Naming a wild animal
Saturday, October 13, 2012

     I have just returned from a few weeks spent in relatively deep solitude at a house in the woods. I was not lonely, but one visitor did provide welcome company.
Wally the chipmunk      I regularly saw a chipmunk scrurrying through the bushes at the end of the lawn around the house. To entertain myself, I made a habit of leaving an almond at the top of a short stake by the bushes. Soon the almond began disappearing with regularity, and I would replace it a couple of times a day, each time making a loud clucking sound so that the chipmunk would associate me with the almond. This practice continued for two or three weeks.
     I spotted him once or twice at the stake looking for the next almond. I named him Wally (along with assigning him a gender) because he may have been living in a stone wall nearby. After a couple of weeks, I noticed that, several times, he ran close by the wall of the house, near me, as though taunting me to bring more almonds.
     One day, he sat up near the house and looked at me. I tossed him an almond; he looked for it in the grass but could not find it. I lobbed more almonds, each one closer to me in the middle of the lawn. He found only one or two but kept coming closer. In short order, Wally was taking almonds from my fingers. It was a thrill. I have on rare occasions handfed chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons all my life, but it had been a long time.
     He gently touched my fingertip just once with his teeth, but he got the hang of it. He would grab and chew a succession of about three almonds. When his jowls were full he would run off to stash his load and then return for another. I figured that he could keep up this activity all day, so I left the lawn after he had made a few trips and moved on to other activities.
     Never saw Wally again.
     The next day was rainy, and, staying indoors, I did not keep an eye out for the chipmunk. On subsequent days, the almond was left untouched on the stake. With dread, I checked the mousetraps in the house. With a cityslicker's ignorance, my best guess is that the chipmunk was looking for me or the almonds that he had missed on the lawn and gotten scooped up by a hawk. Oh, I killed that striped rat alright.
     Won't ever lead a chipmunk to an open space again. And probably won't be naming a wild animal again anytime soon.