December 12, 2006 > Squirrel story
by Pat Kite
I am finally going to buy a squirrel-resistant bird feeder. It's not that I don't like my regularly visiting squirrel. He's cute, and when disturbed from his feeding, sits up in a birch tree and cheekily "chucks" at me. Sometimes he brings his girlfriend. Apparently I'm supposed to depart so they can finish the rest of my black oil sunflower seeds. Sigh. Much as I enjoy suburban wildlife, enough is enough. Squirrel will probably still snack, but maybe snack less?
The word "squirrel" comes from two Greek words: "skia" meaning "shade," and "oura" meaning "tail." Somewhat translated, this equals "he sits in the shade of his own tail." Depending where you live in this wide world, your squirrels may be gray, reddish brown, orange-brown, or dark brown with white stripes. Multicolored squirrels include those with a reddish back and white underside, red-backed with grey sides, black or white tummy and black or white tail, and the strikingly colored Prevost's squirrel with black fur most places but red-brown underneath. There are ground squirrels and tree squirrels. There are day feeders and night feeders. There's even a flying squirrel that glides from tree to tree, going as far as 30 feet in a long glide.
An African folktale pits Squirrel against Spider. Seems Squirrel, like most animals of that time, had a wonderful farm. Squirrel worked very hard and grew lots of corn. To get to and from, squirrel dashed through the trees. No slowpoke pathway for him. One day, Spider, crawling about looking for a meal, saw all this wonderful corn. Spider looked for a path to the farm. But there wasn't one. So Spider decided this was the farm for him. Gathering his family together, they used hoes to create a path to Squirrel's farm. Then, little by little, they began taking Squirrel's corn.
When Squirrel discovered the robbery, he confronted Spider. But Spider just laughed at him. So Squirrel went to court. "I worked very hard to grow this corn," Squirrel argued. But Spider countered, "All farmers make a path to their farm. Squirrel didn't. I did. So it's my farm, and my corn."
The judge agreed. So Spider and his family proceeded to carry off what corn remained. But as they transported, a big rainstorm began. Leaving their ill-gotten goods by the roadside, they scurried for cover. When the storm ended, Spider's family returned to pick up their corn. But sitting on top of the pile was a huge black crow with wings covering the corn. "That's our corn," proclaimed Spider. "Whoever heard of anybody leaving a whole pile of corn unattended by the roadside?" said Crow. "This belongs to me!" And gathering up the pile of corn in his large claws, he flew far, far away.
In Norway, squirrels are called the postmen of the forest as they leap from tree to tree carrying messages. Today's message: Best for the Holidays and enter 2007 with joy!