A red squirrel scampers away from me to my right and heads down the slope toward the Red River. He seems not too distressed by my presence and is too focused on his morning food hunting to even scold me.

Although the deep woods are all green yet, the heavy cool of autumn settles in upon the land. I expect red squirrel and all his companions are warned by this to be busy about the business of storing up provisions against the cold of winter in their hollows in trees or wherever they may find shelter.

I have seen them burying portions of food in the middle of open yards. There must be a certain madness in some of their method.

I recall one winter doing some writing in the basement of a building built on the side of a steep hill. The hill was at such a slant that a basement door opened out onto the  side of the hill.

I interrupt this narrative to report that robin sails in and lands on a bent-over tree limb at my eye level about 30 feet in front of me. He sits there in that odd way that creatures have of looking at you sideways out of one eye, not bothering to train two eyes on you for a little focus.

By his markings he looks like a youngster. He has a little growing to do yet before possible migration.

As if on cue gray squirrel No. 2 two romps in from behind a red cedar not six feet from my right. His is immediately followed by gray squirrel No. 3.

Two heads immediately in the direction of the river. Three, however, apparently being the younger more curious type, stops in his tracks and turns and focuses both eyes on me not four feet in front of me, sitting up on his hind legs for a moment.

He seems not at all alarmed by me, just checking out this apparition that wasn’t here yesterday. After a moment he leisurely turns away, satisfied that I’m not something to eat or worry about, and hops after No. 2.

To continue my narrative, the walkway to the basement door passed through a cozy little cove cut into the side of the hill, a cove in full view from very large windows in the basement wall. It offers me a view of any activity there.

One day a gray squirrel trotted in with something in his mouth. He tucked it under a couple of loose boards stashed in the corner of the cove, and he went away. He returned over and over all morning with more treasures for his hide-away.

It was late autumn. Quite apparently he was stashing away a treasure chest of food for the cold days of winter ahead. I was never able to return in mid-winter to see if he returned and recovered the treasure-trove he had so energetically stored away. Do they even remember where they put everything they stored? I hope so.    

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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