Mr. Quarrel Squirrel

IMAGE (C) YOUNG WORLD, THE HINDU, 2015

The Hoppers found themselves in Lake Ontario, Canada. A beautiful place that could house no unhappiness, they thought. But …

It was a cool autumn morning. In a wooded area near Lake Ontario in Canada, leaves of maple trees had changed colour from green to bright yellow, orange and red. The detectives of Hopper, Hopper and Hopper were truly amazed by the beauty of the land to which they had come on a mission.

“I cannot understand how anyone could be unhappy here,” said Rock, the rock hopper penguin. “Mr. Quarrel Squirrel must have a good reason for being so upset to write a letter to us.”

Let-it-be, the grasshopper looked at the oak, maple, willows and other trees that had countless number of birds, chipmunks and squirrels that flitted around them. “How are we going to find Mr. Quarrel Squirrel?” he asked.

A passing chipmunk heard this question. With a twinkle in his eye, he replied, “Just dig the ground, pretending to look for something! He will come to you.” Sure enough, an angry squirrel came darting down a tree yelling at Rana, the frog who was pretending to dig a hole in the ground.

“Stop, thief! You must be the one who helps himself to all acorns and nuts that I collect and save for winter months.”

It was Rock who pacified the squirrel by telling him who they were. After a long talk, the detectives found that this squirrel did have a genuine problem. He could never find the nuts that he buried in the ground even though he was clever enough to confuse the birds and animals that keenly watched him. He often pretended to bury acorns and nuts in places where he actually didn’t. Even then he was unable to find them later. So who was taking his stash of nuts?

To catch the thief

After a long discussion among themselves, the detectives came up with a plan. They collected three acorns and painted them bright orange. Quarrel Squirrel was to hide these painted nuts just like the other nuts. The detectives would wait and watch to see who would get caught eating the coloured nuts. They would catch him ‘orange-handed’.

The plan was good but it did not solve the problem. A week had gone by — no bird, no chipmunk, no squirrel or no rat was caught with the coloured nuts.

“Perhaps someone was clever enough to steal it during the night,” muttered Rana doubtfully.

Rock nodded. “Yes, that’s possible. Hey Mr. Squirrel, check if the nuts are still there where you buried them!”

The squirrel nodded and darted off to find them. He looked around the big trees, under bushes and rocks, in tree hollows and in rabbit burrows. He could not find them. He was confused. He was not sure where he had hidden them.

“Oh dear, I can’t remember where I hid them,” he cried sadly.

Rana looked at the squirrel sternly. “You are forgetful but you blame others for stealing your collection of nuts, you quarrelsome squirrel.”

Let-it-be though looked at the bright side of the robbery case that never was.

“If Mr. Squirrel had buried the nuts underground and if no one else had taken them, and he, of course, never found them again, the nuts and the acorns would soon grow into little plants and then become trees. I think this fellow is a true conservationist!”

Even Mr. Quarrel Squirrel smiled at the grasshopper’s words of wisdom!

Published as part of a series titled Open and Shut Cases in Young World, The Hindu on October 8, 2015.

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