A few summers ago I took some time to drive out to the old home place where I grew up during the 50’s and 60’s. Lots of memories accompany me with every visit so each trip is a “grounding” of sorts. I think we all need that from time to time, or at least I do.
On one particular trip in early summer I noticed a small critter scurrying through the parched grass a short distance away and after closer inspection I recognized a little Mexican ground squirrel quite busy looking for some grub to store in his burrow. Being somewhat familiar with the habits of these little boogers I quietly approached with my camera and shot some images. Seeming to be somewhat unafraid of my 6 ft frame towering nearby, it was clear that I should take advantage of his acceptance of me and plan a routine pilgrimage to solidify our symbiotic friendship.
As the visits became routine “Fat Earl” and I became pals and he trusted my being near him at all times. I would often find him/her seeds to eat and occasionally an insect for dessert, an added morsel he seemed to relish.
Over the course of the summer I took over a thousand photos of Fat Earl doing what ground squirrels do. Then one day I drove up and something was different. Earl did not come running when I exited the pickup. An ominous void troubled me as I approached his burrow, a feeling that perhaps all was over for the little dude. After several minutes of imitating his call, a whistle that always brought a response, I knew that our time together was over.
I never knew for certain what happened to Fat Earl but suspect he was a casualty of the age old law in nature that has defined wildness since time immortal. Perhaps a coyote, bobcat or more likely a winged predator took the little guy. Although I was saddened at this loss, I understood. It is the way of life on the wild side. Adios Fat Earl…I will not forget you.