The squirrel’s nest in an upper fork of the backyard walnut tree has begun to come apart.
In late summer, when the builder had just completed his work, the structure was impressive — nearly the size of a washtub. But it has not weathered well.
Autumn’s gales have largely emptied it of the cushioning of leaves that gave it a look of durability and substance. That was a false impression. What remains now is only a frail latticework of interlaced small branches and twigs, through which the cold December sky can be clearly seen.
I’ve no idea what plans its proprietor has for use of that failed construction. But with the worst of winter not even here yet, it’s no place to even dream of raising a family.
We’re doing what we can to help him through. Three bird feeders hang in a small redbud tree just off the patio. Two contain seeds. The third holds a cake of suet. The squirrel eats with the birds, and they do not seem to object to his poaching.
Neither do we. A squirrel’s hunger is no less hurtful than theirs.
And evidently he’s a senior. For when he appeared outside our breakfast room window one recent day, we noticed that the fur on his back was so pale it shone almost like silver.
I regard squirrels differently now than I used to.
One winter 50-some years ago I spent the frozen season in my Ozark cabin, working at trying to be a writer. My budget was tight, and any squirrel or rabbit I saw I regarded as my next meal.
That changed for good just the other day when I read in the news that Pope Francis, to comfort a little boy grieving the death of his dog, declared publicly: “There’s a place in heaven for all creatures.”
I admire this pope and have been heartened by many of the principled positions he has taken.
And while I don’t for a moment profess to be a vegetarian, I have eaten my last squirrel.
For more of C.W. Gusewelle, go to gusewelle.kansascity.com.