Editor’s note: Ever notice that the best way to teach moral principles to a child is to use anthropomorphized animal characters? What if two real, live animals acted out their own morality play for a little boy? Don’t laugh: it happened. Our newest contributor shows how two squirrels illustrated beautifully the concept of makers and takers.
The other day my 2-year-old grandson was over the house and, as he normally does, he placed peanuts on the back patio for the local chipmunks and squirrels. Then he went about riding his tricycle through the house banging into the corners of the kitchen cabinets and woodwork.
In about fifteen minutes the first squirrel appeared. We alerted him and Ethan went to the glass door and pressed his nose to the glass so as to get as close to the squirrel as possible. Mr. Squirrel approached the door from the right side, hiding behind the 8-inch wood barrier of a flowerbed. When he felt safe, he hopped onto the patio and carefully selected a single peanut from about thirty or so, put it in his mouth and went back to the right and on to a different flowerbed about 20 feet from the house. I expected him to eat the nut right there, since this is what the little furry rats did all summer to Ethan’s peanuts. Instead, he buried it in my flowerbed by digging a hole in my neatly laid black mulch, placing the peanut in the hole and, as I was happy to see, smoothly covered the peanut with the black mulch to the point that only a bloodhound could find the hidden cache. Or so I thought. This went on for eight or nine trips to the patio and every peanut was buried in a different, neatly packed spot of my flower bed. I realized that he was just storing what he found for the long winter since the weather was in the fifties and it was still December here in Nashville, Tennessee. January and February were the cold months and they were in his future. Enterprising little rodent.
A squirrel eating a nut. Photo: Peter Trimming; CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License
Normally there were many squirrels in my back yard but this time only Samuel, as I named him, was making the round trip from patio to flower bed. I was happy that he was neatly patting down the black mulch so as to not put my flower bed in disarray. Hard-working, enterprising and considerate. What a guy! I was a little disappointed that all those peanuts were going to go to one squirrel, but what the heck, they were there and he was willing to do the required work to take them. All of a sudden I saw something move from the left of the yard. Another squirrel, I named Hussein for reasons that will soon become apparent, moved in from the left. However, he didn’t come to the patio to harvest a peanut, but instead went to the flowerbed which was closer to him and started to dig up one of the sequestered nuts. I guess the 20-foot hop to the patio was too much work for him to consider. He stole the nut and went back to the left of the yard.
From the right, Samuel hopped back to the patio and selected another nut, turned to his right and headed to the flowerbed to bury it. From the left Hussein approached and started to uncover another buried nut when Samuel spotted him and chased him all the way to the fence at left of the yard, from which he came. I can just imagine Samuel yelling,
That’s my nut, and I created that cache. Go get your own.
I could understand Samuel’s attitude, Hussein had the ability to run fast enough to get away from Samuel but didn’t want to spend the energy to gather his own food.
Makers and Takers
So, from Aesop’s Ant and the Grasshopper to modern day’s Makers and Takers, little has changed. There will always be those who prepare for the future and those who would rather others prepare for them. And, believe it or not, Samuel did approach from the right and Hussein did approach from the left. Now I’m not trying to indicate anything here, just stating a fact.