I stood inside at the glass front door, observing the grey squirrel search for food just a few feet away from me. Rummaging through the leaves jammed between the rocks and gravel that take the place of a yard, the beast nervously bolted upright every few seconds, as if it heard or saw something alarming. When it found something appealing or edible, it sat up on its hind legs, using its front paws to hold the goods to its mouth as its tail twitched apprehensively. I watched its teeth buzz through a nut like a tiny chain saw, the speed with which it opened and closed its jaws almost breathtaking.
After the meal, it turned its attention back to the ground, its nose buried in the leaves seeking more food. Suddenly, it popped straight up, turned one hundred and eighty degrees in mid-air, and leaped onto the trunk of a massive tree a few feet away from where it had been foraging. It crawled a few feet up the trunk then clung, motionless, for a few seconds before furiously twitching its tail and turning around, its head facing downward.
When it turned toward the ground, its rear legs spread far apart and the fingers of its paws seemed to splay widely. And there it stayed for a good minute and a half, its head moving ever so slightly from time to time, lifting one of its front paws occasionally as if to take a step, then returning it to clutch the tree.
Finally, I opened the glass door. In the blink of an eye, the squirrel turned and scurried up and around the trunk of the tree, out of my line of sight. Looking up, I rounded the tree to see the squirrel disappear into the branches twenty or thirty feet above me. It could not have moved vertically any faster if it had jumped out of the tree and free-fallen to the ground.
The squirrels here are smaller than the ones I’m used to in Dallas. In Dallas, the squirrels are fat and their tails are full and fluffy. In Hot Springs Village, the squirrels appear more mature; swaths of grey invade their brown fur, making them appear as if they are aging. They’re smaller in stature and much thinner than Dallas squirrels, too, as if they work out or they’re dieting. And I’ve noticed they seem less social than their Dallas cousins. In Dallas, it is common to see squirrels chasing one another as if engaged in play. Here, they seem to keep to themselves, focusing on work instead of play.
At some point in the future, maybe days or maybe months, I will do some research to learn more about the types of squirrels I see here to determine whether my observations thus far are correct. Are they really different from their Dallas counterparts? This curiosity has not reached the point of claiming a priority in my “things to do” list, but it has been appropriately filed in my “someday” folder.