A squirrel dropped to the ground about eight feet from me this past week. Seeing the little rodent do that reminded me of a similar incident I experienced recently.
I fell off a ladder cleaning gutters. It wasn’t a bad fall. I was about only six rungs up on one of those ladders that can be folded in multiple ways and has a locking mechanism every five rungs. I stepped on the first rung above the first locking mechanism — that wasn’t completely locked — and the ladder collapsed.
I went down hard but fell to the ground just about straight on my back, my head luckily just missing our railroad tie landscaping edge. Other than knocking the air out of me and sustaining a deep bruise, both to my rear end and my ego, I was no worse for the wear.
The second thing I thought about after I shook off the fall was that popular AFLAC insurance commercial that shows the guy falling backwards off a ladder in slow motion while he’s thinking on the way down, “Oh no! Wait a minute, I guess everything will be OK because I have AFLAC.”
I don’t personally have AFLAC. I guess remembering that commercial was a comedic moment after the embarrassment and adrenalin rush from falling off the ladder.
Which brings me to the first thing I thought about when I fell. I doubt any of my female readers — if there are any — could even conceive of thinking like I did. The first thing I thought was, “Did anybody see me?”
After laying there for a minute to catch my breath, I rolled over on my elbow. I looked at both neighbors’ homes and to the street to ensure that no one had seen me unceremoniously flailing on my way down off the ladder to the ground. When satisfied my manliness — publically at least — was still intact, I thought about the AFLAC commercial and chuckled.
I picked up the collapsed ladder, ensured it was completely locked this time, and commenced climbing it again.
My unscientific study — its data derived from 60 years of being a guy and from being around lots of guys in the Marines for nearly half that 60 years — proves that I’m not unique in my thinking. I thought like a guy, like a guy typically does, after a fall, really any unintended fall, if we’re still conscious. “Did anybody see me?”
I don’t know why we think that way. Maybe it comes from eons of attempting to impress women when we dropped from the trees. Those that landed athletically had the best chance for a date that night. Those that landed, or rather crash landed in a smoking pile on the ground like I did, well their gene “pool” would be drained. Permanently.
With apologies to the iconic radio announcer Paul Harvey, “Now for the rest of the story.”
The squirrel really didn’t “drop” to the ground as I mentioned. I have never seen this, but always assumed it. I have assumed that squirrels with their lengthy jumps from branch to branch high in the canopy of trees above must occasionally miss. I mean, we all miss sometimes, right? So squirrels have to miss from time to time, too. Yet in 60 years of living, I have never seen a squirrel miss.
Until the other day when I saw a squirrel unceremoniously crash-land to the ground in a “smoking pile” from at least 40 feet up in a pine tree. One of my bucket list items has been crossed off. I have personally witnessed a squirrel — those unbelievable acrobats of the forest, those rodents that perform extraordinary feats of high altitude balance, agility and motor coordination — miss.
I’m certain I saw that squirrel stop for just a second after scrambling to its feet and shaking off the fall. A quick look around. Humans not counting — humans are nothing compared to squirrels in the feats of aerial skill category — there were no other squirrels in the area.
The squirrel jumped back on the same pine tree from which it had fallen and commenced climbing again.
I’m no squirrel expert, but I was able to identify its sex from eight feet away. Yep. He was a guy to be sure. His manhood was safe. A date that night was still in the offing.
Barry Fetzer’s is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.