Squirrel knew that winter was coming. Owl had said it was, Blue Jay and Deer had told him too. Even Chipmunk, his best friend, had reminded him as she busily gathered food for the winter.
“You’d better hide nuts for winter,” Blue Jay chirped.
“You can’t find food in the snow,” Deer said.
“Listen to your friends, Squirrel,” Chipmunk chattered, flicking her tail. “They’re right, you know.”
But it was only September, and for Squirrel, winter was a long way off. There would be plenty of time to gather food later. He had other things to do. He liked to have fun and to play tricks on his friends. He liked jumping from tree to tree and scaring Blue Jay. And whenever Deer was standing under a tree that Squirrel was playing in, Squirrel dropped nuts on him. When a nut hit him, Deer would bound away in fright—while Squirrel held his sides and chattered with glee!
But what he liked best was stealing a nut from Chipmunk. She would chase him around and around! Up and down the trees they’d go. Finally Squirrel would drop the nut and look for something else to do.
“Squirrel, you are being very foolish,” Owl scolded. “If you don’t store food, you will be very hungry this winter.”
Chipmunk warned him again too. “Store some nuts now,” she said. “Soon they’ll be covered with snow, and you won’t be able to find them.”
Squirrel didn’t like to have Chipmunk mad at him, so he took a few nuts to his pantry, just to please her. But he thought that work was no fun, so before long, he was off playing tricks again.
Time passed quickly. Then one morning when Squirrel poked his head out the door, a blanket of white greeted him. Snow? he thought. Already? The air was crisp and cold. A breeze blew a puff of snow off the branch above his door. Plop! It landed right on his head. “Yipe!” He jumped back inside. He shook his head. “Brrrr!”
Squirrel had to think about this. But thinking always made him hungry. He went to his pantry. Two or three nuts will help me to decide, he thought. Oh, oh! Squirrel stared at the little pile of nuts in the corner. He had always planned to gather food “tomorrow.” But “tomorrow” never seemed to come. “What shall I do?” he muttered.
He ate two of the nuts from the little pile and thought about it. “I’ll go see Chipmunk,” he said. “She’ll know what to do.” So away he went.
Squirrel raced along as fast as he could. At long last he came to Chipmunk’s burrow. He poked his head in. “Good morning,” he chattered. “May I come in?”
Chipmunk looked up from her breakfast. “Wipe your feet first,” she said, after swallowing a mouthful of acorn.
Squirrel wiped his feet, then came in and sat down.
“How do you like the snow, Squirrel?” she asked.
“It’s pretty, but it’s cold,” he answered. Hanging his head, he mumbled, “And it hides the nuts.”
Chipmunk shook her tail reproachfully, “We all tried to warn you that this would happen.”
“I know,” Squirrel said, watching his feet as he shifted from one to the other. “I was very foolish. But I won’t be anymore, I promise.” He looked up. “What can I do now, Chipmunk?” he said in a small voice.
Just then Blue Jay landed on the ground outside Chipmunk’s door. “Good morning, Chipmunk. Good morning, Squirrel,” he said in a cheery voice.
“Good morning, Blue Jay,” Chipmunk and Squirrel said together.
“How do you like this fine, snowy day?” Blue Jay asked, hopping about.
“I think the snow is very pretty,” Chipmunk chattered. “But Squirrel has a problem.”
“He does?” Blue Jay tipped his head and looked at Squirrel with shiny, black eyes.
“I was very foolish. I didn’t gather nuts when I should have,” Squirrel told him quietly. “Now the snow hides them, and I don’t know what to do.”
“Hmm.” Blue Jay ruffled his feathers. “That is a problem.”
“Squirrel has promised not to be foolish anymore,” Chipmunk told Blue Jay. “What can we do to help him?”
Blue Jay hopped about and looked around. He thought and thought. Then he said, “Wait here,” and flew away.
In a little while, he came back. Owl was with him, and so was Deer. Chipmunk and Squirrel came out to join them.
Owl was perched on a limb near Chipmunk’s burrow. The others gathered around him. “Blue Jay told me about your problem, Squirrel,” he said in a deep voice. “We will all try to help you, but first you must promise to never scare Blue Jay or Deer again, and to not tease Chipmunk when she is gathering food.”
“I promise,” Squirrel agreed earnestly. “I also promise that I’ll work hard next year to be ready for winter.”
“Good.” Owl turned to Blue Jay. “You can help Squirrel by knocking the last of the nuts from the highest branches. But”—he turned to look at Squirrel—“you must help Blue Jay get berries from under the bushes when he can no longer reach them.”
“I’ll help dig nuts out of the snow for you,” Deer offered.
“But when the snow gets too deep for Deer to find food,” Owl told Squirrel, “you must break off tender twigs that are high in the trees for him to eat.”
Squirrel nodded again. “I’ll do that too.”
“Chipmunk can help you carry the nuts to your tree,” Owl said.
“But next fall, Squirrel, you must help me carry nuts to my burrow,” Chipmunk told him.
Squirrel agreed happily.
And that is just what they did.