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 THERE is a curious Indian legend about Meeko the red
squirrel—the Mischief-Maker, as the Milicetes call him—which is
also an excellent commentary upon his character. Simmo told it to
me, one day, when we had caught Meeko coming out of a
woodpecker's hole with the last of a brood of fledgelings in his
mouth, chuckling to himself over his hunting.
Long ago, in the days when Clote Scarpe ruled the animals, Meeko
was much larger than he is now, large as Mooween the bear. But
his temper was so fierce, and his disposition so altogether bad
that all the wood folk were threatened with destruction. Meeko
killed right and left with the temper of a weasel, who kills from
pure lust of blood. So Clote Scarpe, to save the little
woods-people, made Meeko smaller—small as he is now.
 Scarpe forgot Meeko's disposition; that
remained as big and as bad as before. So now Meeko goes about the
woods with a small body and a big temper, barking, scolding,
quarreling and, since he cannot destroy in his rage as before,
setting other animals by the ears to destroy each other.
When you have listened to Meeko's scolding for a season, and have
seen him going from nest to nest after innocent fledgelings; or
creeping into the den of his big cousin, the beautiful gray
squirrel, to kill the young; or driving away his little cousin,
the chipmunk, to steal his hoarded nuts; or watching every fight
that goes on in the woods, jeering and chuckling above it,—then
you begin to understand the Indian legend.
Spite of his evil ways, however, he is interesting and always
unexpected. When you have watched the red squirrel that lives
near your camp all summer, and think you know all about him, he
does the queerest thing, good or bad, to upset all your theories
and even the Indian legends about him.
I remember one that greeted me, the first living thing in the
great woods, as I ran my canoe ashore on a wilderness river.
Meeko heard me coming. His bark sounded loudly, in a big spruce,
above the dip of the paddles. As we turned shoreward, he ran
the tree in which he was, and out on a fallen log to meet us. I
grasped a branch of the old log to steady the canoe and watched
him curiously. He had never seen a man before; he barked, jeered,
scolded, jerked his tail, whistled, did everything within his
power to make me show my teeth and my disposition.
Suddenly he grew excited—and when Meeko grows excited the woods
are not big enough to hold him. He came nearer and nearer to my
canoe till he leaped upon the gunwale and sat there chattering,
as if he were Adjidaumo come back again and I were Hiawatha. All
the while he had poured out a torrent of squirrel talk, but now
his note changed; jeering and scolding and curiosity went out of
it; something else crept in. I began to feel, somehow, that he
was trying to make me understand something, and found me very
stupid about it.
I began to talk quietly, calling him a rattle-head and a
disturber of the peace. At the first sound of my voice he
listened with intense curiosity, then leaped to the log, ran the
length of it, jumped down and began to dig furiously among the
moss and dead leaves. Every moment or two he would stop, and jump
to the log to see if I were watching him.
Presently he ran to my canoe, sprang upon the gunwale, jumped
back again, and ran along the log
 as before to where he had been
digging. He did it again, looking back at me and saying plainly:
"Come here; come and look." I stepped out of the canoe to the old
log, whereupon Meeko went off into a fit of terrible
excitement.—I was bigger than he expected; I had only two legs;
kut-e-k'chuck, kut-e-k'chuck! whit, whit, whit, kut-e-k'chuck!
I stood where I was until he got over his excitement. Then he
came towards me, and led me along the log, with much chuckling
and jabbering, to the hole in the leaves where he had been
digging. When I bent over it he sprang to a spruce trunk, on a
level with my head, fairly bursting with excitement, but watching
me with intensest interest. In the hole I found a small lizard,
one of the rare kind that lives under logs and loves the dusk. He
had been bitten through the back and disabled. He could still use
legs, tail and head feebly, but could not run away. When I picked
him up and held him in my hand, Meeko came closer with
loud-voiced curiosity, longing to leap to my hand and claim his
own, but held back by fear.—"What is it? He's mine; I found him.
What is it?" he barked, jumping about as if bewitched. Two
curiosities, the lizard and the man, were almost too much for
him. I never saw a squirrel more excited. He had evidently found
the lizard by
 accident, bit him to keep him still, and then,
astonished by the rare find, hid him away where he could dig him
out and watch him at leisure.
I put the lizard back into the hole and covered him with leaves;
then went to unloading my canoe. Meeko watched me closely. And
the moment I was gone he dug away the leaves, took his treasure
out, watched it with wide bright eyes, bit it once more to keep
it still, and covered it up again carefully. Then he came
chuckling along to where I was putting up my tent.
In a week he owned the camp, coming and going at his own will,
stealing my provisions when I forgot to feed him, and scolding me
roundly at every irregular occurrence. He was an early riser and
insisted on my conforming to the custom. Every morning he would
leap at daylight from a fir tip to my ridgepole, run it along to
the front and sit there, barking and whistling, until I put my
head out of my door, or until Simmo came along with his axe. Of
Simmo and his axe Meeko had a mortal dread, which I could not
understand till one day when I paddled silently back to camp and,
instead of coming up the path, sat idly in my canoe watching the
Indian, who had broken his one pipe and now sat making another
out of a chunk of black alder and a length of nanny bush.
 Simmo was as interesting to watch, in his way, as any of the wood
Presently Meeko came down, chattering his curiosity at seeing the
Indian so still and so occupied. A red squirrel is always unhappy
unless he knows all about everything. He watched from the nearest
tree for a while, but could not make up his mind what was doing.
Then he came down on the ground and advanced a foot at a time,
jumping up continually but coming down in the same spot, barking
to make Simmo turn his head and show his hand. Simmo watched out
of the corner of his eye until Meeko was near a solitary tree
which stood in the middle of the camp ground, when he jumped up
suddenly and rushed at the squirrel, who sprang to the tree and
ran to a branch out of reach, snickering and jeering.
Simmo took his axe deliberately and swung it mightily at the foot
of the tree, as if to chop it down; only he hit the trunk with
the head, not the blade of his weapon. At the first blow, which
made his toes tingle, Meeko stopped jeering and ran higher. Simmo
swung again and Meeko went up another notch. So it went on, Simmo
looking up intently to see the effect and Meeko running higher
after each blow, until the tiptop was reached. Then Simmo gave a
 mighty whack; the squirrel leaped far out and came to the
ground, sixty feet below; picked himself up, none the worse for
his leap, and rushed scolding away to his nest. Then Simmo said
umpfh! like a bear, and went back to his pipe-making. He had not
smiled nor relaxed the intent expression of his face during the
whole little comedy.
I found out afterwards that making Meeko jump from a tree top is
one of the few diversions of Indian children. I tried it myself
many times with many squirrels, and found to my astonishment that
a jump from any height, however great, is no concern to a
squirrel, red or gray. They have a way of flattening the body and
bushy tail against the air, which breaks their fall. Their
bodies, and especially their bushy tails, have a curious
tremulous motion, like the quiver of wings, as they come down.
The flying squirrel's sailing down from a tree top to another
tree, fifty feet away, is but an exaggeration, due to the
membrane connecting the fore and hind legs, of what all squirrels
practice continually. I have seen a red squirrel land lightly
after jumping from an enormous height, and run away as if nothing
unusual had happened. But though I have watched them often, I
have never seen a squirrel do this except when compelled to do
so. When chased by a weasel or a marten, or when the
 axe beats
against the trunk below—either because the vibration hurts
their feet, or else they fear the tree is being cut down—they
use the strange gift to save their lives. But I fancy it is a
breathless experience, and they never try it for fun, though I
have seen them do all sorts of risky stumps in leaping from
branch to branch.
It is a curious fact that, though a squirrel leaps from a great
height without hesitation, it is practically impossible to make
him take a jump of a few feet to the ground. Probably the upward
rush of air, caused by falling a long distance, is necessary to
flatten the body enough to make him land lightly.
It would be interesting to know whether the raccoon also, a
large, heavy animal, has the same way of breaking his fall when
he jumps from a height. One bright moonlight night, when I ran
ahead of the dogs, I saw a big coon leap from a tree to the
ground, a distance of some thirty or forty feet. The dogs had
treed him in an evergreen, and he left them howling below while
he stole silently from branch to branch until a good distance
away, when to save time he leaped to the ground. He struck with a
heavy thump, but ran on uninjured as swiftly as before, and gave
the dogs a long run before they treed him again.
 The sole of a coon's foot is padded thick with fat and gristle,
so that it must feel like landing on springs when he jumps; but I
suspect that he also knows the squirrel trick of flattening his
body and tail against the air so as to fall lightly.
The chipmunk seems to be the only one of the squirrel family in
whom this gift is wanting. Possibly he has it also, if the need
ever comes. I fancy, however, that he would fare badly if
compelled to jump from a spruce top, for his body is heavy and
his tail small from long living on the ground; all of which seems
to indicate that the tree-squirrel's bushy tail is given him, not
for ornament, but to aid his passage from branch to branch, and
to break his fall when he comes down from a height.
By way of contrast with Meeko, you may try a curious trick on the
chipmunk. It is not easy to get him into a tree; he prefers a log
or an old wall when frightened; and he is seldom more than two or
three jumps from his den. But watch him as he goes from his
garner to the grove where the acorns are, or to the field where
his winter corn is ripening. Put yourself near his path (he
always follows the same one to and fro) where there is no refuge
close at hand. Then, as he comes along, rush at him suddenly and
he will take to the nearest tree in his
 alarm. When he recovers
from his fright—which is soon over; for he is the most trustful
of squirrels and looks down at you with interest, never
questioning your motives—take a stick and begin to tap the tree
softly. The more slow and rhythmical your tattoo the sooner he is
charmed. Presently he comes down closer and closer, his eyes
filled with strange wonder. More than once I have had a chipmunk
come to my hand and rest upon it, looking everywhere for the
queer sound that brought him down, forgetting fright and
cornfield and coming winter in his bright curiosity.
Meeko is a bird of another color. He never trusts you nor anybody
else fully, and his curiosity is generally of the vulgar, selfish
kind. When the autumn woods are busy places, and wings flutter
and little feet go pattering everywhere after winter supplies, he
also begins garnering, remembering the hungry days of last
winter. But he is always more curious to see what others are
doing than to fill his own bins. He seldom trusts to one
storehouse—he is too suspicious for that—but hides his things
in twenty different
 places; some shagbarks in the old wall, a
handful of acorns in a hollow tree, an ear of corn under the
eaves of the old barn, a pint of chestnuts scattered about in the
trees, some in crevices in the bark, some in a pine crotch
covered carefully with needles, and one or two stuck firmly into
the splinters of every broken branch that is not too conspicuous.
But he never gathers much at a time. The moment he sees anybody
else gathering he forgets his own work and goes spying to see
where others are hiding their store. The little chipmunk, who
knows his thieving and his devices, always makes one turn, at
least, in the tunnel to his den too small for Meeko to follow.
He sees a blue jay flitting through the woods, and knows by his
unusual silence that he is hiding things. Meeko follows after
him, stopping all his jabber and stealing from tree to tree,
watching patiently, for hours if need be, until he knows that
Deedeeaskh is gathering corn from a certain field. Then he
watches the line of flight, like a bee hunter, and sees
Deedeeaskh disappear twice by an oak on the wood's edge, a
hundred yards away. Meeko rushes away at a headlong pace and
hides himself in the oak. There he traces the jay's line of
flight a little farther into the woods; sees the unconscious
thief disappear by
 an old pine. Meeko hides in the pine, and so
traces the jay straight to one of his storehouses.
Sometimes Meeko is so elated over the discovery that, with all
the fields laden with food, he cannot wait for winter. When the
jay goes away Meeko falls to eating or to carrying away his
store. More often he marks the spot and goes away silently. When
he is hungry he will carry off Deedeeaskh's corn before touching
Once I saw the tables turned in a most interesting fashion.
Deedeeaskh is as big a thief in his way as is Meeko, and also as
vile a nest-robber. The red squirrel had found a hoard of
chestnuts—small fruit, but sweet and good—and was hiding it
away. Part of it he stored in a hollow under the stub of a broken
branch, twenty feet from the ground, so near the source of supply
that no one would ever think of looking for it there. I was
hidden away in a thicket when I discovered him at his work quite
by accident. He seldom came twice to the same spot, but went off
to his other storehouses in succession. After an unusually long
absence, when I was expecting him every moment, a blue jay came
stealing into the tree, spying and sneaking about, as if a nest
of fresh thrush's eggs were somewhere near. He smelled a mouse
evidently, for after a moment's spying he hid
 himself away in the
tree top, close up against the trunk. Presently Meeko came back,
with his face bulging as if he had toothache, uncovered his
store, emptied in the half dozen chestnuts from his cheek pockets
and covered them all up again.
The moment he was gone the blue jay went straight to the spot,
seized a mouthful of nuts and flew swiftly away. He made three
trips before the squirrel came back. Meeko in his hurry never
noticed the loss, but emptied his pockets and was off to the
chestnut tree again. When he returned, the jay in his eagerness
had disturbed the leaves which covered the hidden store. Meeko
noticed it and was all suspicion in an instant. He whipped off
the covering and stood staring down intently into the garner,
evidently trying to compute the number he had brought and the
number that were there. Then a terrible scolding began, a
scolding that was broken short off when a distant screaming of
jays came floating through the woods. Meeko covered his store
hurriedly, ran along a limb and leaped to the next tree, where he
hid in a knot hole, just his eyes visible, watching his garner
keenly out of the darkness.
Meeko has no patience. Three or four times he showed himself
nervously. Fortunately for me, the
 jay had found some excitement
to keep his rattle-brain busy for a moment. A flash of blue, and
he came stealing back, just as Meeko had settled himself for more
watching. After much pecking and listening the jay flew down to
the storehouse, and Meeko, unable to contain himself a moment
longer at sight of the thief, jumped out of his hiding and came
rushing along the limb, hurling threats and vituperation ahead of
him. The jay fluttered off, screaming derision. Meeko followed,
hurling more abuse, but soon gave up the chase and came back to
his chestnuts. It was curious to watch him there, sitting
motionless and intent, his nose close down to his treasure,
trying to compute his loss. Then he stuffed his cheeks full and
began carrying his hoard off to another hiding place.
Hurling threats and vituperation ahead of him
The autumn woods are full of such little comedies. Jays, crows,
and squirrels are all hiding away winter's supplies, and no
matter how great the abundance, not one of them can resist the
temptation to steal or to break into another's garner.
Meeko is a poor provider; he would much rather live on buds and
bark and apple seeds and fir cones, and what he can steal from
others in the winter, than bother himself with laying up supplies
of his own. When the spring comes he goes a-hunting, and is for
season the most villainous of nest-robbers. Every bird in the
woods then hates him, takes a jab at him, and cries thief, thief!
wherever he goes.
On a trout brook once I had a curious sense of comradeship with
Meeko. It was in the early spring, when all the wild things make
holiday, and man goes a-fishing. Near the brook a red squirrel
had tapped a maple tree with his teeth and was tasting the sweet
sap as it came up scantily. Seeing him and remembering my own
boyhood, I cut a little hollow into the bark of a black birch
tree and, when it brimmed full, drank the sap with immense
satisfaction. Meeko stopped his own drinking to watch, then to
scold and denounce me roundly.
While my cup was filling again I went down to the brook and took
a wary old trout from his den under the end of a log, where the
foam bubbles were dancing merrily. When I went back, thirsting
for another sweet draught from the same spring, Meeko had emptied
it to the last drop and had his nose down in the bottom of my
cup, catching the sap as it welled up with an abundance that must
have surprised him. When I went away quietly he followed me
through the wood to the pool at the edge of the meadow, to see
what I would do next.
 Wherever you go in the wilderness you find Meeko ahead of you,
and all the best camping grounds preempted by him. Even on the
islands he seems to own the prettiest spots, and disputes
mightily your right to stay there; though he is generally glad
enough of your company to share his loneliness, and shows it
Once I found one living all by himself on an island in the middle
of a wilderness lake, with no company whatever except a family of
mink, who are his enemies. He had probably crossed on the ice in
the late spring, and while he was busy here and there with his
explorations the ice broke up, cutting off his retreat to the
mainland, which was too far away for his swimming. So he was a
prisoner for the long summer, and welcomed me gladly to share his
exile. He was the only red squirrel I ever met that never scolded
me roundly at least once a day. His loneliness had made him quite
tame. Most of the time he lived within sight of my tent door. Not
even Simmo's axe, though it made him jump twice from the top of a
spruce, could keep him long away. He had twenty
 ways of getting
up an excitement, and whenever he barked out in the woods I knew
that it was simply to call me to see his discovery,—a new nest,
a loon that swam up close, a thieving muskrat, a hawk that rested
on a dead stub, the mink family eating my fish heads,—and when I
stole out to see what it was, he would run ahead, barking and
chuckling at having some one to share his interests with him.
In such places squirrels use the ice for occasional journeys to
the mainland. Sometimes also, when the waters are calm, they swim
over. Hunters have told me that when the breeze is fair they make
use of a floating bit of wood, sitting up straight with tail
curled over their backs, making a sail of their bodies—just as
an Indian, with no knowledge of sailing whatever, puts a spruce
bush in a bow of his canoe and lets the wind do his work for him.
That would be the sight of a lifetime, to see Meeko sailing his
boat; but I have no doubt whatever that it is true. The only red
squirrel that I ever saw in the water fell in by accident. He
swam rapidly to a floating board, shook himself, sat up with his
tail raised along his back, and began to dry himself. After a
little he saw that the slight breeze was setting him farther from
shore. He began to chatter excitedly, and changed his position
two or three times,
 evidently trying to catch the wind right.
Finding that it was of no use, he plunged in again and swam
easily to land.
That he lives and thrives in the wilderness, spite of enemies and
hunger and winter cold, is a tribute to his wits. He never
hibernates, except in severe storms, when for a few days he lies
close in his den. Hawks and owls and weasels and martens hunt him
continually; yet he more than holds his own in the big woods,
which would lose some of their charm if their vast silences were
not sometimes broken by his petty scoldings.
As with most wild creatures, the squirrels that live in touch
with civilization are much keener witted than their wilderness
brethren. The most interesting one I ever knew lived in the trees
just outside my dormitory window, in a New England college town.
He was the patriarch of a large family, and the greatest thief
and rascal among them. I speak of the family,
 but, so far as I
could see, there was very little family life. Each one shifted
for himself the moment he was big enough, and stole from all the
It was while watching these squirrels that I discovered first
that they have regular paths among the trees, as well defined as
our own highways. Not only has each squirrel his own private
paths and ways, but all the squirrels follow certain courses
along the branches in going from one tree to another. Even the
strange squirrels, which ventured at times into the grove,
followed these highways as if they had been used to them all
On a recent visit to the old dormitory I watched the squirrels
for a while, and found that they used exactly the same paths,—up
the trunk of a big oak to a certain boss, along a branch to a
certain crook, a jump to a linden twig and so on, making use of
one of the highways that I had watched them following ten years
before. Yet this course was not the shortest between two points,
and there were a hundred other branches that they might have
I had the good fortune one morning to see Meeko, the patriarch,
make a new path for himself that none of the others ever followed
so long as I was in the dormitory. He had a home den over a
 a hiding place for acorns in a hollow linden.
Between the two was a driveway; but though the branches arched
over it from either side, the jump was too great for him to take.
A hundred times I saw him run out on the farthest oak twig and
look across longingly at the maple that swayed on the other side.
It was perhaps three feet away, with no branches beneath to seize
and break his fall in case he missed his spring,—altogether too
much for a red squirrel to attempt. He would rush out as if
determined to try it, time after time, but always his courage
failed him; he had to go down the oak trunk and cross the
driveway on the ground, where numberless straying dogs were
always ready to chase him.
One morning I saw him run twice in succession at the jump, only
to turn back. But the air was keen and bracing, and he felt its
inspiration. He drew farther back, then came rushing along the
oak branch and, before he had time to be afraid, hurled himself
across the chasm. He landed fairly on the maple twig, with
several inches to spare, and hung there with claws and teeth,
swaying up and down gloriously. Then, chattering his delight at
himself, he ran down the maple, back across the driveway, and
tried the jump three times in succession to be sure he could do
 After that he sprang across frequently. But I noticed that
whenever the branches were wet with rain or sleet he never
attempted it; and he never tried the return jump, which was
uphill, and which he seemed to know by instinct was too much to
When I began feeding him, in the cold winter days, he showed me
many curious bits of his life. First I put some nuts near the top
of an old well, among the stones of which he used to hide things
in the autumn. Long after he had eaten all his store he used to
come and search the crannies among the stones to see if
perchance he had overlooked any trifles. When he found a handful
of shagbarks, one morning, in a hole only a foot below the
surface, his astonishment knew no bounds. His first thought was
that he had forgotten them all these hungry days, and he promptly
ate the biggest of the store within sight, a thing I never saw a
squirrel do before. His second thought—I could see it in his
changed attitude, his sudden creepings and hidings—was that some
other squirrel had hidden them there since his last visit.
Whereupon he carried them all off and hid them in a broken linden
Then I tossed him peanuts, throwing them first far away, then
nearer and nearer till he would come to my window-sill. And when
I woke one morning he
 was sitting there looking in at the window,
waiting for me to get up and bring his breakfast.
In a week he had showed me all his hiding places. The most
interesting of these was over a roofed piazza in a building near
by. He had gnawed a hole under the eaves, where it would not be
noticed, and lived there in solitary grandeur during stormy days
in a den four by eight feet, and rain-proof. In one corner was a
bushel of corncobs, some of them two or three years old, which he
had stolen from a cornfield near by in the early autumn mornings.
With characteristic improvidence he had fallen to eating the corn
while yet there was plenty more to be gathered. In consequence he
was hungry before February was half over, and living by his wits,
like his brother of the wilderness.
The other squirrels soon noticed his journeys to my window, and
presently they too came for their share. Spite of his fury in
driving them away, they managed in twenty ways to circumvent him.
It was most interesting, while he sat on my window-sill eating
peanuts, to see the nose and eyes of another squirrel peering
over the crotch of the nearest tree, watching the proceedings
from his hiding place. Then I would give Meeko five or six
peanuts at once. Instantly the old hiding instinct would come
 back; he would start away, taking as much of his store as he
could carry with him. The moment he was gone, out would come a
squirrel—sometimes two or three from their concealment—and
carry off all the peanuts that remained.
Meeko's wrath when he returned was most comical. The Indian
legend is true as gospel to squirrel nature. If he returned
unexpectedly and caught one of the intruders, there was always a
furious chase and a deal of scolding and squirrel jabber before
peace was restored and the peanuts eaten.
Once, when he had hidden a dozen or more nuts in the broken
linden branch, a very small squirrel came prowling along and
discovered the store. In an instant he was all alertness,
peeking, listening, exploring, till quite sure that the coast was
clear, when he rushed away headlong with a mouthful.
He did not return that day; but the next morning early I saw him
do the same thing. An hour later Meeko appeared and, finding
nothing on the window-sill, went to the linden. Half his store of
yesterday was gone. Curiously enough, he did not suspect at first
that they were stolen. Meeko is always quite sure that nobody
knows his secrets. He searched the tree over, went to his other
hiding places, came back, counted his peanuts, then searched the
 beneath, thinking, no doubt, the wind must have blown them
out—all this before he had tasted a peanut of those that
Slowly it dawned upon him that he had been robbed and there was
an outburst of wrath. But instead of carrying what were left to
another place, he left them where they were, still without
eating, and hid himself near by to watch. I neglected a lecture
in philosophy to see the proceedings, but nothing happened.
Meeko's patience soon gave out, or else he grew hungry, for he
ate two or three of his scanty supply of peanuts, scolding and
threatening to himself. But he left the rest carefully where they
Two or three times that day I saw him sneaking about, keeping a
sharp eye on the linden; but the little thief was watching too,
and kept out of the way.
Early next morning a great hubbub rose outside my window, and I
jumped up to see what was going on. Little Thief had come back,
and Big Thief caught him in the act of robbery. Away they went
pell-mell, jabbering like a flock of blackbirds, along a linden
branch, through two maples, across a driveway, and up a big elm
where Little Thief whisked out of sight into a knot hole.
 After him came Big Thief, swearing vengeance. But the knot hole
was too small; he couldn't get in. Twist and turn and push and
threaten as he would, he could not get in; and Little Thief sat
just inside jeering maliciously.
Meeko gave it up after a while and went off, nursing his wrath.
But ten feet from the tree a thought struck him. He rushed away
out of sight, making a great noise, then came back quietly and
hid under an eave where he could watch the knot hole.
Presently Little Thief came out, rubbed his eyes, and looked all
about. Through my glass I could see Meeko blinking and twitching
under the dark eave, trying to control his anger. Little Thief
ventured to a branch a few feet away from his refuge, and Big
Thief, unable to hold himself a moment longer, rushed out, firing
a volley of direful threats ahead of him. In a flash Little Thief
was back in his knot hole and the comedy began all over again.
I never saw how it ended; but for a day or two there was an
unusual amount of chasing and scolding going on outside my
It was this same big squirrel that first showed me a curious
trick of hiding. Whenever he found a handful of nuts on my
window-sill and suspected that other squirrels were watching to
share the bounty, he
 had a way of hiding them all very rapidly.
He would never carry them direct to his various garners; first,
because these were too far away, and the other squirrels would
steal while he was gone; second, because, with hungry eyes
watching somewhere, they might follow and find out where he
habitually kept things. So he used to hide them all on the
ground, under the leaves in autumn, under snow in winter, and all
within sight of the window-sill, where he could watch the store
as he hurried to and fro. Then, at his leisure, he would dig them
up and carry them off to his den, two cheekfuls at a time.
Each nut was hidden by itself; never so much as two in one spot.
For a long time it puzzled me to know how he remembered so many
places. I noticed first that he would always start from a certain
point, a tree or a stone, with his burden. When it was hidden he
would come back by the shortest route to the window-sill; but with
his new mouthful he would always go first to the tree or stone he
had selected, and from there search out a new hiding place.
It was many days before I noticed that, starting from one fixed
point, he generally worked toward another tree or stone in the
distance. Then his secret was out; he hid things in a line. Next
day he would come back, start from his fixed point and move
 towards the distant one till his nose told him he was over
a peanut, which he dug up and ate or carried away to his den. But
he always seemed to distrust himself; for on hungry days he would
go over two or three of his old lines in the hope of finding a
mouthful that he had overlooked.
This method was used only when he had a large supply to dispose
of hurriedly, and not always then. Meeko is a careless fellow and
soon forgets. When I gave him only a few to dispose of, he hid
them helter-skelter among the leaves, forgetting some of them
afterwards and enjoying the rare delight of stumbling upon them
when he was hungriest—much like a child whom I saw once giving
himself a sensation. He would throw his penny on the ground, go
round the house, and saunter back with his hands in his pockets
till he saw the penny, which he pounced upon with almost the joy
of treasure-trove in the highway.
Meeko made a sad end—a fate which he deserved well enough, but
which I had to pity, spite of myself. When the spring came on, he
went back to evil ways. Sap was sweet and buds were luscious with
the first swelling of tender leaves; spring rains had washed out
plenty of acorns in the crannies under the big oak, and there
were fresh-roasted peanuts still at the corner window-sill
within easy jump of a linden twig;
 but he took to watching the
robins to see where they nested, and when the young were hatched
he came no more to my window. Twice I saw him with fledgelings in
his mouth; and I drove him day after day from a late clutch of
robin's eggs that I could watch from my study.
He had warnings enough. Once some students, who had been friendly
all winter, stoned him out of a tree where he was nest-robbing;
once the sparrows caught him in their nest under the high eaves,
and knocked him off promptly. A twig upon which he caught in
falling saved his life undoubtedly, for the sparrows were after
him and he barely escaped into a knot hole, leaving the angry
horde clamoring outside. But nothing could reform him.
One morning at daylight a great crying of robins brought me to
the window. Meeko was running along a limb, the first of the
fledgelings in his mouth. After him were five or six robins whom
the parents' danger cry had brought to the rescue. They were all
excited and tremendously in earnest. They cried thief! thief! and
swooped at him like hawks. Their cries speedily brought a score
of other birds, some to watch, others to join in the punishment.
Meeko dropped the young bird and ran for his den; but a robin
dashed recklessly in his face and
 knocked him fair from the tree.
That and the fall of the fledgeling excited the birds more than
ever. This thieving bird-eater was not invulnerable. A dozen
rushed at him on the ground and left the marks of their beaks on
his coat before he could reach the nearest tree.
Again he rushed for his den, but wherever he turned now angry
wings fluttered over him and beaks jabbed in his face. Raging but
frightened, he sat up to snarl wickedly. Like a flash a robin
hurled himself down, caught the squirrel just under his ear and
knocked him again to the ground.
Things began to look dark for Meeko. The birds grew bolder and
angrier every minute. When he started to climb a tree he was
hurled off twice ere he reached a crotch and drew himself down
into it. He was safe there with his back against a big limb; they
could not get at him from behind. But the angry clamor in front
frightened him, and again he started for his place of refuge. His
footing was unsteady now and his head dizzy from the blows he had
received. Before he had gone half a limb's length he was again on
the ground, with a dozen birds pecking at him as they swooped
With his last strength he snapped viciously at his foes and
rushed to the linden. My window was
 open, and he came creeping,
hurrying towards it on the branch over which he had often capered
so lightly in the winter days. Over him clamored the birds,
forgetting all fear of me in their hatred of the nest-robber.
A dozen times he was struck on the way, but at every blow he
clung to the branch with claws and teeth, then staggered on
doggedly, making no defense. His whole thought now was to reach
At the place where he always jumped he stopped and began to sway,
gripping the bark with his claws, trying to summon strength for
the effort. He knew it was too much, but it was his last hope. At
the instant of his spring a robin swooped in his face; another
caught him a side blow in mid-air, and he fell heavily to the
stones below.—Sic semper tyrannis! yelled the robins, scattering
wildly as I ran down the steps to save him, if it were not too
He died in my hands a moment later, with curious maliciousness
nipping my finger sharply at the last gasp. He was the only
squirrel of the lot who knew how to hide in a line; and never a
one since his day has taken the jump from oak to maple over the