Chapter XXIII BEECHNUTS
“I’m going to stay right here on this farm,” Reddy Woodpecker declared. “I like this place.”
“Perhaps you expect to leave for the South before the beechnuts are ripe,” Frisky Squirrel suggested hopefully.
“Not I!” replied Reddy Woodpecker. “If I leave, I shall wait until the last beechnut is eaten. And no doubt I shall not leave at all. This looks to me like a good place to spend the winter.”
Now that Frisky Squirrel knew Reddy Woodpecker ate beechnuts he was more determined than ever to catch him. He had hunted Reddy before. Now he haunted him. He dogged Reddy Woodecker’s footsteps. He crept up behind him and jumped at him a dozen times a day.
Though Frisky didn’t know it, he couldn’t have captured Reddy Woodpecker in a thousand years. Reddy was too wary to be caught. He always chuckled after dodging. And he always
called mockingly, “Not this time, young fellow!”
All summer long the chase went on. Frisky Squirrel seemed to think that if only he hunted Reddy long enough there would come a time when he would catch him napping.
Now, every year as fall drew near it was Frisky’s custom to go each day to the woods, to inspect the beechnuts. He went very slyly. It was a business of great importance. Of course he didn’t care to have everybody know what he was doing.
Imagine his annoyance, then, on his first trip to the beech grove, to hear Reddy Woodpecker call out to him, “What do you think of ’em? Will they be ready to eat soon?”
Reddy was high up in a beech tree. And Frisky Squirrel was so angry that he could only look up at him and chatter.
“You haven’t answered my questions,” Reddy observed presently. “Perhaps you aren’t a good judge of beechnuts. Perhaps I’d better ask Jasper Jay.”
That threat made Frisky Squirrel angrier than ever. He darted up the tree as fast as he could scramble. If he hadn’t been so angry he would have known how utterly useless it was to try to catch Reddy Woodpecker when Reddy was looking right at him.
Reddy calmly moved to another tree. Frisky Squirrel leaped into the top of it. Again Reddy moved.
Then Frisky sat up on a limb and glared at him.
“Don’t mention these nuts to Jasper Jay!” he cried. “I’ve been hoping he’d forget about them. Eat what you want if you must. But for goodness’ sake don’t go and tell the whole neighborhood about them. Just between you and me, these nuts will be ready to eat as
soon as there’s a frost to sweeten them.”
“You’re very kind,” Reddy Woodpecker told him. “Very kind indeed!”
Well, in about two weeks there was a frost. When Reddy Woodpecker awoke one morning the fields were white and a thin coating of ice covered the watering trough in the barnyard.
Some of the birds in Pleasant Valley had long since left for the South. And many of those that hadn’t announced that they expected to start for a milder climate that very evening.
The weather soon grew warmer. And on the following day Reddy Woodpecker and Frisky Squirrel met at the beech grove.
“These are good nuts, eh?” called Reddy.
“They’d taste sweeter if you weren’t here,” Frisky Squirrel mumbled out of a full mouth.