Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chelsea Chipmunk’s Father’s Day Gift

 Chelsea Chipmunk was the prettiest of her sisters and better mannered than any of her brothers, and that is a fact. Her sparkling eyes and glossy fur made her father proud. They all lived with Mom Chip in the Palace in the crawl space beneath the family room of Those Who Lived Above.

  Her nest was a pile of swamp oak and maple leaves tucked against the far wall of the Palace, where it was cozy on damp, icky days such as today.

  Chipmunk families have long traditions and the children sat and listened to Mom Chip each morning, as she taught them the lessons they needed to know in order to survive. First and perhaps most important was the need to gather and store food for the long, white, frosty winter, often too thick of cloud and too thin of sunshine, and always coming when you didn’t expect it. Chipmunks don’t hibernate in that gloomy part of the year, but sleep a lot, and must eat every day. Snow often blocked the two gates to the Palace, so they needed to store enough to get them through. There never was such a thing as too much food.

  Those Who Lived Above had a daily habit of putting sunflower seeds in a large bird feeder in the backyard. Why they did this Mom could not explain. Perhaps they had so many that the ones in the feeder were defective in some way. Well, for whatever reason, this proved a boon to chipmunks in the neighborhood. The little chippies were taught how to go to the feeder and tuck seeds into their cheek pouches. At first they could only hold five or six seeds, but as they grew, so too did their pouches. Adults could carry two or three dozen seeds with no trouble at all.

  It was nearly summer now, and Father’s Day was just a few days away. Chelsea’s father was on a visit to the faraway place where he had been born, but would be home in time for that fine day. Chelsea thought and thought about what special thing she could give her dear dad, but had not a solitary idea.

  It was time for her to trot to the feeder and fill up on sunflower seeds. Off she went determined to bring back TEN seeds in her bulging pouches, yes she would. When she got to the feeder she could not believe her young eyes. What were those light brown, rumpled, lumpy things? She sniffed them. She didn’t know their names but knew from the wonderful smell that they were nuts. Peanuts! Huge, fragrant, light, and assuredly delicious: just the presents for Chelsea’s father.

   She picked up one and tried to stuff it into her cheek. The nut was so big and her cheek too small, but she opened her mouth wide and in it went. Off she jogged to the Palace, through the west gate, and to her nest. She hid the peanut in the leaves. “Two more,” she thought would make a wonderful gift!

  Back she scampered to the feeder. This time she was determined to take two. She crammed one into her left cheek and bit into the second, holding it in her tiny mouth. Joyfully, off she went.

  Blocking her path to the Palace was Scarlet O’Hairy, a mean tempered, sly, vicious female red squirrel who bullied just about everyone in the back yard. Larger than a chipmunk but smaller that other squirrels, reds have a mean streak wider than the Mississippi, a temper shorter than a millimeter, a memory for slights longer than any TV commercial, and sharp dagger teeth and claws.

  “Well, look at the pretty presents you brought me,” snickered Scarlet, “Give them to me and I won’t bite you.” Poor Chelsea knew it was impolite to talk with your mouth full, so she just sputtered.

  “I wouldn’t hamper the child,” spoke a boisterous voice. It was Blue Jay Dad, cocking his head to glare at Scarlet. Blue jays are not afraid of red squirrels. They are brazen, brash, and colorful characters that come and go as they please, except of course, when there is a Cooper’s hawk in the neighborhood, which means the blue jays are smart as well.

  And so it was that Chelsea Chipmunk collected peanuts for Father’s Day. Her dad was pleased, and quite proud of his little daughter.

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