Monday, January 26, 2009

Samantha the Squirrel

While I was away in college, my mother found an injured baby squirrel and nursed it back to health. She had that gift with animals of all kinds. For additional context, "Samuel Moroni Hawkes" was the name my Mom had picked out for a ninth baby that never came. (He may heard the name and decided to take a pass ...)

September 5, 1993. Dear Tim: We have a new baby at home. For the first few days we called it Samuel Moroni Hawkes, but my brother Alan told me it had better be Samantha. So, Samantha it is. Cocoa [our cat] found a squirrel that had obviously fallen from its nest in one of the trees in the neighborhood. I heard its pathetic cry. When it cried the second time, I couldn’t stand it and ran out to see what it was. Cocoa had bitten it, and it had an abrasion on its tummy. I was sure it would die, so I wrapped it up and put it in a quiet corner of my bedroom. At bedtime, I found it still alive and wished it would go peacefully. As we were falling asleep, it made a pathetic sound like a nuzzling pup. Dad said, “Mary Jane, it’s hungry. You’ve got to feed that thing.” I was doubtful that food would do anything but kill it, but I got up and fixed baby pablum with honey and a little canola oil. I expected it to be dead by morning. Instead, it was ravenous. I went to the pet store and bought milk for newborn puppies. It smells like liquid vitamins, but it seems to have done the trick. So far, so good. … It’s wounds seem to be healing without infection. Amazing.

Eventually, Samantha became a part of the family. My mother described the bittersweet occasion of releasing her into the wild in a subsequent letter to a family friend.

October 6, 1993. Dear Wendy: Our little squirrel has just spent its fourth night outside in a tree somewhere. So, this year, I dread owls and winter. After six years of living here, I heard two owls in the early morning darkness. I woke from a sound sleep when I heard them. I keep checking the squirrel nests in the trees and wondering how that pile of dry leaves can keep a little thing like our squirrel warm and dry. It became such a darling pet before we took it outside. We watched it pull its tail up like a blanket over its face. We watched it yawn and stretch in the morning. It even lifted its arm to be scratched underneath when we scratched its tummy. The first three days we put it outside, it came to us again at night to sleep inside. Finally, it didn't return . . . .

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