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Carolyn Sherwin Bailey

The Cap Grandfather Didn't Have

Once upon a time, when Grandfather was a little boy named John, he wanted a warm squirrel cap to wear in the winter. Grandfather knew that the only way to have a squirrel cap was to find a squirrel first; so he went out to catch one. He had an old trap that his father, who was Great Grandfather, had made to catch foxes, and he thought that it would do nicely to catch a squirrel.

Grandfather knew just where there was a squirrel. He was a fat, gray squirrel with thick fur, and he lived down in the woods at the end of the cow pasture. He had been very busy all the fall getting in his winter supply of nuts. Grandfather had helped him, leaving little piles of shag barks for him. These the squirrel had buried, to the last one.

Grandfather knew that the squirrel would be very easy to catch because he was tame. He took some nuts with him in his pocket. He planned to put them around the trap and some on top of the trap. In getting them the squirrel would be caught.

When Grandfather reached the woods there was the fat, gray squirrel sitting in front of a tree with his little paws folded over his stomach. His eyes were shining; he did not stir. He was glad to see Grandfather. Grandfather's heart began to go pit-a-pat, for the squirrel was like one of the neighbors; and he was going to kill it for a cap. But he set the trap down on the ground, and felt in the upper right hand pocket of his jacket to find the nuts. He took out a handful, and then kneeled down on the ground beside the trap to set it.

Grandfather's hands shook as he tried to set the trap. His heart went pit-a-pat, faster and faster, for the squirrel was watching him. Grandfather bent very low over the trap so that he would not see the squirrel.

Scamper, scamper;  what was that?

Grandfather started. There was the squirrel sitting on his shoulder. He had jumped there because he had seen Grandfather take nuts out of his pocket. He reached down his furry head, touching the little boy's neck, to take some nuts himself. Grandfather fed the squirrel all the nuts that he had; some it ate, and some it buried.

Then Grandfather went home with the trap under his arm. He had decided not to have a squirrel cap.

Blessed are the merciful.

—Matthew v. 7.