Caution: Danger Ahead

The last couple of days, we’ve had this little ground squirrel coming up to scavenge under the bird feeder.

Yesterday, as I worked at my desk, I saw him behaving kind of oddly. He bristled his tail in the air and dropped to all fours, spreading his legs and stomping the ground in a wide stance. It looked territorial, but I couldn’t see what threatened him.

He stopped and went back to eating seeds and then did it again.

I’d about decided he was just engaged in some kind of ritual display, when I saw the red snake pop his head out of the gopher hole.

That same coachwhip snake we found under the garbage can a month ago. Or, at least, I assume it’s the same snake – he doesn’t have a nametag or anything.

For a while these two faced-off, back and forth. It really surprised me, the way the little rodent bravely stood up to the snake, backing it into the hole again.

Eventually the detente ended, as many do, due to outside events. Isabel captured another mouse and brought it to me. I had to take it out the front door and the ground squirrel ran off. Shortly after that, the snake came out of the hole and glided off into the desert.

I feel like I should make analogy here, about standing up to our fears, to what threatens us, but we do anyway, don’t we? People talk a lot about how you can’t run away from stuff, but most of the time, none of us have that luxury anyway.

You have a difficult co-worker or boss, you get to deal with them every work day. Petulant teenagers ooze their petulance over everyone in their paths, leaving their families glommed like birds in an oil spill. Appliances break, crises occur, deadlines loom – and we have to deal with them.

Maybe the little ground squirrel isn’t really brave – the snake is just something he had to deal with if he wanted to eat.

In the end, they both went their own ways.