Close Encounters of the Squirrel Kind
Copyright 2018 by Michelle Staloff
has always been an important part of my life, but I have mostly
experienced it at a distance. I am pleased to share this story of an
encounter I had with a wild animal.
am not the type of person who likes to swim in the ocean, but I do
love the beach: the feel of cool sand under my feet smoothed flat by
the ebb and flow of the waves, white breakers kicking up foam, and
most of all the majesty of the ocean. The expanse of water flowing to
infinity, powerful and peaceful, soothes me with every salty whiff. I
could stand for hours just breathing it in. However, this is not a
story about the ocean, but rather something that happened fifty feet
away, my view of it blocked by trees.
mother and I decided it would be fun to pay a visit to the ocean,
accompanied by our mutual friend, Cindy. This particular beach (there
were so many options) was suggested by our friend. A place frequented
by locals in central Florida. Cindy had lived in Florida most of her
life, and we had moved there less than two years before. Suggestions
were very welcome.
outside the beach area was a small casual restaurant. More of a shack
really, where orders were placed at a large window adjacent to the
cramped cooking area. This and a few picnic tables, were on a wooden
deck next to the parking lot. On the other side lay a thick layer of
trees and bushes, and down a dozen or so steps was the white sandy
beach. The effect was casual, and very Florida.
heading down to the beach, we decided to eat. We had brought a picnic
of sandwiches and agreed to share an order of large fries, purchased
from said restaurant. Fortunately, there was a free table and we
settled in. Next to us was a boisterous family with kids, lobbing
french fries at a squirrel. There were other squirrels scampering
around grabbing scraps, and a few birds.
had finished our sandwiches and were halfway through the fries when
Cindy pointed out another squirrel. She was perched on the wooden
rail edging the deck, which protected the vegetation and wildlife
from errant feet. “See her belly? She's pregnant.”
rodent in question was nearest to us, keeping well away from the
other table and watching us cautiously. Whether she was frightened by
the humans or their aggressive squirrel I didn't know. Her puffy
stomach told me that she was definitely pregnant, or stuffed with
french fries. Either was a possibility based on what was going on
around us. I decided to test it out.
she's hungry.” I tossed a morsel. It landed on the ground
between us and her vantage point. She scampered down and grabbed it
in her mouth, then returned to the rail to eat. She held the fry
between her paws as she chowed down. It was gone in seconds.
Definitely hungry.” I tossed her another. It was the least I
could do for a hungry momma and her little babies. She grabbed that
one and stayed where it had landed. The second was gobbled as fast as
the first, so I fed her a few more.
four of us shared the fries, humans, and animal. Mom tossed a few
fries to the squirrel, along with some crusts of bread, quickly
jerking her hand back each time. Did she think a squirrel six feet
away could hurt her? Cindy watched us, an amused smile on her lips.
After a while, Mom stopped.
do it,” she told me, “You're enjoying it more.”
slid down the table so that she was across from Cindy and further
from our visitor.
started tossing fries near the edge of the table. Soon the squirrel
was comfortable enough to eat there. It became a game as I placed
them progressively closer to me, and she slowly advanced on my
position. Scampering back to the edge of the table to munch.
I held the next fry in my fingers. It was purposely the longest
remaining in the paper bowl. I was a little nervous about being
bitten, but wouldn't it be cool if she would take it from me? After
some hesitation, she hopped toward me and leaned forward. She grabbed
the very tip of the french fry in her teeth and pulled it out of my
fingers, then scampered back to the edge of the table to consume it,
watching me the whole time.
was amazing! I had never fed a wild animal from my hand before. There
were satisfaction and joy, to be sure, but also this feeling of deep
responsibility. She trusted me enough to place herself in possible
danger. I was humbled, even as I was elated.
that point on, I held the fries, even though they were getting rather
short. Each time she ate closer to me until we were comfortable. By
the end, she was sliding them out of my fingers and munching away,
four inches from my hand. Clearly in the danger zone. We had built a
contented trust. Her belly had gotten noticeably bigger, swollen by
the potatoes were gone, the squirrel climbed into a tree and we
walked down to the beach.
watched the hypnotic motion of the waves and breathed in the fresh
salty air. Peace didn't settle over me as it usually did, I was too
excited. The ocean was wonderful as ever, but its majesty couldn't
equal what I had just experienced. Standing on the shore I was an
observer to the grandeur of nature, but that one simple, minor
encounter had its own special power. I had never before been close to
nature in quite that way. Nor have I since. I will always remember
Staloff's father, a former Biology teacher, instilled a love and
respect for nature in her from an early age. Like most girls, she is
especially fond of furry animals. She is an avid life-long reader but
has only recently started submitting her work. This will be the first
time one of her stories has been published.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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