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  Walter Beineke

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  The Land


Just this fall a little red squirrel got his revenge. A grafted Purdue #2 walnut tree arches over our deck and roof with a Purdue #1 tree next to it. They were loaded with nuts, and this little red squirrel at exactly 7:30 a.m. would begin cutting off nuts and dropping them on the deck. (Oh, did I mention that the deck is attached to our bedroom?) Most of you probably have not heard a black walnut fall from 60 feet onto a deck, but it is really loud and then it bounces and rolls. You might also say, “Well, 7:30, that's not early.” But you forget that as retirees, we stay up late and like to sleep late.

For six mornings this continued and on the seventh day he rested--or ran out of nuts. I collected and counted the nuts each day so that he could not cache them. But that probably made him continue to cut more -- although I find that squirrels are incredibly greedy, and they want all the nuts no matter what. They are not good at sharing. Over the six days, I counted a total of 176 nuts that he dropped on the deck, but that doesn't count nuts that bounced off of the deck. I am also certain that he was taking nuts from branches not over the deck and carrying them over to drop them on the deck.

On the sixth day, I discovered why he liked to drop them on the deck -- in addition to waking us up. I watched through the sliding glass doors as he climbed on the deck and went to a nut. (By the way, squirrels know about glass and know that you cannot hurt them as long as there's glass between you and them. That is a proven fact. Ever tried knocking on the glass to get a squirrel to leave your birdfeeder? Doesn't work, does it?) Anyway, he was so small that he could not get his mouth around a nut that had the hull intact. The hull had to be split by a hard fall onto the deck for him to pick it up and begin stripping off the outer hull, leaving piles of hulls to stain anything that they happen to touch.

Oh yeah, for all of you animal behaviorists, doesn’t it seem as if I may have discovered another tool--using animal? Of course, I have known all along that squirrels are smarter than we are, and that at least red squirrels, are more industrious than we are as they will store hundreds of walnuts in caches (a secure location for winter use). For instance, last winter I was trying to get a long cardboard box down from the rafters in my shed at The Land with a stick and as I tilted the unusually heavy box (for what I thought was an empty box), hundreds of nuts poured out onto my head.

© 2010 Purdue Number One
© 2011 Walter Beineke
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