by Vernon Garrison
We built this big ole house under a big ole white oak tree. It’s a beautiful ole tree, and spreads over I don’t know how many square feet. We were younger then, and not afraid of hurricanes and big ole white oak trees.
Now along with some huge ole limbs spreading out all over, this tree had some hollow spots but nothing we would worry about. In one hollow was a honey bee colony. It was too high up to be easy to rob so we were content to see the bees swarming in and out. Up higher there was a hollow where one of those huge ole limbs had fallen out at some time past and left a big ole scar in the tree.
Also one of those limbs had a hollow in it about half way out its length and in this hollow the squirrels had made a home. We could watch as ole mama squirrel raised her young each year, usually two times four, and we could watch her offspring scamper all over that ole oak tree.
As the years passed, and we aged, we became more and more wary of that ole tree falling, and decided to remove some of it. It was obvious that the place to start was a big ole limb that suck out close to the house and driveway. As it happened, this was the very limb in which the squirrel family had made their nest for so many years.
So up to town I went and rented a man-lift that would get me and my chainsaw up to that limb. Now you have to know that that ole limb was a good fifty feet up, and was at least thirty-six to forty inches around at the base next to the trunk of the tree. Approaching the task with plain ole horse sense, I started way out at the very tip of that ole limb, cutting it into fireplace-sized lengths, slowly working my way back.
After awhile our number one son showed up, so down I came and let him have a turn. He wasn’t really hankering to get into that man-lift, but I was pooped, and convinced him that he should be able to do anything that his old man could do. So, he continued where I had left off, and soon he got close to the part that held the squirrel’s nest. Mama squirrel came scampering out and fled up into the tree. Number one kept sawing, and mama came tearing back, only to frantically run back up the tree. She repeated this several more times before number-one son finally cut off the section that contained the nest.
Our son then had to shut down the chainsaw, ‘cause every kid and female present had rushed over to peer into that piece of old hollow log. I mean there was a mad rush, along with a lot of pushing and shoving to get there, but then just as quick everyone was rushing the other direction. Seems there was a wasp nest in that section of log too! Out came the wasp spray and the rascals were quickly done in.
But sure enough, there was a reason mama squirrel was to agitated; there were two baby squirrels in her nest. One was quite active, but the other acted sorta stunned, and the expert opinion prevalent was that this one would not live. Well sir, the first thing the ladies did was wrap the two little ’uns in an old yellow towel that I had brought along to wipe the sweat from my over worked brow. After much consultation among the human mothers present, it was decided that mama squirrel would probably like to have them rascals back. So, the committee took them around behind that ole tree and laid ’em on the ground still wrapped in my towel.
We went on and finished removing that ole limb, one block at a time. We put the tools away, stacked the oak blocks for splitting later, and spent the rest of the day doing what we Garrisons do best; resting, eating, drinking coffee and telling windies.
We had completely forgotten about those squirrel babies. When we thought to look, my old yellow towel was there, but the baby squirrels were gone. Several members of the “rescue committee” wrung their hands, opining that they had been taken by the old raven that hung around our back yard, but I pointed to mama squirrel way up in that ole oak tree. She sat next to another hollow spot, much higher up in the tree this time. She was no longer frantic, even though she did chatter at us in a very scolding way.
We couldn’t be sure then if mama squirrel had actually rescued her little ones, but a few weeks later we noticed her shepherding two half-grown youngsters. I was sure glad too, because I had been getting the evil eye from the women-folk ever since I trimmed that ole white oak tree.
Squirrel's belong to the order "Rodentia", with 1650 species, it is the largest group of living mammals. It also comprises forty percent of all present day mammal species.
Squirrels are the most active in late winter, when the mating season begins. The males will chase a females, as well as, chase off other suitors. This ritual of chasing occurs through the trees at top speed, and at the same time they perform some of the most breathtaking acrobatics imaginable.
The period of gestation varies from 33 days in the smaller species of pine squirrels, up to 60 days for the larger species such as the common gray and fox squirrels. The young are usually born in the early spring. The average litter consists of four. This varies with climate and location.
In the summer squirrels are most active two to three hours after sunrise, then they'll rest in the afternoon. Resuming activity again two hours before sunset. The squirrel will retire to its nest well before dark. -Editor