The Stinson Block Road
O-ka-lee o-ka-lee o-ka-lee! The call of the red-winged blackbird. It’s a male and he’s somewhere over there, perched in the bulrushes of the nearby creek. The nasal sounding red-wing’s song is the bugle call of spring; when the freshets run through every hollow; the time of year when the cold muck sucked at your gumboots as you chased the creeks as a kid; when the peepers ring out from every wetland as the longer days give way to night.
All of it greeted us as I turned off the ignition of the rattling diesel engine of my truck. I stepped onto the gravel surface; a recent rain spilled over the roadside ditches. Everywhere the molting scent of the earth released from the hand of winter rose through the air.
With my friend Pierre in the passenger seat, we had idled along Stinson Block Road as we scouted the right place for the release. It seemed that here among the tall maples and birch would be an ideal new turf for Red, the feisty red squirrel.
Seems like Red is an ongoing story. Late last fall during renovation of my studio, it came to a showdown of who would rule the dwelling.
Red had been persistent over the years in finding new ways to get into the barn studio. I would cover one entrance hole and he would bore a new adjacent one overnight. It became a game of Beep Beep the road runner. Except my role as Wile E. Coyote was becoming less droll as every conceivable option was investigated to allow me to finish the building without Red continuing his tenancy.
Sure, I could handle the loud scolding from the nearby trees when Red would holler at my every move. And letting him have a home in the barn wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t mind the barrel loads of walnuts that spilled over the floor every time I came to move something. I mean sheesh, eh!
So the dilemma of what to do became the topic of the day. As time went on it was decided that the right thing would be to coax Red into a cage trap and relocate him. The coaxing game played out daily until an exhausted Wile E. Coyote finally won a round. But it was clear that it was now too late in the season, and inhumane to relocate Red to new territory without food and a home in what was now November. What to do? What to do? Pierre would board him at his place, he offered. And so it was that Red spent the winter in the warm setting of my friend’s airy walkout basement.
From time to time, we come upon dilemmas where deciding the right thing can be a dilemma in itself. In this case, I weighed the bending of the rules of capturing wildlife; it was also on me to take responsibility for the outcome. The irony of becoming the winter caregiver for the infamous problem-squirrel-from-hell was not lost on anyone as a filing cabinet drawer was converted to a food locker chockablock with a variety of nuts and greens and fruit. A routine that included a trip to the feed store to stock up on wood shavings for Red’s cage also became a topic of jest that, unaware to Wile E., Red had outwitted him yet again.
The winter is now behind us and Red’s coat of fur robust; the call of the red-winged blackbird told us that it was time for the squirrel to be released. It wasn’t going to be a case of somebody else’s backyard, and red squirrels’ aptitude for returning to the old stomping grounds meant a new locale had to be thought through leading up to the day of release: today.
Pierre and I carefully moved the cage from the truck and carried it into the bush. A stash of nuts was placed below a tree and the cage, now laid on the forest floor, was opened. Our friend Red barely said adieu as his shiny red coat could be seen high above, pouncing from limb to branch to climb again with the vigor of a new-found freedom.
We stood in the quiet of a running brook; the song of the chickadees and the robins. The rustle of dead undergrowth of last season beneath our feet carried us back to my vehicle. And just before leaving, from far in the distance, I could hear the loud chatter of one last scolding echo from deep in the forest.