Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gettin' Squirrely

     I found that Bear Canyon is home to a curious creature known as the Abert squirrel. Aberts have high, pointy ears of sometime more than three inches. They are a very large breed of squirrel. One of them would make a good meal. It takes three or four common grey squirrels to fill me up.
     I made a mental not to construct a snare.
     Each day, at camp, A large Abert would dart over to the gold pan, which doubled
as my dogs bowl, and steal some kibble. Maya would chase it up the nearest tree where
the scoundrel would turn and chatter and tease her. I can only take a couple minutes of
pissed off squirrel noise. So I’d throw a rock and the little bastard would scurry away. It
became a routine.
     Eventually there came a day when I couldn’t bring myself to catch any more
crawdads or fish so I foraged up a salad. I found plantain and dandelion greens and I
mixed up a dressing using powdered milk, sugar, and wild dill; which grew in abundance.
     I was cleaning the greens when that damn Abert showed up to rob the dog. As usual, I hucked a rock at it as it tore off up the tree and nailed it square! It fell to the ground, twitched, and died. I couldn’t believe it. It was a one and a million shot, taken from about thirty feet away. I jumped to my feet and raced over intending to hide the evidence before neighboring campers noticed what I had done.
     But I was too late.
     Several A.S.U. kids camping next to me had seen what I had done and were
sprinting in to my camp. As I turned to face them I was worried that they were maybe some militant animal rights faction. The biggest one took a step forward and I realized I had no good excuse to offer. He assumed what I thought at first was a threatening pose but surprised me by saying, “ Dude, can you do that all the time?” I squinted one eye, assuming my best grizzled mountain man visage, and replied, “Ah only take whut ah need.”
     I never let on that it was an accident.
     They told me they had a keg of Fat Tire and they’d be happy to share if I’d be willing to show them how I skinned, gutted, and prepared wild game. I love to teach wilderness skills almost as much as I like applying them, and I sure could use a nice cold beer. when carcass was eviscerated and smoking over some mesquite chips, I showed them how to scrape, salt, and cure the hide. My inclination was to tie it spread out on the back of a tree where the ranger wouldn’t see it.
     All six of them, men and women, took their pictures with the hapless rodent at various stages of it’s disassembly. The way they carried on you’d have thought I brought down a rhino. Sure, I hammed it up a little.
     When it was done I saw to it that everybody got to try a little piece. We drank beer, smoked a few bowls, played some horseshoes, and just as I was about to leave, one of the girls brought me a plate. She said she appreciated my sharing my dinner with them and they wanted to reciprocate. There was bacon wrapped filet mignon, roasted corn on the cob, and potato salad. Then they brought out a cherry cheesecake and carved me off a big slab.
     I was so happy I coulda cried.
     A few days later they pulled out, leaving me with the remainder of their provisions. I didn’t have to fish for a week. Then one day I awoke to an empty campground.
     I was sitting on a round of oak and writing in my journal when a huge RV pulled up and stopped in front of me. An elderly man got out and walked in to my camp and just scowled at me. I thought, “Why would this old guy take the trouble to get down out of his rig just to give me a dirty look? “ I concluded that he must just have a face that looks like that. Maybe he was lost and mentally preparing to ask me directions. I didn’t know the protocol for dealing with crazy old coots behaving oddly, so for lack of any other ideas I waved and smiled.
     He immediately turned and hobbled back to his Winnebago, where I heard him tell his family to stay away because I looked like I’d been in the forest a while and I might get a little “Squirrely”. Not being one to miss an opportunity, I retrieved the hide from the tree and jogged over to where he was standing. “You are absolutely right.” I said, “I just got a little squirrely the other day.” and I held my skin up by the tail and shook it above my head.
Would you believe that out of the whole huge forest, they camped right next to me?

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