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Spencer Creek Storybook

Meet Suzie and Sammy Squirrels

by MG Hudson on March 20th, 2009 - 18:37:26

A Squirrel's Summer

Not so long ago and not so far away, over the ridge from the city, down the old Lorane Highway, over the wooden bridge and up the dirt road to where the forest meets the meadow at the Creek, there lived a family of squirrels in an old oak tree. They were Mama and Papa Squirrel, the parents, and Suzy and Sammy Squirrel, the children. They were red squirrels, proud of their native heritage, and they were kind squirrels, mostly, glad to be part of the Magic Forest where the animals pledged not to eat their neighbors. The very real magic at work is simple kindness, mostly.

It was a warm summer morning, gloriously green with the sun glowing through the oaks, maples and alders, little water skippers dancing on the sparkling creek and berries ripening everywhere. Dizzy with perfume, butterflies --brown, blue, yellow and orange--swam through the blackberry scented air fliting from the daisies in the meadow to sailing the soft breezes above the trees. Aunt Birdie who lived next door in the big shady fir with her nephew, Patbird, was up early. After her dawn song, a happy custom of the various bird clans to sing the sun up, she was busy organizing the first berry picking party of the year. She was making a list of the places she had scouted out last evening. "Strawberries in the meadow under the old sawmill, huckleberries up the north hill, thimbleberries at the pond, blueberries near the big spring, and blackberries almost everywhere."

Patbird was weaving a few baskets out of strands of long sweet grass. He was anxious to see his squirrel friends next door and get going. "Auntie, may I go over and see Suzy and Sammy?"

Aunt Birdie, a brown and red varied thrush with a lovely voice, considered her nephew's question. She knew he wanted to hang out with Suzy and Sammy, because he liked them and the whole family. She also knew that if half the berries picked today arrived home for fresh fruit pies and putting away for winter, it would be a little miracle. If he was thinking about his friends he might think less about eating too many berries. "Yes, dear. You may fly over and see if they are ready. Ask Mama Squirrel if she can go too. Here, bring these baskets you made for them. Sing out when you all are ready."

Patbird flew over to the old oak. It was a short flight, but too far to be called a hop. He alighted on a high branch outside the little door set into a hollow of the oak. He carefully folded the tips of his wing over and gave a gentle knock. "Good morning!"

Suzy opened the door with gusto, her tail still frowsy with sleep. "Hey, look whose here! Just in time to help me brush out my gorgeous tail!" and she yanked Patbird in with hardly a howdy-do. Suzy was known for her quick imagination, and her lack of manners, sometimes. "I knew you'd want to help. Look at those cute baskets for me. I love them all."

"Good morning Suzy, good morning Sammy, good morning Ms. Squirrel. These baskets are for all of you. You, too, Sammy," and here Patbird looked with kindness to the younger Sammy. "To put your berries in. I made them. Can you come, Ms. Squirrel? Aunt Birdie and I hope you can." Patbird looked around the cozy room with the little fireplace, table and chairs. There were still signs of an acorn mush breakfast in acorn bowls on the table. He saw Suzy has not yet brought her bowl to the washbasin.

"Thank you, Patbird. It would be lovely. But I need to plan the curriculum for this coming school year. I promised the Board we would have it done by berry harvest time. But next time... I'd love to come, too." Mama Squirrel was the administrator for the Forest School. It was a big job because the school had so many different species and dialects. And now the coyotes, as you may remember, had been admitted to the Magic Forest and Forest School. The some of the other animals, especially the wood ducks, were still uneasy about the newcomers, in spite of the coyotes pledges to abide by the rules of the Magic Forest.

Sammy, the younger squirrel, came out and smiled at Patbird. "Hi, Patbird! I'm ready." And so he was, washed and breakfasted and brushed out. But not quite...

"Not so fast, Young One. Please clean up your eating place and brush your teeth. Do you want the big beavers to be the only ones around here with good incisors? And Suzy, please finish up and brush out your tail," Mama Squirrel insisted. "Are your blanket's hung up to air out?" There was flurry of activity while the Squirrel children did their morning duties.

While Suzy grumbled, Patbird tucked his legs under to wait for his friends. Suzy soon brought him the brush and he helped her groom her tail into a silky bush of hair. Soon with kisses and a couple of acorns squirreled away in their cheeks for lunch, and Patbird's baskets in paw, they headed out the door. "Say hello to Aunt Birdie for me. I love you all," cooed the squirrel mother. "Be careful and have fun. Be home before dark!" Little did Mama Squirrel guess she would not see them at dinner time.

The sun was high in the sky by the time the berry picking party flew and leaped up the north hill to look for huckleberries which are only found at the higher elevations. "This is good berry picking weather," Aunt Birdie sighed with satisfaction, already tasting the juicy globes of goodness in her mind.

"Why's that?" inquired the ever polite Young One, as known as Sammy.

"Because the sun has dried off the dew. So when we put the berries next to each other in the baskets they won't get moldy." Aunt Birdie always knew about plants and such things and was the official healer in the Magic Forest besides being the chief musician.

They ate lunch on Wood Duck Island and climbed still farther up the slope. Now the forest was quiet (except for the bees and wasps and crickets) as the various forest residents settled in for their afternoon naps. But not our intrepid explorers. Up they climbed. The birds didn't seem to notice how far they had come. They were at the very edge of the Magic Forest. Beyond the border, the animals did not take the pledge to not eat their neighbors. In other words, they were fair game.
Suzy was getting tired. And scared. So was Sammy. They looked at each other, and without words, agreed not complain.

They now were beyond the protection of the Magic Forest. Finally Aunt Birdie signaled with her wing tip they were near. The squirrels climbed a tall Ponderosa Pine to look around for predators, just as their cautious mother had taught them. All was clear. No hawk nor fox. Then they came down. Aunt Birdie was excited. "Look children! Have you ever seen such a lovely patch of huckleberries? Let's eat as many as we can first, then fill our baskets." So that is what they did, enjoying the delicious first fruiting of the huckleberries. Suzy and Sammy ate so much their tummies were stretched out like oak bolls. After a lovely feast, they settled down for a rest before heading home. When they awoke, long shadows were flickering across the hill. A strange hoarse cry echoed through the trees and rocks and rattled their nerves.

"What was that?" Suzy asked in a little voice, trying not to shake.

"Let's get out of here!" Sammy decided and grabbing his baskets and spilling berries, he headed down the slope.

"Wait!" cried Aunt Birdie in her most bird voice. "Let me scout above before we leave. To make sure it isn't the ...." she left the possibility unsaid. The children animals clustered closed together under the huckleberry bushes while Aunt Birdie soared above the tree tops darting and diving, looking and peering at all the dark shadows.

Aunt Birdie called out the all clear signal and the berry party headed down the hill. They were almost back to the Magic Forest when the weird cry sounded again. Then suddenly, huge dark wings stretched over them and a smell like old fish assailed their noses. A giant sharp beak probed the short distance between them and the monster wings. Suzy dropped her berry baskets she was so scared. Patbird went into a trembling karate defense stance and Sammy just cried. But Aunt Birdie laughed with pleasure and said, "Chikuri! You gave us a scare, you old heron. You sounded just like the Ghost Bird!"

"Birdie Baby! My old friend, long time no see. I was just fishing for my dinner. Care to join me? Who are your little friends?" Introductions were made. "Heard you moved and joined the Magic Forest. Sounds good but I couldn't live without fish." So the two old friends talked and talked. And talked while the night grew and grew darker and darker. They all got hungry and ate the huckleberries that were left. Chikuri had a sad story. His wife, Chaquique, was killed by a human hunter. "Cruel, these humans. These featherless, furless spores of the world!" Patbird knew herons mated for life. With his wife dead, Chikuri would be alone for the rest of his long life.

"Yes, many are cruel... But some are good, Chikuri. The ones who say what happens to the trees in the Magic Forest do not allow such barbarities. You should come visit. You know Uncle Bird and his family ate poisoned worms and died. So now it is just me and Patbird, my nephew. And my dear squirrel friends next door..."

"I like my upper creek and hill, its quiet, even farther from the featherless ones. And furless ones, little squirrels... But come, it is getting late. Let me ferry you all home. You may climb on my back and I will fly. OK? Hang on... here we go!"

So the berry picking party became a flying-on-a-heron -party. They left their baskets (mostly empty now, anyway!) and using both front paws or wing tips and claws, they hung on for sweet life as the huge rangy bird swooped smoothly out of the trees and down over the slope, all the way to where the forest meets the meadow at the Creek. The squirrels had never been on the back of a bird before, let alone such a large bird, and found it thrilling to fly and see the land like a bird. They passed other big birds who called salutations, curt, fast bats who were eating mosquitos, and quick little swifts who were racing the owls to the Snag Apartments in the dead but still very useful tree. The moon was rising and the stars were peeping out. A soft gentle wind blew from the west. Too soon their little clearing and their trees came into view and got bigger and bigger as they got closer and closer.

But something was going on. Papa Squirrel and Betty Badger were holding fireflies on spider web-silk leashes who lit their way. While Mama Squirrel and Harry Hawk, also with fireflies on leashes, were going up the north hill. "Look, everybody! There they are! Safe and sound!" "Hip-hip hurray!" called out the little fairies siting on the rocks in the creek water. There was quite a commotion as the search parties, for that is what they were doing, searching for the children, returned home. Mama and Papa Squirrel did not know whether to kiss or spank their "lost" children or do both.

"Please don't blame the children," pleaded Aunt Birdie. "It was entirely my fault. I first led them a little too far for my weakness, huckleberries, then we met my dear old friend, Chikuri the heron and visited too long. He flew us home, as you see. So we are quite safe and well. But I am deeply sorry to worry you so much."

Papa Squirrel laughed and said, "Thank you dear friends, all. We are all lucky our worries ended so well and quickly. And thank you, Mr. Chikuri. How kind of you to fly our children and the Bird family home. Will you stay for dinner? We have some fresh strawberries. Mama picked a few this afternoon."

Chikuri had enough of berries to last him a good long while but he was gracious and just replied, "No thank, sir Squirrel. I must fly home before I can't see. Good-bye and good luck. You, too, Birdie Baby. Until we meet again. " And with those words, the great blue heron turned and awkwardly leaped into the air, then after a few strong strokes of his huge wings he lofted into a graceful smooth flight into the gathering night.

"Poor fellow," remarked Aunt Birdie, now and once known as Birdie Baby, "he is so alone."

"He'll be back," speculated Patbird. "He rediscovered an old friend." He looked at his Auntie. She got his hint. The two Birds broke into a round of song: "Make new friends but keep the old, One is silver and the other is gold."

"Goodnight, dear friends," put in Mama Squirrel. "It is bedtime for these little flyers." And everyone went to bed except the fairies. They stayed up singing all night long. But since their voices were so pure and sweet, no one minded at all. And the words were beyond us.

Copyright© 2008 by MG Hudson

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