Scarface

Trigger warning: Excessive emotionality

This is liable to be the sappiest post I’ll ever write. Take a look at this picture:

A chipmunk eating birdseed out of my hand.

When I show someone this picture, he or she usually starts lecturing me on how it’s not good to touch wild animals. I know. Normally I don’t. This was a very special little chipmunk that I called Scarface.

The summer before last, I was living with my sister while trying to straighten out my career. At that time, I was taking some graduate level computer science classes. I was also doing a lot of work in my sister’s yard. Most mornings, I’d get up, take my coffee and have my breakfast sitting on the ground near the bird feeder with my camera. It was like an avian portrait studio. As long as you don’t mind that every bird has the same pose against the same backdrop, I have a whole lot of lovely pictures of goldfinches, house finches, house sparrows, song sparrows, white throated sparrows, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, doves, cowbirds – and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. After a few weeks, my presence became part of the furniture. The small rodents also began to get used to me.

chipmunk

Eventually, I decided that the bird feeder was not the most aesthetically appealing backdrop. I started putting piles of birdseed in places that looked better to me. Apparently, it didn’t look better to the birds. The chipmunks, however, were quite thankful. There was one little chipmunk that would run across some railroad ties when I came out the door. One day, I was getting ready to do a little gardening. I put away my camera and started to put away the birdseed. The little chipmunk ran in front of me and stood up on his hind legs. I had my gardening gloves with me and I put them on, took a handful of birdseed and held out my hand just to see what would happen. I knew he ate birdseed, because he’d been raiding the feeders. I really assumed he would run away. Instead, he ran into my hand and and stuffed his little cheeks. From then on, almost every morning, I’d go out and sit in the middle of the patio with some birdseed and my little friend would run into my hand.

Chipmunks are not long-lived. Global warming is taking a toll on their populations. Little Scarface has gone on to that great burrow in the sky, but fortunately I got a few photos of him before he left us.

Close-up of a chipmunk with stuffed cheeks.

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