Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Sharing a bond with little creatures of the wild

By STACEY COLE September 22. 2017 7:37PM
Readers often shared stories with late columnist Stacey Cole about developing close bonds with small critters living in and around their yards. (Courtesy)
Editor’s note: The following column was originally printed in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Saturday, Aug. 3, 1974.

THERE IS LITTLE doubt left that skunks do whistle. Additional testimony comes enclosed as part of a lovely letter from Laconia which I am delighted to share with you.
 
“Years ago, when I was a little girl, we lived in the country. I can remember sitting on the front porch with the family in the evening and watching the moon come up over the two tall pine trees that stood in our front yard. We could frequently hear the sleepy chirping of the birds in the trees; the distant hoot of an owl; and the high-pitched sound of a skunk’s whistle somewhere out there in the distance. My little fox terrier dog used to sit up at attention at that sound, but since she had had several bouts with the little critters, and had learned that it was a No-No, she went no farther than the edge of the porch. I haven’t heard any more skunks in recent years, but I suppose they do continue to whistle, despite the remarks of the doubting Thomases.

“I would like to share with you another occurrence which some people might discount, but it did happen right here in my own back yard in broad daylight.
Among the wee folk who inhabit our immediate area are a number of chipmunks and squirrels, most of which will come in answer to their names, and will eat from our hands. My very special pet is a little chipmunk called ‘Twinkle Toes.’ She will sit on my lap and eat from my hand while I pet her. The other day I heard her fairly screaming with fear and went out to see what was going on. There she sat atop the overturned wheelbarrow, watching a red squirrel (a newcomer) search around for something to eat. I went up to Twinkle Toes and said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I won’t let anything hurt you. Do you want me to walk you home?’ At the word home, she came down to the ground and huddled up to my feet. Then I started walking slowly toward her burrow about three yards away.
 
“Now, I know a lot of people might say she couldn’t possibly understand me, but it so happens that when I give her some food I always say, ‘Be a good girl, and take it home.’ And she does just that.

“The very next day I heard her screaming again. A large blue jay was out there near her burrow and she was again up on the wheelbarrow. So I repeated the whole performance, and so did she. Smart little creature, isn’t she?

“I have found that the closer the relationship between a person and the little creatures of the wild, the more noticeable is the fact that they have individual characteristics just like human beings. Between Twinkle Toes and myself there is a close bond of mutual respect, trust and affection. She actually prefers to eat from my hand rather than from a dish or container.

“Now, Beaver Boy, a little gray squirrel, loves to tease and wake me up if I am still asleep when he wants his breakfast. He climbs a tree and jumps over on the roof of the house. From there he practically drag-strips up and down the roof until he hears the front door open, then he is right there for his food.

“Late last spring a year ago, we took down the two main bird feeders and put up two hanging baskets of artificial flowers. At first the blue jays couldn’t believe their eyes. They would sit up there and took a look at the flowers. One big jay we call ‘Fat Stuff’ finally retaliated by pulling out all the centers of the white morning glories. This year he didn’t seem to mind very much, but would sit in a tree outside our dining room windows and scold us while we were eating.

“The blue jays seem to like to buzz around the squirrels when they are eating peanuts, hoping to make them drop a nut. If the jays are successful in getting a peanut, they will soak it in the bird bath for a few minutes before trying to open it.

“All the little creatures we feed accept both my husband and me. They are part of our everyday life.”

Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at jlord@unionleader.com.


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