The Squirrel Chronicles: Letters to the city

©Dean Torges/The Bowyer's Edge™



A succession of weather fronts moved through for about four or five days, mainly from the Northwest, dropping temperatures and bringing the flavor and colors of Fall. When it wasn't raining, the wind kept the trees stirred up too much for sensible squirrel hunting. I'd look up from my work mornings and evenings to monitor tree tops, unable to concentrate for long on the tasks at hand, wondering if I could catch things calming down long enough to slip into the woods for an hour or two.

In another month or more, when most of the leaves have fallen, the squirrels will be traveling and feeding on the ground. The same wind that moves leafy tree tops now will then create just enough noise and motion to mask a hunter's movement. Squirrels will search about under oaks, sometimes almost burying themselves under leaves when they dig, or, when it is still, they will travel along fallen logs, run out tree roots and jump from tree trunk to tree trunk to avoid rustling leaves and calling attention to themselves. They are more self-absorbed, more caught up in the urgency of Fall. It's a much better time to hunt then when the wind is not much of a factor.

I reminded myself of that, and that the likelihood of an empty gamebag should outweigh the need to hunt on these blustery mornings and evenings. But my mind doesn't work too well in that direction. It's not the disciplined kind that helps me order priorities and fulfill commitments, or even see very far into the future. It's the kind that devises reasons, excuses and justifications sufficient to outweigh common sense. It makes promises for tomorrow while it schemes on jail breaks today. When the hardwoods start turning yellow and red and the understory loses its cover, when the nights turn crisp and cool, when corn fields rustle, when the vegetable garden stands tall with huge clumps of foxtail (which protect the tomatoes from frost, right?), I rustle about in the leaves myself and can't think beyond one nut past a full belly.

Yesterday evening, when the wind was blowing strong, I asked Mary to go out for dinner. The wind laid down sufficiently for a hunt by the time we dressed. On the way to the truck, some twitch or mannerism must have telegraphed my yearning for the woodlot to her. Maybe when I stopped short, stared back into the woods and stomped my foot. At any rate, she offered to go for a burger to save me some of the evening. Too often in the past I would have accepted that offer, or, worse, I would have asked her to take care of herself while I grabbed a bow and quiver, smiled over my shoulder and promised dinner together some other time. Am embarrassed to admit that now.

This morning the wind was blowing again, and leaf-laden trees were swaying under sullen gray skies. I went out anyway because I needed to make up for squandering a perfectly good evening for a restaurant dinner the night before. (Yes, you are correct. Mary deserves much better.) I found one squirrel tucked up in a small crotch, his tail folded over his back for protection and warmth, motionless. I'd been leaning against a tree, motionless myself for a good while before spotting him. Sent an arrow across his bough.

We got the message. He scurried into his hole and I hustled back home, both of us to wait for a better time.