If I were to say I wanted to tell you about a tree, you would probably think I was going to describe some beautiful, exotic tree. In this case, you would be wrong. The tree I am going to tell you about looks like any other tree of the same species. You know the kind that you would have no qualms about walking up to, maybe even touching its bark. In the case of this particular one though, you might want to reconsider going anywhere near “The Tree”.
For years, I have spent time trying to capture images of a family of Big Cypress Fox Squirrels. They were living in the northwest section of our city, which is outside of their normal habitat range.
Time and time again, when I was lucky enough to spot one of the little critters, just as I would raise my camera to snap a picture, it would scurry up “The Tree” and disappear. Gone forever, vanished, poof.
It happened so many times I began thinking this was a magic tree, or maybe an evil tree. I even wondered if it was an exotic carnivore, you know, one of those invasive species from some far off land.
It got so bad that I would check around the base of the tree looking for any discarded fur or bones but the only refuge I ever found was a crushed soda can and one well-worn sandal. This was truly an encounter of the third kind...eerie, spooky, and downright scary.
You never know when opportunity will knock on your door, this was the case one day as my wife Ann and I happened to be driving past “The Tree”. Suddenly Ann yelled out “Fox Squirrel!” Needless to say, I slammed on the brakes, threw the gear selector into park and was out of the vehicle in a flash, camera in hand, and fully prepared to document the sighting.
As I ran toward “The Tree”, I saw a Fox Squirrel scurry up and around to the backside of the trunk. Hot on its tail, I followed it around the tree determined to capture the elusive picture. Abracadabra, shazam, poof, the squirrel was in front of me and a split second later it was gone. Like so many times before, it had magically disappeared into thin air.
I just could not believe this was happening to me, there has to be some logical explanation. I hung around for a while, even hid behind another tree, but the squirrel failed to reappear. I thought at one point I heard a muffled snicker, but I am sure it was just my imagination.
Needless to say, I was now referring to the furry little monster in terms that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap when I was a kid. Finally, in total defeat, we drove off to complete our original mission.
Now there are times that I swear Ann loves to see me suffer. Apparently, this was one of those times because once we had completed all our errands, Ann quietly suggested “On our way home, why don’t we run back by The Tree?” Ugh…so, like a lamb going to slaughter I headed back for yet another scary encounter with the tree from hell.
As we slowly passed “The Tree”, there up on a branch basking in the warm afternoon sun, was the sadistic little rodent.
No, no, no, that scraggly little rat was not going to make a fool of me again. This time I slowly walked toward “The Tree” and when I was within range, I snapped a picture of the little $@%! #&@#.
If nothing else, I could now prove the little demon was sitting in “The Tree”, alive, taunting me, just daring me to come closer, and like a fool, I fell into the trap. In a flash, all I was looking at was the demons butt as it disappeared into the vines that were wrapped around the trunk of the tree. Oh no, this cannot be happening, not again!
Slowly, ever so slowly, I made my way over to “The Tree”. I cautiously reached out a now shaking hand and touched the bark…no abracadabra, no shazam, no poof, no magic, no evil. I had not disappeared and I was still in the land of the living, albeit very, very, confused.
As I looked up the tree trunk, I could not put my finger on exactly what was wrong, but something was definitely different. It took me a little while before I realized what had changed. The strange vine that covered the trunk was drooping from a lack of rain and parts of “The Tree” that I had not seen in the past were suddenly visible.
As I looked even closer, the elusive answer to the mystery suddenly came in to view. I could barely make it out because of the surrounding vines, but it was enough that I finally knew the solution. No, it was not the scruffy, four legged nemesis I was seeing, what I was looking at was the ornery varmint’s “trap door”, the critters hiding place, its twig condo, a rather large nest.
All those years, my grubby little tormentor had been sitting in its cozy abode, hiding behind the vines, watching me, laughing at me as I walked round and round “The Tree”.
Now I love all God’s creatures, well, maybe not the snakes or spiders, but at this point, I was really beginning to hate this nasty varmint. While dreaming of tying that nut-eating antagonist to a well-used railroad track, I was beginning to understand how the fuzzy rodent made it onto the threatened species list.
As I walked away, I felt dejected, sad, downright upset the mystery was finally solved. In the end, it turned out “The Tree” was not magic or evil at all. It was nothing more than your average cone producing, sap dripping, pine tree.
As I reached my vehicle, my brain kicked in and a smile appeared on my face…a nest, a “Magic Nest”, wait, wait, a “Cloaking Nest”, or how about “The Invisible Squirrel”…humm, maybe, just maybe…nah, no one would ever believe me.
Another great adventure comes to an end. It does not get any better than this…well, unless you are talking about getting your first car for your sixteenth birthday. That might just be a step up from this.
Even though my wife is not mentioned much in this story, I have to fess up and tell you Ann was with me every step of the way. Well, maybe not when the squirrel was making a fool of me. No, she was sitting in our vehicle laughing her head off at the sight of me running around the tree. She puts up with my antics and I love her for it…did I mention she’s a great cook?
I guess as we travel the road of life, we can never be really sure which way the road will turn…one thing’s for sure though, disappearing squirrels are only a figment of our imagination...sometimes.
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