Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hunt, Part 3: Parting shots

Capturing a good photo of the elusive white squirrel proved more challenging than I had originally expected.

I can only assume that growing up a white squirrel in a gray squirrel's world must be a lot like Johnny Cash's Boy Names Sue. You either have to become very quick and elusive, or you get eaten by hawks.

That being the case, it wouldn't have taken me this long if I hadn't had some of the defections among my crew. When my plan to trap the beast met with mixed results, I decided to hire a couple of guys to help out with this little project. But one by one they abandoned me the the quest.

First, Ishmael decided go to back to teaching when the school year started again. Then Starbuck decided to go open a chain of coffee shops (Hope he's doing well with that. There's a lot of competition in that sector these days.) And Queequeg had to quit when one of his new tattoos became severely infected.

Be that as it may, I persevered. Camera in hand, finger on trigger, er, shutter release as I passed through the beasts feeding grounds daily. I spotted it often, but as I've said before, a clear focused image remained out of my grasp for weeks.

Until one still, lazy afternoon in the late summer, after the season's heat had broken, but the sun was still bright, I decide to take a leisurely stroll up up the street. Almost out of habit, I'd taken my camera.

I walked casually up the street to the squirrel's feeding grounds. Sure enough, there he was. I stopped for a moment, not evening bothering to raise my camera. I knew from experience that in a split second it would bolt up the tree or into the bushes, so why bother taking off the lens cap.

But for some reason, this time was different. I don't know why. Maybe Moby had grown accustomed to my face, or scent, or whatever, because I'd stopped by so often. Maybe at this point he sort of considered me the squirrel equivalent of a friend (a squirrelfriend?).

Perhaps he was just tried of the whole game, tired of continually being pursued and running away. It could be that in his tiny squirrel brain, life just wasn't worth living when your always on the run.

Whatever it was, this time he didn't bolt right away. He sat there, still as a statue, his little black eyes watching me. He twitched his tail a few times as I raised my Nikon and removed the lens cap. He put his paws to his mouth, nibbled a bit on an acorn, then proceeded to ignore me.

By now of course, I'm clicking away like mad, capturing as many frames as I can with Moby posing like a Vogue model during fashion week. After weeks of hunting, the actual moment of capturing the prey was exhilarating.

The photo session seemed to go on for hours, but I'm sure it only lasted for a minute or two if even that. Soon, it seemed the white squirrel's survival instincts took over. After a quick glance back at me, he took two long hops and landed on a tree trunk.

He ran a lap around the base of the tree, and then instantly shot up into the branches of the of the oak canopy 30 feet above me.

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