Monday, September 13, 2021

Vintage chipmunk postcards and the love of nature's critters

The backyard wildlife is much different in Arizona than it was back in Pennsylvania. In recent weeks here, I've had to deal with black widows, a furry spider I don't care to indentify, a plague of crickets, piles of pigeon droppings, and an unknown mammal (or possibly an owl) that pooped on our artificial grass and also tried to dig up Mr. Bill. I reckon I should be grateful, at least, that I haven't had any encounters with scorpions or rattlesnakes.

Ashar and I had spent the pandemic year of 2020 getting very closely acquainted with the adorable animals in our backyard in Dover, Pennsylvania. We watched families of bunny rabbits grow up and grow fat on the grass and the birdseed. The birdseed, of course, was mostly gobbled up by cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, robins, wrens, finches, mourning doves and other songbirds. We were able to start differentiating the squirrels by their facial markings and their personality quirks. We had a resident field mouse for a while. And then a family of raccoons that we pampered with peanut-butter crackers (sorry, not sorry). A groundhog made a couple of funny cameo appearances. And, very best of all, we trained the chipmunks. Yes, trained them.

I started by sitting very quietly for long stretches in a chair, just watching as the chipmunks came up and grabbed peanuts I had put near my feet, before scurrying away. The next step: I put the peanuts on my feet. They grabbed those too. After that, and over a series of days and weeks, I sat cross-legged on the ground and waited patiently as the chipmunks eventually began to climb into my cupped-together hands for a peanut feast. Sometimes they grabbed a nut and ran. Other times they sat there and nibbled away, or attempted to see how many peanuts they could stuff into their comically bulging cheeks. 

After a while, Ashar got into the act, and surpassed me as a Chipmunk Whisperer. We would sit quietly, side by side, and wait for the chipmunks to venture out for their snack. It usually didn't take long. In addition to climbing into Ashar's hands, they would venture up his arms and even up to a shoulder, seeking peanuts. As long as we didn't make sudden sounds or movements, they were completely at ease. We could even turn our heads slowly and whisper to each other while the furry little visitors went to and fro, taking treasures back to their dens. Great times.

Anyway, today I want to share a little collection of vintage postcards featuring chipmunks. The one at the top features adorable "Chippy" at Smugglers Notch, Vermont. Presumably that's Smugglers' Notch State Park. The card was mailed to Mr. Robert C. Moore of Bingham, Maine, in August 1934, and the cursive message states:
Dearest Daddy,
We were so happy to get your letter. We went up to Smugerlers [sic] Notch yesterday. The "Chippy" you see in the picture is tame: We saw him. All the Birds and Animals around Smuggerlers [sic] Caves are tame. Lots of love.

This next one might nor might not be a chipmunk. The caption, as you can see, states that it's a golden brown squirrel at Crater Lake, Oregon. The golden-mantled ground squirrel is native to that part of the country, and it certainly looks like a chipmunk, so I think it should count as one. So there. This real photo postcard was never written on or mailed.

Next up is another unused real photo postcard of "a native at Diamond Lake." There are many places called Diamond Lake in the United States. But clearly the Diamond Lakes that have tame chipmunks are the very best.
This next one is labeled "NUTS about Northern California" on the front. It was mailed in 1937 to Mr. and Mrs. Knuckles in San Mateo, California. The note on the back states:
Cloverdale - June 9th
Everything O.K. Rain this A.M. Read about Burlingame Fire in S.F. Examiner. Hi-school tonight.
Finally, it's Yours Truly. For fun and posterity, I used Redbubble to publish a vintage-looking real photo postcard showing me feeding a chipmunk in Dover. We do miss those little fellas. You can see a few more photos, including one of Ashar feeding them, in this October 2020 post. (It's really hard to believe that was only 11 months ago.)

1 comment:

  1. This post was exactly what I needed on a bleary-eyed morning. :)