Hmmm. I am not sure if my little memory is about squirrels or chipmunks, but the big “win” when we went camping when we were kids was getting a squirrel (chipmunk?) to trust us enough to take a cracker off our of knee. We NEVER succeeded. The only way we knew it was possible was because my grandpa pulled it off every year.
It didn’t dawn on us that perhaps the reason he managed it and we didn’t was because his game plan did not involve a “HEY SQUIRREL! Come HEEEEEERE LITTLE SQUIRREL!”
Surprisingly, Grandpa’s approach was a bit more calm, a bit more methodical.
April from The Teacher’s Pets also had a story to share:
When I was a little girl I used to feed peanuts to chipmunks while staying at a cabin in Sunapee, NH, and it was the cutest thing to see those little critters come right up to me for a bite of a peanut.
After having a good laugh, my memory was jogged too (although I seem to have blocked out the bad hair that goes with it)…
In my early twenties, I rented a log cabin about 6 blocks from Lake Erie . That first late spring, I was outside eating nuts and watching the rebirth of life in full swing. That’s when a curious and seemingly young squirrel crossed paths with me.
Now, I know this is a common story but I tossed a nut on the ground about 5 feet from where I sat and I waited. The squirrel padded his way over, stepped back, stepped closer, stepped back again and then braved it out, quickly snatching the nut and running up the nearest tree to eat in safety. I tossed another nut about 3 feet away. He came back. We did this again and again.
In a short span of time, we taught each other mutual benefits of patience, trust and respect. Mr. Peanut, as I started calling him, eventually came to my hand. Growing more confident in the weeks to come, he’d come to tap my foot or leg while I was doing yard work. I looked forward to his daily visits and started keeping a canister of nuts in the garage to satisfy his fix. On winter days when I was at work, he’d watch for me to come home and jumped from my roof to my shoulder as I keyed into my house. I started keeping cashews on the interior window sill so I could reach in, give him a few and send him on his way.
When Mr. Peanut befriended my rescue cat, Kringle, that summer, I knew that he had become true family. The two would hang out with me in the yard and chase each other in fun. I always kept an eye on the situation as this was an odd relationship, indeed, but there never seemed to be a deadly motive on behalf of the cat.
One day, my neighbor hurriedly approached me to ask, “Did you see your cat tree Mr. Peanut?”
My heart skipped a beat. Had their relationship changed?
He went on, “Well, it was the funniest thing. The two are up there, each runs down, and Mr. Peanut turns the tables. He races around the backside of the tree comes around the backside of Kringle and then trees your cat!”
It seems I wasn’t the only one fascinated by this squirrel’s choice of friends.
We lived like this (and apparently with this bad hair) throughout the summer, fall and winter. I don’t know how old Mr. Peanut was when we found each other or when they reach maturity, but one day he didn’t come back. It was a sad day when I realized he had been gone a whole week. A month passed, and another, until a squirrel who looked like Mr. Peanut came down the split rail fence toward me. Unfortunately for me, he thought better of it. I can’t even say for sure if it was him. I had no nut to entice him closer.
I’d like to think Mr. Peanut came into maturity and was off to do what squirrels naturally do that second spring. I hope he met a kind lady squirrel and the two of them raised lots of happy babies — leaving humans behind for the call of the wild.
I’ll never forget this funny little guy and I’m reminded of him often by the squirrels who eat from my feeders. He will always be a fond memory and I’m grateful for the chance to have formed this amazing relationship with such an unlikely friend.