Otis & Friends 3I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

I, Otis, being of sound mind and body, do solemnly swear … I had the bejeebers scared out of me the other day—but in a good way.

I was just minding my own business chasing a buddy around the trunk of a grandmother oak tree, like I’ve done a thousand times before, when all of the sudden he was there, standing right where I wanted to run. I thought about changing directions, but I didn’t want to show him I was scared. I thought about running smack into him, but he was bigger than me. When I was younger, we’d been told about “them muskrats” and how we should keep a safe distance between us and them because they weren’t us and they didn’t belong.

Even though I had a little streak of fear running through me, I just stopped where I was and stared. He had a kind of smile on his face, which took me by surprise. Yes, his teeth were crooked and bigger than mine, but he didn’t lunge at me and take a bite like Scoots said happened to him last summer.

I didn’t want to appear alarmed, so I pulled a peanut out of my cheek and started nibbling, real casual like. Rather than trying to grab my nut, he just leaned over and pulled up some sweet, wet grass to munch on. We just chewed and looked at each other for a while. It was funny, cuz he chewed his food really fast, just like me.

muskratI slowly inched toward him and could smell the wetness in his fur. My hair was flowy and dry from the breeze high up in the tree. He didn’t seem to be too concerned about me, but when I tried to bark a few lines at him, he scrunched up his furry face like he didn’t understand. He worked his nose in little circles like he was trying to write something on the wind. When he did reply, it was a squeak I didn’t recognize. I just nodded a little and made some more noise too, like I got him.

The other young squirrels slowly poked their heads around the tree one by one and joined in the chatter until we were all laughing and rolling on the ground. I don’t know if we’ll be able to be friends, but I have this feeling that if I ever got in trouble, he’d be there to help me, and that’s a feeling I can live with. I can’t wait to tell the rest of the scurry that I stood with a muskrat and lived to tell.

—Otis (as transcribed by Rodney Bluml, Program & Hosted Group Coordinator)