The Squirrel Whisperer

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I like to get stoned and watch the squirrels. If I’m sufficiently baked, I can watch them for hours on end. I’ve always identified with Jane Goodall, not because I think idly watching squirrels is akin to studying chimpanzee behavior, but because I can easily imagine waking up every morning, sitting in a bush, and observing animals in a trance-like state.

You know how sometimes when you get high, the animals around you seem to be high also? I get that a lot with the squirrels. It seems like their nut foraging behavior, as well as their extreme paranoia, are somehow in tune with the stoner mind-set. One doesn’t have to stretch to envision them ducking behind a tree every now and then for a quick toke.

There are two squirrels who live in my ditch: a massive boy squirrel and a dainty female. They have an interesting relationship. For a long time I didn’t think they ever mated. Most of their interactions consisted of the male chasing the female through the trees at ridiculous speeds. I watched that little bastard try for many months with no luck, and was beginning to wonder if it was really worth all the effort, when one morning, I awoke to see them in a tree not far away, doing it like it the bomb was about to fall. It turns out that, much like humans, squirrel females are impossible to get when not in the mood, but enthusiastic when they are. Squirrels are natural acrobats, and this translates to their sex lives. The missionary position did not make an appearance, and they relied less on “squirrel style” than you would imagine.

One time in late winter, as I was walking down Shoal Creek, a squirrel darted across the path and got himself cornered underneath the 12th St. Bridge. With no obvious escape route, he stood shaking in abject terror, certain that he had made his last mistake. Hilariously, his demeanor changed with cartoon-like swiftness when I pulled an acorn from my pocket and held it out to him as a token of solidarity. As I remember it, his eyes turned into saucers and he said, “What?!?” in a high pitched squirrel voice, but that’s probably my imagination. No longer terrified but still quite skittish, he slowly approached my outstretched hand, trying to muster up the courage to take the acorn. He got within a few feet before deciding it wasn’t worth the risk, and retreating to the nearest tree to brood over what might have been.

And that’s the one problem with squirrels: they’re just a little too jumpy to interact with. I’ve often thought they would be better off if they could communicate telepathically with humans. That way I could get them to have tea parties with me and pose for photographs in Victorian costumes. In return, I would bring them all the acorns they could handle and build them a little house to hide in when it rains. We could be hanging out getting drunk, bringing joy and laughter to our bucolic grove, but alas, as is so often the case, there is a barrier of communication that is unlikely ever to be surmounted.