Mr. Squirrel looked down the lake and saw the storm coming. The clouds were black and rolling. Mr. Squirrel’s sensitive ears picked up the low, rumbling sounds of the distant thunder. Mr. Squirrel realized that this was going to be a big storm, too big to gather nuts in. But Mr. Squirrel was hungry. Maybe, just maybe, he thought, he could gather up a few more nuts and make it back to his nest before it rained.
Mr. Squirrel jumped off the big rock at the foot of the meadow by the lake and ran across the meadow to the trees and began gathering. There were lots of nuts and Mr. Squirrel was greedy. He forgot about the storm and thought about all the nuts he was going to have for the winter, and how he was going to be the sleekest, fattest squirrel in the wood come spring. He saw himself racing along the branches and climbing trees and showing off to the squirrel ladies. It was a pretty picture in his mind, so pretty in fact, that he didn’t even notice the first rain drops. He was so happy thinking about what a handsome squirrel he was going to be that the storm caught him by complete surprise.
When Mr. Squirrel realized what had happened, he was a long run away from his dry nest with a very nasty thunder storm booming and crashing around him. Mr. Squirrel got scared. He left off gathering nuts and started to run home. But he wasn’t so scared that he forgot to take some nuts along with him.
That’s when it really started to rain hard.
The storm was right on top of him. The wind was blowing the rain so hard that the rain drops hurt his nose when they hit him. Even the thunder was so loud that it hurt his ears. It was no longer booming, but crashing and roaring. And the lightning made a loud “ZAP” with each blinding flash. This was obviously no place for a little animal like him to be. So Mr. Squirrel ran and ran and ran. He took the straight way home over the rock by the lake.
He was running at full speed over the top of the rock when the lightning struck. It all happened so fast. Mr. Squirrel was racing over the rock; the lightning hit the rock right next to Mr. Squirrel burning his tail and splitting the rock right down the middle. Mr. Squirrel was blasted forward as if he were nothing more than a small leaf in a big wind.
Mr. Squirrel was lucky. The lightning could have seriously hurt him. But all it did was leave a streak on his tail that would never go away. From that day on, Mr. Squirrel was famous among all the forest animals. His burned tail was like a special badge that he would always wear and every animal in the forest would immediately recognize him as “The-One-Who-Got-Away”. Even the foxes wouldn’t chase him after that. How could they ever hope to catch The-One-Who-Got-Away?
But Mr. Squirrel wasn’t feeling lucky. He was wet and sore and he had lost all his nuts. Even the ones he carried in his cheek pouches were knocked loose. So he scurried back to his nest to nurse his sore tail and sit out the rest of the storm. This wasn’t just a quickly passing storm. It lingered for a while, drenching the forest and everything in it. It made the branches of the trees so heavy that many broke and fell to the ground (which was very good for Mr. Squirrel since with each broken branch, more nuts fell for him to gather). And the wind was so strong it took the wet leaves and whipped them around forming little piles here and there and filling in all kinds of open holes. (Mr. Woodchuck was terribly annoyed that he would have to clean out both the front and back entrances to his burrow again.)
Even the new crack in the rock by the lake was filled with leaves, which was very fortunate for one of the nuts that Mr. Squirrel had dropped when the lightning hit. The nut had fallen into the new crack and had come to rest on a narrow ledge. When the wind blew the leaves around, some of them were forced into the crack and came to rest wrapping themselves around the nut like a warm, snuggly blanket which was just what the little nut needed. The leaves would hold him there, anchored against the side of the crack in the rock and protect him from the winter’s snow. And in the spring, they would give him just what he needed to grow.