Thursday, February 5, 2015

February 5, 2015 - The Greedy Squirrel and the Sly Crow

A squirrel had built a nice little hideaway for winter in a large old pine tree.  There he was sheltered from the wind and had stored all sorts of nuts and seeds.  When the snow came, it insulated his little hideaway even further and hid his presence from the prowling cat who would have loved to make a meal of a fat little squirrel.  Yes, it certainly was the perfect hideaway.

One day while he was sitting on a bough munching some seeds, an old crow spied the spent shells of the seeds as they fell from the tree and decided to investigate.  For all practical purposes the tree looked far too full of snow to hold anything else, but the old crow knew better.  She pecked away at the snow until she found a little snow tunnel leading to the inner boughs of the tree.  She went through it and came out on an inner bough not far from the dining squirrel, who jumped a mile when he saw her.

The hidden lair of the squirrel.

“See here,” said the squirrel, “this is my home and you have come into it without even asking permission!”
“A thousand pardons,” said the crow, “but there is a cat prowling about below because some fool has dumped a lot of seed shells on the ground!”
“Why would a cat care about seed shells?”
“Because he loves to eat seed shells.  I’ve seem him devouring them!” said the crow.
“Really?  I don’t believe it.”
“Oh, it’s true,” said the crow, “but I don’t blame him since I rather like them myself.”
“What??  A bunch of old shells??”
“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘old shells,’ but surely there is nothing finer to eat than savory, crunchy shells.”
“I’m sure I don’t know it,” said the squirrel, rather haughtily, “but I suppose now that you’re here you’re going to ask for some seeds?”
“No, thank you,” said the crow.
“Because I’m not going to give you any.”
“I wouldn’t want any, but thanks just the same,” said the crow, eyeing the squirrel rather strangely.
“I suppose I could spare one walnut,” he said, “but that’s all.  I worked all summer for these, you know, but I guess you wouldn’t know.”  He gave the old crow a large, hard black walnut.
“Oh, most likely I wouldn't,” said the crow, snatching up the walnut in stride, “but I only wish I’d been smart enough to do the same with those crunchy shells.  As it stands, I have been sneaking to the bottom of this tree every day and gobbling up all the shells for myself!  It has been wonderful!  Well, it was wonderful until the cat discovered them.  Now he’ll be eating them all and I shan’t get any.”

The squirrel eyed the crow for a while, trying to figure her out.  “Well, who has been leaving the shells, do you know?” he asked.
“Darned if I know,” said the crow, “but they must have a huge store of them somewhere not far from here.”
“I only eat seeds and nuts,” said the squirrel.  “I keep them in little nests I’ve built all along the great trunk.”  He pointed to several bulges along the trunk.  The crow barely nodded in response.  “It was a good amount of work, I can tell you,” he continued, “but now I have plenty to eat all winter.”
“Yes, yes,” said the crow, “you certainly were clever to have done that.  Next year I hope to do the same with those delectable shells!  I only wish I could have that nice pile below right now!”
“How much is there?”
“Oh, quite a bit!” said the crow.  “And they are just so tasty!  I just cannot believe my good fortune in having found them every day!”
“And they’re really that delicious??”
“Quite!” the crow gasped.  “Now I really must be on my way.  I believe the cat has gone.”  And with that, she croaked a goodbye, tottered back through the tunnel, and flew off with the old black walnut in her beak.

She didn’t fly far, though.  She landed at the top of a nearby birch tree and sat and waited.  But she didn’t have to wait long.  Sure enough, in a few minutes she saw the squirrel jumping this way and that from the outer bows in an effort to make it to the ground near the tree.  That was exactly what she was counting on.  She leapt off from the top of the tree and circled high above until she spotted the cat not far away.  Then she dove straight toward him and dropped the walnut from her beak, landing it smack on his head!

The cut jumped up furiously!  He looked everywhere, frightened and angry at the same time.  And what did he see?  A fat little squirrel hopping to the ground from an old pine tree.  The cat narrowed his eyes and hunkered down to the ground.  Slowly and quietly he crept toward the tree.  By now the squirrel had made it to the bottom and was inspecting the pile of seed shells he had tossed downward.  He was so intent on picking through the pile and tasting this shell and that, only to spit them out promptly, that he never saw the cat coming.

At that point, the crow stopped watching.  She flew back to the tree and slipped through the snow tunnel to the inner boughs.  There she broke open cache after cache, devouring every seed and nut she found and spitting all the shells down to the ground.  By the time she had finished, there were piles and piles of shells on the snow-covered ground but not a squirrel to be found.  There was no cat to be seen now either, and she wondered whether she should go back for the old black walnut she had dropped on the cat’s head.

She thought better of it, though, and decided that greed was a handsome partner, to be sure, but a jealous one as well, one from which there was no escape.

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