Even in the midst of suburban life there are encounters with the wild.
This is the story of just such an encounter.
We dominant Homo sapiens must be wary of growing too arrogant.
Sure, we have all manner of sophisticated methods of transportation, communication, and defense.
We have PlayStation 5.
Yet, despite all our technological advancement, the natural world can still suddenly pull us back into a struggle for our very existence.
Beasts dating back to the primordial are still among us – the shark, the wolf, the bear … and the squirrel.
Generally, squirrels might not strike the average person as much of a threat.
They’re rodents, sure, but floppy feel-good rodents, only a tad less cuddly in appearance than a bunny rabbit.
Still, what do we really know about them?
They like nuts, and they like trees.
That’s not a lot to go on.
Perhaps there’s something behind this carefully contrived veil of harmlessness worn by the average squirrel.
Wikipedia notes that the earliest fossil squirrel findings date back to the Eocene period, which I’m assuming was quite a long time ago.
Things don’t fossilize over night.
And Wikipedia notes that the squirrel lives in every part of the world today, from the tropics to desert climes.
They are also ostensibly herbivores but have been known to eat just about anything.
In short, they’re survivors, and not to be taken lightly.
These sobering facts were not on my mind, however, last week when I was finishing up at work and ready to go home.
I was thinking pleasant thoughts as I exited the building, and headed toward my car.
I was even whistling a happy tune – “My Favourite Things” from “The Sound of Music.”
Little did I know that a more appropriate tune would have been John Williams’ theme from “Jaws.”
I was the last one out that day, so the parking lot was empty except for my trusty Ford Focus.
There is a humongous blue metal dumpster set on the side of the lot, and I happened to be parked alongside of it.
As I opened my car door, I looked over at the dumpster, which was open at the side.
It was precisely the moment that I looked over at the opening that the large gray squirrel thrust his little bulbous-eyed face through it.
He was apparently exiting the Dumpster at the precise moment I had looked over.
Our faces were maybe a foot apart.
My instincts took over, causing me to scream and cower.
The squirrel seemed to have much the same reaction I did, and screamed in his squirrelly fashion.
At least, I think it was a scream because he fell back into the dumpster while I fell forward into my car.
Before I was completely sure of what had just happened, the galvanized critter burst out of the Dumpster in a wonderful imitation of a flying squirrel (it was a gray squirrel).
He landed around the front of my car.
A moment or two later, as I gathered my wits about me, I walked around to the front of the car.
But the squirrel was gone.
Maybe it doesn’t sound like too big a deal to you, but I submit the following.
This squirrel was no herbivore, there being neither nuts nor leaves in the dumpster.
Apparently, its taste has evolved to include who knows what manner of dumpster delectables.
If such tastes continue to evolve who knows what manner of predator the squirrel might someday become.
If that’s not enough, 30 minutes later as I pulled into my driveway, I saw a little bulbous-eyed head pop up from a clump of grass in my front yard.
It was a squirrel.
It stood on its hind legs for a moment and studied me before gamboling off into the surrounding woods.
Clearly, it was some sort of warning.
Editor Frank Mulligan can be reached at email@example.com.