All my daughter’s friends were over for their little party.
These eight or so girls, all about 7 years old were playing crazily. You see wintertime had broken in Minnesota, and the summer was near. But it was one of those days you live for there, vibrant blue sky, gentle breeze, and life’s passions greening up.
Well, the little girls had played on the playground equipment for quite awhile, and in the sand making “things.” They were drawing chalk style hopscotch boards on the sidewalks, and had jumped rope without any bruises. Such a great day, such harmony in family and friends with nature watching.
My daughter and her little friends decided it was time to play “hide n’ go seek." No one better to hide than dad. Their collective eyes leaked with sincerity of request. How could any father turn such princesses and angels down for this next fun event, on such a great day, in such prime weather, in Minnesota ?
The "search and rescue" group of small girls began to count.
Meanwhile, my scurrying about reminded me to tell them to, “Count Loud” and “NO peeking." They, in unison, guaranteed this with giggles and laughter.
My eye scanned the topography. Where to hide? How long would it be to hide quickly, yet stealth like? Scanning the local yard’s horizon, a brilliant idea now could become reality. Ha ha ha. Those little ones will never see me there.
Quickly, quietly, and with ease my legs jumped up into the tree. This tree was strong. It could hold an adult, even a hidden stealthy adult. Lots of those huge Minnesota leaves that would cover all the color of the “hide n’ go seek” secret agent. So covert.
SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT.
Hurriedly my arms pulled my body into location, in the tree. Knowing how to quickly judge and climb a tree was like riding a bicycle or swimming to me. All those hours building huge tree houses in the skies of tall ash or elm trees now would pay off. All those limb evaluations of size versus strength and caliber were emblazoned in this climber. This was a confident spot.
As my arms lifted me into position, with my sitting spot almost prepared, the little girls were starting to rustle. Shifting my seat gently as not to be heard by doing a pull-up on the branch above, suddenly my stealthy world changed.
As my pull-up ended, my line of sight was slightly diagonally upward. A loud noise, a squeal. Then heard of buffalo, a covey of quail, and a wild horse stampede came right at me! My ears were frozen on the word, “TEN” that the little princesses had yelled. My eyes were beyond frozen to see eye to eye with it.
Squirrel attack !!!
Yes, man to female animal, face to face, and eye to eye there it was. No time for a counterattack. It was cold. It was heartless. The attack of the mother squirrel was like no other. Brutally shown teeth, larger than a shark – claws drawn, sharper than the griz. Lightening speed, out of no where. An ICBM loaded and launched at the intruder. No early warning system for the unprepared “hide n’ go seeker.” BAM. The war was on. Knowing my face had been hit, a cover was needed. No where to hide now. Too far up to jump, as a youth might attempt. Age and wisdom prevented that action quickly. Swiping away the blood, my fight was limitless but so ill directed. Not once was there a hit on the enemy despite readjusting my coordinates while in the leaves. Retreat was the only option. Cut the losses. Sooner, not later. This mother wasn’t retreating from the nest she had so preciously prepared for the family.
The gaggle of girls was coming down the sidewalk. They too had heard the noisy breach of the stealthy sacred safe place. It was over…almost.
The “hide n’ go seeker” now did what all attacked, retreating, and severely mentally and physically injured “hide n’ go seekers” do. Swing out of the tree. With two great leaps of caliber-calculating swings, my feet hit terra firma. Solid. Looking around quickly, the attack was over.
All the faithful players of the “hide n’ go seek” family game came running. My position was still of a prepared martial arts stance, ready to counter strike as if a secondary push might occur.
“We see you,” they all yelled. The girls approached quickly to prove they had seen me. But as they received their victory in game, they realized what was different. Suddenly, they all began screaming at the top of their choral lungs, high pitched in fear, yelling and running away faster and faster. My daughter said, "Daddy, you have blood,” and she ran away too, to the safety of the flock. Reaching up to my face, it was warm, and slippery. Looking at my hand, realizing my sweat from the environmental battle was not red – it was blood. Wiping away the blood from my hand to my pants, the flow of blood continued. A painted warrior of sorts.
My wife came outside to see how things were going with the “hide n’ go seek” game. She had come around a corner just as the girls were approaching. “My goodness,” she said, “Why did you fly out of that tree…to scare the girls…They were yelling so loud…And YOU looked like a gorilla flying out of the tree… AND you are bleeding!” “What happened?”
As my eyes close yet to this day, that mother squirrel is in my view forever. Everyone survived. A family moment. A father-daughter memory forever. And now you know why my 20 something daughter sends reminders once in a while, and why she sent me a shirt with a squirrel on it that states the rules: “ADVICE FROM A SQUIRREL.”