By Erika Kar

It rained! Not much, but enough to wake up to the smell of the forest, and not the forest-on-fire smell that has become the norm either. Instead we got the smell of leaves, earth and a freshness that causes even the busiest of people to stop, close their eyes, point their nose into the air and sniff like a dog. We have gone from summer to fall as if a switch had been turned on (or off, depending on your point of view).

The leaves are beginning to turn, the nights are cold, and now the scrambling to prepare for winter begins in earnest. Put outside things away, dig out and take stock of winter gear, figure out where and how you’ll get your wood, harvest everything you can from your garden; can, dehydrate and freeze those last treasures. How are your snow tires looking? What last outdoor projects need to be completed? If you are a hunter, this is when you get your deer and stock your freezer.

This is also the time of the year where we switch from trying to miss deer on the road, to trying to miss squirrels. And not just squirrels running all zigzaggedly back and forth, but also the dead ones that have already met their demise.

Today, while driving on my little mountain road, I had to swerve to miss one of the passed-on squirrels.

There he was — on his back, white tummy showing, four legs sticking straight up.

And next to him were two large pine cones. And it became quite obvious how Mr. Squirrel met his end.
He had grabbed too much. He was greedy. He might have made it with those two pine cones. But then a car came upon him. He should have dropped them both and ran for his life on a straight course right across the road into the safety of the trees. But he got confused. He ran one way, then the other, all the while trying to keep both of the pine cones. Then he froze completely, paralyzed by the indecision. And greed won.

Thump, thump.

Is there a life lesson here? Probably. Drop the pine cones, man.

PREVIOUSLY, IN MAZAMA