Greetings from Skampy and Bucko and the whole family by
(58 Stories)

Prompted By Holiday Letters

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Friends, neighbors, and nocturnals:

Humans are so superficial! They love the blue jay because of its striking color. Don’t they ever notice what a bully and a pest he is?


We just experienced the darkest day of the year and so it’s time for our family’s annual letter—if Skampy and Bucko will just let me concentrate for a few minutes. The boys were out exploring and discovered a pile of black sunflower seeds that the yoga lady tossed out her window. We call her the yoga lady because we see her in her house doing yoga almost every morning, talking on one of her screens to other humans who are also doing yoga.

The boys keep scooping up seeds and running to show me. “Here’s another one!”  “Ma—another one!” Kind of makes it hard to work on this letter. Yeah, I get it, kiddos: You’re having quite a sumptuous feast for this early in the day—and you didn’t even have to work for it.  I’m not sure how I feel about these humans who make it so awfully easy for my kids to forage. Too easy!  The yoga lady may move out some day, right? They need to be able to forage in conditions more akin to the real world. I don’t want them to go around with an overly grandiose sense of entitlement.

You know what’s ironic? Just a few months ago, the yoga lady put up what the discarded packaging called a “squirrel-proof” bird feeder. Pshaw!  We can eat out of there any time we want. OK, we have to work a little harder to distribute our weight just-so, to keep our bodies from weighing down the spring latches and thereby closing off the little windows to where the seeds are stored. Knowing that the feeder’s prevention mechanism has been something short of a resounding success, the yoga lady is literally pouring mounds of black sunflowers on the ground to divert our attention away from the feeder. Those seeds are more nutritious than the cheap blend of seeds she puts in the feeder–so, la-di-da, my family will be more than happy to eat those for now and leave her precious feeder alone.

Our friend Rollie

Why is she trying to divert us? That’s simple. She likes Dukey, Beanie, Rollie, and Simon better than she likes us. I call them by their names, because they are my friends, but she—the great human protector–refers to them patronizingly as “those poor little hungry sparrows.”  Hey, even when we raid the feeder, our sparrow friends never starved. They always got plenty.

Eugene Danielson checking out the suet–he doesn’t even like suet but he thinks this is a cool pose!

Humans are so superficial!  They love the blue jay because of its striking color. Don’t they ever notice what a bully and a pest he is?  And when Eugene Danielson shows up, they  go ga-ga because of the red tuft on top of his head that contrasts so artistically with his pure white belly. In case you don’t know Eugene, I’m speaking of our local piliated woodpecker. He thinks he looks so cool when he attacks the feeder in the upside-down position. It’s not that he can feed better in that position. It’s a style thing. He’s the “Fosbury Flop” of feeder birds. I don’t know why the peckers insist on having last names, but they all do. There’s the Danielsons, who’ve spread out around where we live, and then just a mile or so away, there’s another family of piliiateds who call themselves the Calabrezes. Equally obnoxious if you ask me. The rest of us are perfectly fine with first-names.

Well, enough about the local scene. Let’s look back on the year we just finished.

The weather is changing so much. We’ve had coyotes, and bears, and even a moose wandering around. We didn’t used to see those around here. And then some of the migrating birds stopped migrating. And some stayed extra time in Canada so by the time they did migrate down here, the kinds of berries they were looking for were already finished and gone to ground. I felt bad for them.

Something is going on with the humans. They’re not driving their own cars as much, just leaving them in the driveway and taking walks outdoors. They’ve got even more screens than they had before, and they’re looking at them for more hours. Meanwhile, it’s unreal how many trucks are coming through our neighborhood to make deliveries to the humans. It’s like some great fear has overtaken them, and they won’t go out foraging for themselves as much as they used to do.

But thankfully, we are as healthy as ever, busy gathering whatever we need, warm and comfy in our nests.  If my only worry is about my kids getting overly indulged by that yoga lady, I think we can look forward to another good year. “Yes, Skampy, I see your black sunflower seed!” “Yes, Bucko, you’ve got three of them! Wow. Why not eat one and Mommy will help you find a hiding place for the other two. All right?”

Profile photo of Dale Borman Fink Dale Borman Fink
Dale Borman Fink retired in 2020 from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA, where he taught courses related to research methods, early childhood education, special education, and children’s literature. Prior to that he was involved in childcare, after-school care, and support for the families of children with disabilities. Among his books are Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities (2000) Control the Climate, Not the Children: Discipline in School Age Care (1995), and a children’s book, Mr. Silver and Mrs. Gold (1980). In 2018, he edited a volume of his father's recollections, called SHOPKEEPER'S SON.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    What a clever take on this prompt, Dale — holiday letter from the squirrels. Their observations about the yoga lady are hilarious. On the other hand, their observations about the changes in human behavior are spot on. Just as I had ventured out a bit to forage for my triple-vaxxed self, along came Omicron. The trucks have indeed returned.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Very clever point of view, from your squirrel friends. I love that some of the birds have last names! All very imaginative and, also mentioning the fact that humans have been in lockdown and ordering things online. You’ve given us a great year-in-review. Thanks so much!

  3. Thanx Dale for remembering our furry and feathered friends. I’m glad they’ve fared well these past months.

    Our woodsy Connecticut community, where previously most of us were weekenders, grew during Covid as many chose to spend more time out of city.

    With more BBQ grills in operation and more food scraps in the trash bins, the deer and the bear have been making more appearances. And the foliage we’ve noticed has been especially beautiful these past two years. Mother Nature, it seems, is offering us some comfort!

  4. Marian says:

    Lovely and clever tribute to the birds and other wild creatures, Dale. While they have been watching us, here in our neighborhood we have been watching them, from crows to woodpeckers, to egrets on the river. Looks like we are in for another time of screens and delivery trucks, but we have nature to comfort us.

  5. Suzy says:

    This was a lot of fun to read, Dale. You do a great job of capturing the squirrel point of view, and telling us what they think of birds and humans. That woodpecker picture is hilarious – did you find the picture first, and then write the paragraph about Eugene Danielson? Well done!

    • I wrote about “Eugene Danielson” first and then looked for an image–hoping to find one upside=down on a feeder, which is what I’ve seen many times, but I agree that this one was perfect and made me laugh out loud when I was writing the caption.

  6. Nice imagination. That you can place yourself in the minds and thoughts of squirrels has me believing in re-incarnation and I wonder if that is how A. A. Milne knew how to write about a forest bear (that and his liking for honey)?

  7. Beautiful perspective, Dale. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piliated woodpecker so close up, and certainly not in that showoff pose he took. You’re so right about his ‘tude. I loved the mother’s perceptions of change in the humans. She’s so right. They do seem as if some great fear has overtaken them.

    Tangentially, I’m curious to know where your mother narrator squirrel lives. Seems like familiar New England fauna from my younger days, altho coyotes had not entered the rural MA scene ‘way back when.

    • You are correct to perceive rural New England, Charles. The events and surroundings that form the foundation for this story would be in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, not far from either the Vermont border or the NY border, in the town of Williamstown, MA.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    I don’t know about the squirrels, but the family canines think COVID is a gift from Dog; SO much staying home with them!

  9. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for the reminder that there are nuts of all kinds. Loved the picture. Here’s to a good year for Skampy, Bucko, and the rest of the gang.

  10. Yeah, Dale, familiar territory! Born in Boston, youth in Littleton, Mass, a stint in Cambridge, time spent in Northampton, Hatfield/Whately, returned years later to commune/collective in Apple Valley near Ashfield, then back to San Francisco.

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