Shadow Tail lived in a tree overlooking the home for waifs and strays. His bright and beady eyes never missed a trick and quite often, he would race down the tree, head first, and steal food from the hens.
‘Why do you steal our food?’ said a hen to Shadow Tail. ‘Aren’t squirrels supposed to be herbivorous and climb trees for nuts?’
‘Why don’t you mind your own business?’ replied Shadow Tail, gobbling up the hen food before anyone else had a chance to get some. ‘Anyway, why do you live here when you could be free like me?’
‘But we are free,’ said the hen, ‘and safe from the mouth of the fox!’
‘Suit yourself!’ said Shadow Tail as he scarpered back up the tree where he lived.
‘And don’t come back!’ the hen shouted after him.
But the squirrel kept going back and stealing the food. And every time, he laughed at the hens for staying at the home for waifs and strays.
‘Be free like me!’ he would shout as he ran like a wild thing back up his tree.
Then one day, something happened that changed the squirrel’s life forever.
The lady who cared for the hens was walking down the road when she saw a car coming a bit too fast. Shadow Tail did not see the car as he ran in front of it. This is why most squirrels die within the first year of their life. Thankfully, the lady ran to where Shadow Tail lay, bloody and cold on the road.
‘Thank heavens you’re alive,’ she said softly and took off her coat and wrapped it around the squirrel. ‘You’re coming home with me where we can take good care of you and make you well again.’
And so it was, Shadow Tail went to live at the home for waifs and strays until he was completely recovered.
‘It is almost time for you to leave,’ said the hen. ‘I bet you’ll be glad to go!’
Shadow Tail was very quiet. He had come to love the home for waifs and strays and even enjoyed the hens company. They made him laugh with their pecking order. That would never do for him, he thought, he didn’t want to be in any order. He, Shadow Tail Squirrel was born to be free.
‘Yes!’ replied Shadow Tail. ‘Yes, I will be glad to go!’
‘That’s a shame,’ said the hen. ‘I was hoping you would stick around.’
‘Why?’ said Shadow Tail, trying hard not to smile.
‘Because we like you,’ said the hen. ‘We all like you.’
And so it was, Shadow Tail told the truth and said he didn’t want to live on his own all the time but he did like his own space up the tree.
‘If it’s ok with you,’ he said to the hen, ‘I will visit you every day but still keep my home in the tree.’ And that is what he did!