Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I’d say this, but it’s about to get nutty! I am writing this as I wait for Newt the Squirrel to come back: he agreed to give me his take on chipmunk-squirrel relations in the Crum Woods.
Recently, I had the opportunity to converse with a sunbathing chipmunk after a lengthy inter-species standoff. Although that negotiation descended into a flame war initially, we soon bonded over our tireless condemnation of the mind’s late-night tendency to overthink when one ought to be going to sleep. This was where the mention of a sour relationship between chipmunks and squirrels first came up. After bidding that chipmunk a warm adieu, I knew I had to find out what the other side thought of this chipmunk’s brief remarks.
So I ran into the woods instead of eating lunch, determined to find and persuade a squirrel representative to spill the nuts on this case. My foolproof plan had two simple steps. First, perform “Squirrels in a Twist/Chip On Their Shoulder,” an improvised track based on my minimal knowledge of the rocky state of chipmunk/squirrel relations. Second, get surrounded by squirrels who have come to determine the source of this profound music. Here is a working sample of the chorus to hear the wonders of subtle puns for yourself.
“Squirrels in Crum Woods know no bounds,
Tails wrapped in a twist as they fall down
There’s a chip on their shoulder as of now,
But there’s more to laugh at, with them on the GroUNd-OU-OUNND!!”
By the time I was finishing up the second rendition of the chorus, I began to notice a swarm of gray squirrels with bristling fur on every level of the greenery around me. However, no volume of angry chitters could dampen the desires of my innate musician to go all out until the end.
Oddly, the start of the bridge is when almost every squirrel began to rapidly jump away from my vicinity in massive droves as if their lives depended on it. It’s true that the start of the bridge coincided with an unintentional upward leap into ear-piercing territory, but I like to think my slip actually made the rest of the song even better. Although most of the squirrels couldn’t stand the bridge, there was a lone gray squirrel in the uppermost branch staring daggers at me while also rubbing his ears furiously by the time I finished the outro. Shouting up into the canopy, I apologized for my poor choice of lyrics and politely requested an audience with the only angry squirrel left standing. Over the fading squeals of his fleeing squirrel comrades, Newt eventually agreed to talk to me. As I assure him that I will never write heavily provocative lyrics regarding squirrels, the anger in his eyes subsides a bit.
After making a visible effort to smooth his agitated fur, he says,“I have no qualms with making shadow puppets in front of your bedroom window nor knocking a storm on your roof every night if you write and PERFORM any squirrel-related song again.”
His gray fur, previously puffed up with tension, is close to being completely smooth all throughout his body as he lets it out his piece. As I continue to reassure that I’ll keep my primal instinct to smile in check, he motions for me to follow him. In the light coat of snow worn by the trees and forest floor, I struggle to keep up as Newt bounces from branch to branch. Before I can collapse, he finally stops and settles on a low branch. “It seems like we’re ready!” I exclaim as he gives a slight nod.
Newt starts our conversation with a reserved thoughtfulness. “Squirrels and chipmunks, huh? Besides always arguing and occasionally fighting for the best nuts and berries, I’d say we get on well enough. We’re not at war or anything of that scale …”
Here, I cannot resist interjecting that a chipmunk whose name shall stay anonymous for their own protection hinted that there was such an everyday conflict over the holly berry patch near the south edge of the woods.
“Really? Leave it to a chipmunk to make the smallest things into the biggest problem without fail.”
Incredulous at Newt’s lack of specific commentary as a likely subject expert, I press on.
“Do you mind providing some insider detail about what it’s like to interact with your fellow four-legged brethren at the holly grove? You say that it’s not a big deal, but the chipmunk’s eyes were blazing as they described that grove as ground zero for the ongoing war against those f**king squirrels.”
“Wait, what did they say? Look, you may have expected me to fluff up and terrify the living ice out of you from that. No doubt it would be great material for your ongoing failure at yellow journalism. But, I will say that chipmunks are experts at exaggerating solely for their own reputation. Have you ever wondered how chipmunks got the stripes that they champion as their most unique feature?”
“I didn’t know they had to earn their stripes in your eyes if you know what I mean.”
“The sarcasm was not lost on me, but yes. Every chipmunk is born looking like a squirrel: imagine a smaller, short-tailed version of a squirrel with short legs and a distaste for trees. But they aren’t born with their stripes. From the chipmunks I’ve battled with over those holly berries, I’ve realized that they have a peculiar tendency to fall into the holly bushes/lower branches of a holly tree. When I’ve gone head-to-head with these chipmunks in paw-to-paw combat, I’ve almost always won ownership of my selected berries. Most of the time, they’re so clumsy that they forfeit their right to fight by tripping on their first lunge. After dropping through multiple levels of sharp holly leaves, there are a lot of visible scratch marks on their body. I don’t know how, but many moons later without being aware of their wounds, I suddenly notice the beginnings of a black pattern in their fur around their back area.”
“Now it seems like you’re exaggerating some personal experiences with chipmunks for your own face. Seriously, there is no imaginable relationship between wounds and hair color.”
“Clearly, whatever I say to respond to that baseless accusation will be interpreted as admission of guilt. As I was explaining before your unnecessary input, chipmunks’ hair begins to turn black as the wounds of their scratches close up. As for the specific minute-by-minute analysis of how this happens, I admit I do not spend most of my time willingly living with chipmunks to observe this phenomenon up close. That is my take on the rocky road between chipmunks and squirrels, and now I must politely excuse myself from this intense conversation.”
Newt suddenly springs up and bounces off the hanging branch he was just on. In doing so, he kicks the snow on that branch straight into my eyes. As I stagger and ultimately slip butt-first into the beautiful but freezing snow, I am ultimately beyond volcanic anger. With all of the gratefulness and warmth I can muster, I softly declare, “F**cking squirrels … Still, thank you for sharing the best story I’ve heard in months; for whether its leaves are rooted in truth, I will include your side of the story in the convoluted story of the Squirrel, the Chipmunk, and the common tall tale.”