Samantha Squirrel Learns Persistence

Readers, here is another Financial Fable to read to your kids.

Samantha was a gray tree squirrel, born in March high in the tree top nest her Mama and Papa had built.

She lived snug and safe in that nest with her 2 sisters. Her nest tree swayed gracefully in the winds, high above the ground, rocking Sammie to sleep each night – with her belly full of warm Mama’s milk.

Mama and Papa Squirrel were very smart. They were also curious; fast moving; and able to leap easily between the trees holding the nests of rest of the Squirrel family’s colony. But most of all, they were persistent.

Grandpap and Grandmam Squirrel and their parents before them taught Mama and Papa Squirrel that being persistent is VERY important. More important than being smart. More important than being fast and much more important than being the biggest jumpers.

After all, being persistent was what had made the family one of the richest in the colony.

If Great-Grandpap hadn’t spent week after week studying the pole to the seed holder where all the birds ate, the family might have perished. He tried 200 times, different ways to get to the seed holder – and he finally did it! After he did, the family had lots of seed all winter long.

If Grandmam Squirrel hadn’t tried and tried over and over again to get past the fence around the peach tree, the family wouldn’t have the best desserts in the colony.

The Squirrel family valued persistence so highly, that each new set of baby squirrels in the family had to pass a test to earn a persistence award before they got to build their own nest.

But Samantha didn’t know anything at all yet about persistence. She was warm and snug and safe in the nest. Mama and Papa had spent hours and hours and hours collecting nuts and seeds last fall. They buried them in many different places; and every day, they went out to dig some up to bring back to the nest to feed Sammie and her sisters after they were too old for Mama to give them milk anymore.

In June, with her sisters and all her Squirrel cousins from the colony, Sammie started leaving the nest each day to go to the colony’s squirrel school. They learned lots of things. They learned how to climb up a tall tree. They learned how to run back down to the ground. They learned where the family’s favorite nuts and berries and flowers would grow in the summer. They learned to flick their tail just so to hold their balance and to wrap it around themselves to keep warm. They learned how to bury a seed and find it again later. They learned how to gnaw twigs from a tree to put in a nest.  But they did not learn persistence in school.

Persistence was learned in the nest.

All summer long, Sammie and the other young squirrels in the family practiced finding food and hiding it in holes they dug. They watched and learned as the older squirrel students made their nests high in the tree tops with moss, twigs and leaves. They taunted each other to do high flying acrobatic tricks in the air between the tallest tree tops and they learned to be wary of their enemies, like the humans or the hawks and owls. Sammie was proud of all the things she learned and all of the things she could do.

One day, she wanted to show her Grandmam how smart and fast she was and how far she could jump. Grandman Squirrel watched while Sammie ran, climbed, leaped and dug. When Sammie finally stopped to rest, panting, by Grandmam’s feet, Grandmam called the Squirrel sisters to her side.

“You have studied hard, practiced and learned many things,” she said to them, “but have you learned persistence?”

The three Squirrel kids looked at each other, wondering, “What is persistence?”

Grandmam saw their puzzled expressions. She explained persistence.

“Persistence is refusing to give up until you do what you set out to do. It is obstinately continuing on until you get what you need. It is trying over and over and over again until you succeed.”

She, Grandpap, Mama and Papa Squirrel then explained that each sister would have to earn their persistence award before they would be allowed to build a nest in the colony.

“But Grandmam,” said Sammie, “ How do I get a persistence award?”

“To earn a persistence award”, Grandmam said, “each squirrel has to find and solve a new puzzle. You have to find a new food source and figure out how to get to it. Or, you have to learn how to build a better nest; crack a nut a faster and cleaner way; or figure out some other improvement our family can use to be richer, better fed, safer or more comfortable. AND, it has to be hard enough that it takes you at least 10 tries.”

The Squirrel sisters also learned that if they didn’t get their persistence award, they had to leave the colony and build their nest somewhere else in the world.

Sammie Squirrel was scared. She didn’t want to have to build her nest in some strange and foreign neighborhood – away from all her family and friends. She didn’t know how to find and solve a new puzzle! She didn’t know how to be persistent!

Sammie stewed and worried and stewed some more, trying to figure out what she could do to earn her persistence award. Finally, she went back to Mama and asked her for some help. “Mama, can you tell me what you did to earn your persistence award?” she asked.

Mama loved to tell family stories, so she told all about how she had figured out a way for 2 Squirrels to work together to get food out of the Yankee Flipper bird feeder, and showed her this movie of some of her attempts:

“See how the food came out and went to the ground each time I went around,”she added. “Papa was on the ground getting the seed!  We worked together on this new way to get more food.”

OK, thought Sammie to herself, I can find a seed feeder and learn how to get the seed from it. Over the next weeks, she watched the neighborhood humans. Some new ones moved into a house next door. They hung out a bird feeder! Here was Sammie’s chance to earn her persistence award.

She scouted the area around the bird feeder full of seed, and tried once or twice to jump onto it from the roof, but each time she slid right off. Besides, the new humans had a cat that watched her every move and scared her. Sammie gave up on getting the seed from that feeder.

The weeks of summer went on, but Sammie couldn’t find any more new puzzles to solve. She found no puzzles that would make an improvement the family could use to be richer, better fed, safer or more comfortable.

Her sisters were busy solving their new puzzles. They both succeeded!

One sister practiced and practiced over and over again to build a nest faster than any Squirrel had ever done. After 15 nests, she made one in just a morning! She won her persistence award.

The other sister, noting that many cousins had died trying to cross the street, studied and studied and watched and practiced different ways of running between the cars that zipped by on the road. She learned that humans also cross the road, so she watched them many times. They always waited before they crossed, and the cars stopped for them. She learned to follow the humans across the road when they went. She won her persistence award.

Sammie was depressed. She would never figure out what new puzzle she could find and then solve it. She couldn’t stick to anything long enough to figure it out. Maybe she should just give up and be content with building a nest somewhere else. Earning a persistence award was just too hard for her! Giving up was much easier than trying over and over and over again.

But Sammie loved being around her friends and family. She cherished every moment of the rest of the summer and fall, knowing she might have to leave before winter came. She watched each member of the colony, trying to memorize the way the were so she could remember them after she had to move. As she watched, she began to notice things.

She noticed one cousin that tried something very simple and couldn’t do it. She watched that cousin try again and fail. But that cousin didn’t quit. That cousin really wanted to do the simple thing, so she tried one more time – and did it!

She saw a neighbor family of squirrels get thinner and thinner and sicker and sicker as the summer wore on. She noticed that they had stopped looking for food in new places. They gave up and they were not doing well.

She noticed everything in the neighborhood she might have to leave.

A new house was being built across the street. She used her sister’s new way of running across the street without being hit by a car so she could crawl around on the new house.

She was curious! As she was running across the shingles on the roof, Sammie noticed a small hole in the wall. She felt cool air coming out and sniffed it. She turned her head to the side and put her eye next to the hole and looked inside. It was huge in there. “What a snug nest that would be,” she thought, “if only there was a way to go in and out – but that hole is way too small. Oh well,” she thought, “at least it was interesting to explore.”

As Sammie prepared herself to leave, she and her colony school teacher had many discussions. Her teacher wanted Sammie to stay.  She praised Sammie, explaining that she had already learned many things by being persistent.

From her Sammie found out that the secret to learning persistence was to start with small things and try several times until you succeed. Her teacher explained that trying different things each time, using the parts that worked from last time and adding something new would help her find a solution to a puzzle.

“If only I could find a new puzzle I could solve to earn that award” she moaned.

After a few minutes, she jumped straight up in the air, waving her tail wildly and chattering noisily to herself. “What if I could find a way to make a den in that house”, she cried to herself! Surely that would be big enough and require enough attempts to solve. Surely that would be a way to earn her persistence award!

She asked Mama Squirrel if this was a good enough puzzle to solve – one that would make an improvement the family could use to be richer, better fed, safer or more comfortable.

One that would earn her a persistence award and the right to build a nest in the colony. Of course, Mama Squirrel said yes. “But,” asked Mama, “how will you get into that house to make a den?”

Sammie explained:

She knew how to make holes bigger. She dug the biggest seed holes in the whole colony school class. She knew how to cross the road safely. She knew how to climb up onto the house roof and she knew where the little hole was started. She knew how to scratch with her sharp claws to begin enlarging the hole and hadn’t Mama Squirrel had already praised her many times when she gnawed through big twigs to build a nest? Gnawing that hole big enough would be easy once she had scratched it enough.

Right then and there, Sammie Squirrel decided that she WOULD earn a persistence award. She WOULD stay and build her nest in the colony neighborhood! She WOULD persist and build the best winter den ever. It would be better by far than the twig and leaf nests most of the colony had. It would be better by far than the den her cousin had in a rotted tree trunk. It would be snug and warm and close to food.

Sammie started practicing that very day. She made the hole in the bird house bigger. First she scratched and scratched at it for days and when it was big enough, she gnawed the wood with her strong teeth. She practiced to prove that she could make the hole bigger. She practiced so she could make the hole bigger faster.

Then after she had practiced enough, she dashed across the road each day and scratched away at the tiny hole in the house. Gradually, a little bit each day, it got bigger and bigger. Finally after many days it was big enough for her to get her teeth into it. From there it took no time at all to make it just big enough for her to scamper through. Once inside, she explored and picked out the warmest safest, snuggest spot to pad with leaves and twigs and moss.

When her den was snug and finished, she took Grandmam and Grandpap and Mama and Papa Squirrel to see it. They were so pleased that they gave her the persistence award on the spot and asked if they could move in with her!

Sammie Squirrel learned persistence and built a better life for herself and her family because of it.

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