My mother has a pet squirrel named Stubby.
He is not, technically, her pet, as he lives outdoors as a wild squirrel. But he spends much of his time sitting on the railing, watching my mother, and my mother spends much of her time sprinkling seeds outside for Stubby, so you cannot deny they have a relationship.
While my husband, Peter, and I were up north visiting, however, Stubby had a visitor.
“That’s not Stubby!” my mother said, looking out the window at the red squirrel who appeared remarkably at home.
It’s easy to identify Stubby since he lost half his tail in some unknown but unquestionably tragic accident. It was shortly after the loss of his tail that my mother took Stubby on as her dependent. The other squirrels disappeared in the winter, but Stubby remained. He dug himself an elaborate network of tunnels through the snow that went under the deck and came out on every which side, keeping him close to his supply of food but safe from anything that might want to get what was left of his tail.
“Stubby has a great life!” I noted when I came up to visit my parents.
It had been cold, but Stubby looked healthy and well-fed. His tail had not grown back, naturally, but where it had been bitten off, new, long, black fur had grown. It was a stylish and distinctive addition to his look. His tail now looked a bit like something you would see on the back end of a pheasant, and he had no trouble racing up and down the trees or balancing on the tiniest branch. Stubby was thriving with half a tail, especially now that he had my mother as his benefactor.
But then, another squirrel showed up.
“That’s not Stubby!” my mother repeated, looking at the squirrel who was sitting where Stubby always sat, eating the seeds put out for Stubby.
“Maybe Stubby has a girlfriend,” I suggested.
“Maybe this squirrel chased Stubby off!” my mother said, apparently far less optimistic about Stubby’s chances for romance.
But Stubby was missing. I just was beginning to believe my mother’s theory when we spotted Stubby a short distance off. He was eating pine-cone seeds, giving the visitor a little space but apparently going about his business as usual.
“It’s very odd,” my mother concluded, wondering if she now had two red squirrels to support.
But the red squirrel only stayed two days and then disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.
We watched intently out the window, looking for any sign of Stubby’s visitor (and perhaps spending more time engaged in the activity than four grown adults should), but no visitor returned. Stubby was back on his own, contentedly eating his seeds.
“Who was that, Stubby?” I wondered.
My mother had an aunt who said she liked to visit folks to “see how they have it,” and I can’t imagine why squirrels might not do the same. We had just been talking about my mother’s uncle, Evald, and I decided perhaps this might be some relation of Stubby’s, let’s call him Evald, someone who had known him before the sad loss of his tail.
“I wonder what old Stubby is up to?” Evald wondered and made the trip to visit. Evald would have found that Stubby had quite a nice setup.
“Oh, he’s got it good, that old Stubby!” Evald would report back to the extended squirrel family. “Old Stubby had that terrible accident, but he really landed on his feet!”
At least, that’s how I imagine it.
Till next time,