One Less Squirrel

A gray fox squirrel, a pretty thing seen so close, bore the same markings as the common gray squirrel but with a whiter vent and half again as large. This one sported the characteristic tail longer than the body, it’s unmoving spiny shaft conspicuous, wet now with saliva. The pasture grass had concealed the animal as it harvested walnuts from the tree just up the bank from the creek. But the same grass made it hard to see an approaching predator, and then once pursued, impossible to run at full speed to safety.

I don’t think Tsuga set out to kill, only to play. But he plays rough with creatures in fur, though he’s not once growled or snapped at us. I’ve never seen him happier than with his new playmate hanging out both sides of his grinning mouth. Yes, I think dogs do smile. I wish I’d taken his picture with his tropy.

Ann asked me while the dog was distracted across the creek to please go pick up the carcass and dispose of it. I carried the customary grocery bag prepared to evert it over the warm, wet remains, still to my fingers alive-seeming through the thin plastic. There was nothing for the bag but the gray tip of a tail.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. That’s our boy.

    Good to see your new site is up and running — I’m with everybody else: it looks good, and it’s good to have the comments back up again. Good weekend.

  2. It is great having friends who have helped (and bless their little hearts) and will help me keep from making too big a mess of this place.

    Good to hear from ya, Nater. We’re leaving the light on for ya.