For the past dozen years or so, I’ve spent plenty of November days in a particular patch of woods in the rural Maine town of Otis.
Theoretically, I’ve been deer hunting.
Actually (since deer rarely join me on my annual adventures), I’ve been squirrel-watching.
Periodically, I’ve written columns about my interactions with the same squirrel.
At least, that’s my story.
The problem is, every red squirrel I’ve ever seen looks exactly alike.Truth be told, I’m certain that I’ve been visited by a variety of the rodents over the year, even though I’ve spent much of my time sitting in the same tree stand.
When you’re sitting in a tree for hours on end, watching leaves fall of trees and listening to squirrels chatter at you, I figure you can be excused for inventing elaborate tales about squirrels.
Like this: Why does this one, solitary squirrel have it in for me? Why does he torment me all hunting season? Or, if you please, like this: Why do I insist on sitting in the tree (year after year) that is clearly home to at least one angry squirrel?
Good questions, all.
As I pointed out in one column, I got rid of my squirrel problem by making my meanest, ugliest anti-squirrel face at the little critter when he climbed down my (his) tree to confront me.
And as I learned after that, many folks simply didn’t believe me.
“The squirrel did what?”
“And you did what?”
“And he simply ran away?”
Yes, yes, and yes.
And he (or his relatives didn’t come back for years. I reasoned that word was out among the squirrels: “That tree over there is ugly, and it makes faces at you if you stand in the wrong spot.”
Eventually, I became quite bored in the woods, sitting around doing nothing but watching leaves fall off nearby trees. The squirrel (or squirrels), while annoying, had at least provided some entertainment while the deer weren’t stopping by.
And two years ago, I wrote a column of apology to the squirrel I’d scared away. “Come on back,” I said. “I won’t make faces at you,” I promised.
A couple months ago, I retold the story in a BDN Maine Outdoors magazine story, and our editorial cartoonist George Danby provided some art that we thought summed up the situation pretty well.
On November 1 — residents-only opening day of deer season, I headed back into the woods.
Red (or his body double) finally returned.
To the same piece of Otis woods. To the same old hunter. To the same old tree.
To the same old tricks.
Red tromped around, sounding just like a deer. Then he scurried through the fallen leaves (also sounding like a deer). Then he climbed my (his) tree, and rained scraps of bark upon my head.
And finally (after I realized you’d never believe another red squirrel story unless I got some proof), he posed for a photo.
As promised, I did not make a mean face at him, nor did I scare him away.
By the end of the day, I was not entirely sure that making a peace offering to a squirrel was the best idea I’d ever had.
I will admit, though, that it’s tough to be bored when you spend the day dodging falling bark and hoping a squirrel doesn’t decide to perch on your head.