Image and copyright by Rodney Campbell: https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrylicartist/8247323475
I stole out of the house early, and the sky was still streaked a dusky pink and gray. My destination was Council Point Park, and, in anticipation I had packed a picnic brunch – not for me, of course, but for the critters there. I cleared out the freezer of some of the bread I had stockpiled back in the Fall in anticipation of another constantly snow-filled Winter. I’m not usually one to waste food, but now that bread has that funky freezer burn taste. I knew the ducks wouldn’t mind, as they are grateful for any tidbits. The squirrels … well, they are all about those peanuts in the shell that they know are strictly for them.
So I ambled along on my Sunday stroll, walking through the quiet neighborhoods where no one was stirring yet, not even the hound dogs that lurk in every corner backyard. I usually hear a low rumbly growl as I near the house. Next is a mean-sounding bark and jumping against the fence. I usually cross the street to avoid that scenario.
At the Park, it was hoppin’ … about a dozen cars were in the lot and I spotted dog walkers, bike riders and a jogger on the trail.
I started on the path, only to be waylaid by a pair of squirrels who came tearing through the tall dandelion-covered grass, to pause at my feet, dancing around me as I struggled to get the Ziploc pouch open. I threw out a handful of peanuts to each one, and they scurried off their separate ways to bury one prize peanut gleaned from their cache of nuts. In the gulley, I saw front paws digging fast and furiously in the soft ground before running back a minute later for another peanut “to go”. Soon their cousins showed up, eager to partake in some peanuts, so I treated them to goodies as well. When the bag was empty, I shook my head “no” to emphasize there were no more, but they stayed there not wishing to move from my feet. I, however, was ready to move on to the next loop.
I picked up the pace a bit but soon I spotted a group of mallards gathered by the reeds, so I carefully went down the slope to throw them some cubed-up bread. They paddled over right away to eat, so I guess pickin’s are still slim these days. The reeds are all dried up, still left over from last year, and there was no new greenery around the marsh area. I am sure there are no berries either. I finished tendering the tidbits of bread and climbed back up to the trail to resume my walk and I wadded up all the empty bags and stuffed everything in my coat pocket.
As I walked along, away from the crowd I had just fed, a lowly red squirrel spied me (or probably my Meijer bag, most of which trailed out the side of my cargo pocket). These squirrels are no slouches – they associate bags in the pocket as the source of their goodies. This little guy came bounding over and I shrugged and and told him “ya snooze, ya lose … where were you when I still had treats because they’re all gone now – sorry” … to his credit, he looked at me as if to say “I want some of them”.
Well, I tried sidestepping him to resume my walk, when a woman coming from the opposite way burst into laughter and pointed to the ground. I looked behind me, and there he was. He was walking so close on my heels that had I stopped in my tracks, he would have been a wet spot on the path. I had to chuckle at that and I stopped for a minute to chitchat with the woman. He would have nothing of that and next thing I knew I felt a tug on my pant leg and so I glanced down to see him trying to climb up my leg, his claws digging into the soft sweatshirt material. Really?!
Well, I like squirrels, but not in my yard and not climbing up my leg – they are, after all, wild animals and who knows if they will turn on you?
I jiggled my leg and he slowly climbed down and backed off. The woman and I returned to our conversation, and next she whispered “look at that squirrel” … I glanced down and saw his butt sitting on my shoe and his paws clinging onto the sweatpants again as if he were ready to scale up my leg. I bent down, and admit that I had an almost-irresistible urge to pat him on the head, as one would do to a small child, or a puppy, and say “there-there” … but I didn’t.
Instead, I told him next time he gets his own package of peanuts all to himself and to be sure to set his alarm clock earlier next weekend.
I said my goodbyes and finished the rest of my trip without incident. When I arrived home I glanced at the pedometer and knew I had 100 miles in so far this year. That was actually my goal for April 30th, but I guess I’ll get over it.