“Nothing!”

I’d asked a friend what he’d gotten his wife for Mother’s Day. “She’s not my mother,” he added as an explanation. If his words had been a map, it’d been labeled, “Here be dragons.”

I buy my wife something for Mother’s Day. I had good ideas for gifts, but after being married for years, I’d used them up. I didn’t know what to get her. I went for a walk beyond the concrete. I’ve learned ideas come when walking. Nietzsche wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Edwin Way Teale said, “All things seem possible in May.” I had gift ideas, but they didn’t seem right. Then lightning bolts flashed over the castle’s turrets. The perfect gift was a back of a napkin idea without a napkin. It was something she wouldn’t buy for herself. Six young fox squirrels not quite ready for prime time.

My wife and I have helped animals get to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville for many years. It’s a wonderful place for critters in need of help. It had six young fox squirrels that needed a home. A couple of beneficent women brought the squirrels to our humble place and released them. The compassionate caregivers said they’d miss the squirrels that loved eating avocados. I’m sure the squirrels’ minds were boggled by their new world. With intended bewilderment, I watched the squirrels take to our woods as if they were leaves lifted by the wind.

The 21st of January is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Mark your calendars now. A caller asked why there are so many squirrels on college campuses. A campus provides a squirrel with a good living and a fine education. Squirrels are more at home there than the students. If squirrels believed in reincarnation, college would be where the good squirrels go. The ubiquitous squirrels relish a verdant campus with limited traffic, a limited number of free-roaming dogs, large trees providing food and nesting sites, and litter that can become food for a resourceful rodent. Squirrels are bold because they believe in what they’re doing. They know students have treats in those backpacks and teach the scholars to hand them over or face a hissy fit. How did the squirrels get there in the first place? I believe a squirrel is a common gift for high school graduates. That’s just a theory.

When I shared what my wife’s gifts had been with friends and relatives, there was one common response, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me.” Several brought up our wedding — the part when Reverend Fick asked attendees, “If any of you can show just cause why they may not be lawfully wed, speak now, or else forever hold your peace.” My wife’s family formed a line stretching around the block to offer their two cents’ worth.

Squirrels are an affordable source of entertainment. It’s a rare individual who doesn’t have a squirrel story. Ray Stevens sang about a boy letting a squirrel loose in a church: “Squirrel ran up Harv Newlan’s coveralls. Harv leaped to his feet and said, ‘Somethin’s got a hold on me! Yeow!’ The day the squirrel went berserk in the First Self-Righteous Church In that sleepy little town of Pascagoula. It was a fight for survival that broke out in revival. They were jumpin’ pews and shouting Hallelujah! Well, Harv hit the aisles dancin’ and screamin’. Some thought he had religion. Others thought he had a demon. And Harv thought he had a weed eater loose in his Fruit-Of-The-Looms. He fell to his knees to plead and beg. And the squirrel ran out of his britches leg.”

Squirrel isn’t my first language, but the squirrels are good company. They don’t offer their political opinions and they aren’t shiftless, but they do have their idiosyncrasies. They act as we do when we don’t want anyone sitting next to us. They can run 12 mph and have Swiss Army Knives for tails to use as blankets and balance poles. I asked a kid what he liked about squirrels. He answered, “I like the way their tails are attached to their bodies.” You can’t argue with that.

Our fox squirrels are pursuing postgraduate work in squirrel studies. My wife continues to feed them avocados. I hope I’ve convinced them that the roads aren’t paved with avocados.

If you’re thinking of giving us a squirrel of your acquaintance, please don’t. We now have an ample sufficiency.

We’re booked up and while avocados do grow on trees, they don’t grow on trees — if you know what I mean.

Al Batt is a writer, speaker, storyteller and humorist from rural Hartland, Minnesota. He can be reached at snoeowl@aol.com

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