In my back yard are my two oak trees. They are perhaps one of my most precious belongings. They are beautiful, old, huge and tall. They are what I see every morning as I sit at the dining room table with Master as he eats his breakfast. They are our window upon the urban wilderness. We see birds of endless variety, jays, tanagers, robins, wrens, flickers and woodpeckers. They are home to a very busy gang of squirrels. Any time of day, you can see one, two, three or more of the little tree rats living out their little daily dramas… chasing, eating, basking, mating…
Speaking of squirrel dramas… two weeks ago Master called me to the wide picture windows and pointed out to me the heartbreaking sight of a broken squirrel. It was on the ground, lurching clumsily along. It had only bit of tail left, a short fluffy stump but the remarkable and perhaps even horrific thing was it was crippled… it could not move straight, it seemed spastic, veering in strange jerky bursts to the right, literally falling over onto its side repeatedly.
Another squirrel come down and rushed it and it went into a frenzy of flopping, leaping forward and landing upon it side… it was painful to watch.
Master said, “It is dying.”
I agreed. I sincerely thought it was near death. How could it survive? It could hardly walk. It must have been hit by a car or escaped a predator with grievous injuries… with a spine or brain injury. When it moved behind the wood pile I assumed it was trying to find a safe and peaceful place to curl up and end its struggle.
So today as I sat with Master and gazed out the window, I was amazed to see that self same squirrel… this time struggling along the branches of the closest giant oak. It was still struggling, over and over I held my breath as it seemed to almost slip and fall, several times actually catching itself at the last moment to hang upside down from the branch in a death defying last minute grab that he seems to have perfected.
I excitedly pointed it out to Master. “There it is… there is that hurt squirrel! It didn’t die!!!”
And as we watched, it worked its way out, inching its way along, slipping, catching, twitching, and finally began to nibble at the fresh new leaves, just like the others were doing. In fact as I watched I realized he was just as fat and sleek as the others. He had figured out how to survive, even thrive. He had adapted to its disability.
I commented that we were going to have to name this one. “Flash or Gimp or Wonky.” But because of his propensity for sudden and unpredictable flops to one side…. Master decided Benny… after Benny Hill. There is a scene in the old Benny Hill shows where he is riding a tricycle and falls over onto his side. It is a phrase we have for the abrupt loss of balance I experience at times on a bicycle. It is translated now to this unfortunate squirrel.
I have been keeping a sharp eye out and have managed to take some videos with my little digital camera... this is one of the least shaky and better focused.
Hopefully Benny will continue to thrive… and I will continue to keep giving you guys updates.