I had a squirrely childhood and it was great. I first met Chipper when he came crawling down the trunk of the tree containing his family nest. He was a tiny little strip of red fur. His eyes were still closed. Instinct sent him out of the nest to find his mother.
Since Chipper’s mother, a beautiful red squirrel, drowned in our horse trough, he needed a surrogate mom. Taking care of animals is an everyday part of farm life. I knew that Chipper, as we dubbed him, probably wouldn’t survive. I prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.
A bath towel in a box became Chipper’s new home. Eyedroppers of milk and syrup became his food. He liked the milk but as soon as his eyes opened, he ditched the box.
Instinct led Chipper to climbing back into the nest. Sometimes the nest was the pocket of a suit or dress hanging in the closet. Sometimes it was a spot inside a long sleeve.
Like other red squirrels, Chipper was animated and curious. It didn’t take him long to become totally familiar with our little four room house. He practiced leaping from one piece of furniture to the next. He became adept at playing hide and seek.
Milk lost its fascination. Pancakes were excellent. So were peaches, but they were messy. Watermelon was really good on a hot day. Nuts, of course, were always enjoyed.
Although we all loved and enjoyed Chipper’s presence in the house, Mom wasn’t happy about cleaning up after him. She introduced him to his new apartment. A newspaper lined tub with a sheet of screen across the top.
Chipper was no dummy. He liked his freedom and it didn’t take but a day or two for him to figure out that if he used the newspaper, he could have the run of the house. Since Chipper had no siblings to play with, anything and everyone became a learning toy.
When my sister and I would get in from school, Chipper would be sleeping beneath a pillow on the couch. He’d wake up and be ready to play. One minute he’d be hurling his body from the top of a piece of furniture onto the shoulder of the nearest person. The next minute he’d be ‘chewing’ his way around a hand, pretending to bite and scolding the whole time.
As Chipper grew, so did his world. He could easily slip out the screen door. Old and made of wood, it never quite shut. Getting back into the house wasn’t always so easy. He’d usually launch his body so that he landed about mid-screen. Then he’d make his desire to come inside loud and clear. He chattered and scolded until someone came along to reach out and haul him inside.
Chipper brought so much fun into our lives. He was one furry, fun bundle of joy. When he moved out, he didn’t move far. It didn’t take him long to learn that crossing the driveway and joining the card game going on at Grandma’s house would get him treats.
When Chipper met a beautiful young female red squirrel, he moved into a big oak tree in the hay field. Walking under that tree would get you ambushed. A fat red squirrel would drop right onto your shoulder and tell you just what he thought of your appearance beneath his home.
The first time Chipper dropped on Grandpa, Grandpa nearly lost his teeth. He recovered quickly and the two had a good time. One big man and one sleek ball of fur.
I have fun memories and photos of my squirrely childhood. Chipper brought fun, energy and love into our lives. Now, when a certain sassy red squirrel comes down the tree to scold my granddaughter, I can’t help but wonder if he’s related to a squirrel I once knew.