The Back 40

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The Back 40

The Real King Of The Forest By John A. Hallock

Posted on July 1, 2015 at 12:30 PM

   That’s the one thing about being a woodsman; you spend a lot of time in the woods. You observe plants, animals, clouds, and experience odors, usually coming from you, But there is also crisp air mixed with the scent of pine or sweet fern. All these observations and experiences are what form your educated opinion.

   For instance, I’ve surely learned big bucks are one of the cleverest forest creatures, and sadly, man is one of the dumbest (see empty beer cans along roads, bullet holes in road signs, and group ATVing on hot, dusty back roads. Those people have to be washing dirt out of their ears until Christmas).

   I’ve also learned Blue Jays have a huge vocabulary of voice sounds and can imitate the songs of other birds. They are also fierce fighters when it comes to protecting their nests from larger birds (crows, hawks) or raiding other bird’s nests themselves.

   And then there’s the baddest guy in the woods, who is also king of the squirrels, even though he’s a little guy. And yes, he does have a little guy complex. I’ve never seen a red squirrel back down from a fight, especially from the much bigger gray squirrel. In fact, I watch in wonder as red squirrels chase the grays relentlessly. Up and down the tree trunks as fast as they can go. In fact, it’s like the grays are literally running for their lives. Turns out it’s worse.

   When in the woods where does one go for reliable advice on almost anything? Our own resident old-timer know-it-alls and dump attendant Andy Andrews himself. I asked him if he knew why it seems the much larger gray squirrels were so terrified of the reds as to run as fast as they can to get away from them.

   “That’s easy,” he said through a smile. “The grays know if the red gets close enough it will bite his nads clean off. You’d run too I expect.”

   Yikes! I expect I would. And if that doesn’t prove the red squirrel is the baddest guy in the woods I don’t know who it could be.

   “Of course then,” the old timer continued, “there’s the owl hatchling who will eat its own nest mates if it gets too hungry.”

   We have a winner.

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