

There sat Hoppy – thumping his hid foot like Thumper from Bambi. When he had Darlene’s attention, he looked at her and dropped the walnut right there. He turned to hop away behind the pool to the fence. But after two hops he stopped to turn and look back at Darlene – as if to say “It’s for you – go ahead”.

I’m not sure how this relationship will evolve. I have fears of little squirrel houses and feeding schedules. I worry that I will wake up to find the girls holding Hoppy like a cat in the living room – stroking his fur while he … does whatever squirrels do when they are content.

But it does prove to me that we are in a friendlier neighborhood.

Even the wildlife drops by to welcome you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another captivating story Fred, I had to keep reading.
Pat Rock

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