“Water, water everywhere but not a drop for me!”
Years ago, I had a dream that I was in my studio working on a story. I heard a tap at my back door. I stood up and went to the door. I remember thinking that one of the neighborhood children must be there asking me for help finding one of their soccer balls constantly kicked over my fence.
When I opened the door I looked around my large backyard with all its heavy shrubs and my wife’s flower beds, but spotted no children. Perhaps, I thought, someone is playing a trick on me. The kids are always up to something and kidding around is part of life on my street. Perhaps my wife could speak to some of the other women on the street and see what could be done. Honestly, I work at home and could use a little more peace and quiet.
I pulled on the handle and closed the large wooden door. Just as I turned towards my studio, there was another tap.
This time I opened the door and looked down more closely. A bundle of brown and black fur moved near my shoe. Two small animals were resting there. Their eyes were on me. They were chipmunks and one had no tail.
Now, this is the funny part. My mind received a message. How that happened I do not know nor understand. Be that as it may, the message was in good English and in a courteous tone.
The chipmunk with no tail asked, in a chuckling sort of voice, “Can I have a drink of water from your kitchen faucet?”
After I recovered from surprise, I spoke, “Sure.” Then I added, after glancing around the large backyard, still wet from morning dew, “What happened to the water out back?”
He nodded that he understood me and sent his mental answer, “It is polluted.”
Needless to say, and even though I was not a little surprised at the pollution, I asked him to wait a moment. I rushed to my kitchen and fetched a saucer of cool water. I put this in front of them. They stood on hind feet, front paws on the side of the small glass dish. They gulped and licked the water.
After a minute, the one with no tail rubbed his mouth with his front paws and sat back satisfied. Apparently chipmunks don’t spend much time doing any one thing. He chuckled again and sent his mental message,
“Thanks. This warm weather makes me thirsty especially when I run around chasing my girl.”
“What happened to your tail?”
He replied over his shoulder as they ran away, “My mom said the bad water she drank caused me to be born without a tail.”
When I woke up I went to the back door and looked out. The yard was the same as always. I placed a bowl of fresh drinking water on the ground and watched as the chipmunks came to drink. I didn’t see one with no tail and I didn’t get any mental messages.
Later as I began studying better methods of providing wholesome drinking water to animals, I attended a meeting of my bird watching friends at the suburban home of the club president. It was a colorful get-together with about fifty birders, both men and women and a few children. There was the usual collection of imitation of bird sounds with human callers showing their latest voices. I remember one caller voicing a plaintive nuthatch which was delightful.
I was in a conversation with several of my friends when an older gentleman joined us. We were talking about my new favorite subject, providing fresh water to wildlife, and he asked me, “It’s foolishness. Don’t you think that birds can find water?”
Well, he was a distinguished birder, known for achieving a life list of hundreds of local birds he had seen. I didn’t want to start an argument. I did reply, “I know that they can find some kind of water around the yard.”
He replied, “That’s the whole point. Nature takes care of itself.”
Then I asked him a more pointed question. “Would you drink from the puddles on your lawn?”
He smiled at me as he realized I’d just pointed out the whole issue. He walked away without answering.
These days, each morning I go to my backyard and place fresh water outside for the wildlife. I always look around for a chipmunk with no tail. He’ll be a descendant of the one I dreamed about. If I should spot him, I’ll look into his eyes, give him a wink, and let him know that I’m trying.
Something to remember:
Water covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface. Of this 96 percent is in the oceans and about 2 percent is in groundwater. 2 more percent is in ice and the rest is in the atmosphere. Only 2.5 percent of this water is fresh and almost 99 percent of that is in ice or underground, not easily available to animals. Less that .3 percent is in rivers and lakes and the atmosphere. A tiny bit more is carried in plants and animal bodies.
Here’s another interesting fact. About 70 percent of the small portion of the water on earth that is drinkable by animals is used in human agriculture including animals raised by humans to be eaten.
Wildlife doesn’t have much left to drink, does it?
Thomas Hollyday 8/22/2017