Jun

8

CHIP AND BOOT

June 8, 2021 |


This is a Sonora chipmunk, properly termed a desert antelope squirrel (Ammospermophilus leucurus). They are prolific out here, and used to form a maid service that cleaned my trailer of pancake crumbs each morning. Then they ran up and down my legs looking in my pockets for more. I’m known for my ankle weights, and this one is sitting on one snacking.  

 

A kin out here that I have caught and live released, by cage and hand, is the desert trader rat. This is the loveable packrat with a Mickey Mouse face that always leaves something bright in trade. Cowboys used to get them drunk on whiskey around the summer campfires and give them their spurs to lead to their burrow, called a midden, where the rodents hoard gold. Having the same idea, I hand-trained a packrat from birth to release in ghost towns and fetch gold and spurs. I thumped the ground three times with my foot, and every time it came running back and up my leg with whatever it had found. I nicknamed it Nugget. 

 

The other species staring in the face, as I awoke on a ground mattress the other morning, is the Mojave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis) stayed south to the Slabs. This is also likeable though less tamable. The Belle of Slab City, our female nemesis except to those whom she is sicced off, is said to be fond of climbing to the top of trailers or RV’s and slicing a thin line in the vent screen, and lowering by string a dead Mojave squirrel on the owner’s pillow, as a calling card. It is done while the owner is away or sleeping. 

 

Have no fear; none of these is rats. There are seven species of rodents out here, and I have never seen a city rat. What you are calling rats resemble them somewhat, but they are either trader rats or hairless squirrels.   


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