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Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Friday, November 04, 2005

rodentia

It was a quiet Saturday morning bathed in brilliant South Carolina sunshine. My vehicle and I were ensconced in a parking lot on the Aiken campus of the University of South Carolina, waiting for my granddaughter to finish her swim practice at their natatorium – basically an indoor swimming pool. I was in the full throes of deep contemplation as to how to solve the problems of the entire known world – that or listening to the radio – don’t remember which.

The space in front of the aforementioned building with pool was an open area, populated only by grass and several large trees. A couple of these were oaks and as is their custom, they had cast forth acorns to farther enhance chances for the repopulation of their species. Since these small, mostly round carriers of deciduous genetic codes do not have a means of mobility, it is dependent on a second, or even third party to distribute them to un-oaked areas.

The party of the second part in this case was a very energetic young squirrel. My attention was captured and I followed his efforts with great interest for 20 minutes or so. This rodent would find an acorn, roll it around in his mouth almost like he was cleaning it off and dig a small hole in the first soft spot he could find. He would then place the acorn in the hole, pushing it down with his nose, push the dirt back in and tamp it down with his front paws.

My reference to the gender of this fuzzy-tailed critter was an assumption for writing convenience only and in no way was it meant to denigrate the female of the species. With that disclaimer in place, I continue my story.

The animal continued burying these potential oaks the whole time I watched - always in the same manner. It was as if there existed a certain amount of urgency involved in the task. The few humans that happened by deterred him only a very little from his important task. He would simply step away a few hops and when they passed he continued his project.

The only variation in his procedure was the occasional finding of a hard spot of dirt, in which case he would just move over a few feet and try again. He did all this without an overseer or a big boss squirrel standing by looking over his shoulder.

The young acorn hider was preparing for the future by saving the nuts for later consumption – plus the ones he would forget could become trees to provide food for the ones to come after him. The survival instincts placed in even the smallest of animals by God for the continuance of the species has always amazed me.

It appears to me that we humans could learn a few lessons from this very active, even possibly flea-bitten, little creature. First, we should be slim and active, even to the point of climbing trees if necessary. Next, we need to be cautious but not live in fear – fear paralyzes.

Then, we should plan ahead for the salvation and nourishment of those that come after us – especially in the spiritual sense. Also, that persistence and patience will eventually solve problems – and make things grow. Finally, it’s OK to act a little nutty now and then. ec