Through the eyes of grandma chipmunk
Indeed. It is a big one. And fuzzy.
Her companion's obliging look-see ends with a step back and a shudder.
"I hate that kind," she says. "They jump."
"No, not this one. It kinda looks like those jumping ones, but this isn't one of those," says Grandma Chipmunk, decisively. She turns and heads on up the nature trail.
Her companion follows, giving the spider on the bush a wide berth — just in case. By the time she catches up, Grandma Chipmunk is already back to her favorite subject on this nature walk narrative — chipmunks.
"See that little stump there? That's one place chipmunks like to eat," she says.
Dinner remnants of inedible pine cone scales cover the top, drip down the sides and end in piles on the ground around the stump
"Look here," Grandma Chipmunk says again. This time, she pulls off what looks like downy fluff laying softly across a pine tree bough like a genteel lady on a fainting couch.
"A chipmunk put that there. Look, here's another piece. They're storing it for later. Must not gonna be much snow this winter with them storing it down this low," she says.
To an untrained eye, the fluff — which upon close inspection appears to contain an abundance of tiny little seeds — doesn't look any different in its placement than other flotsam and jetsam stuck on the pine boughs.
"No, that didn't just fall there, although of course that happens. But you get so you can tell what nature put there and when it's critters," says Grandma Chipmunk.
Everything about nature fascinates her — and, in turn, she can make the most mundane seem miraculous.
Charlene "Grandma Chipmunk" and Walt Davis' 10-acre place just outside of Meacham is interactive nature at its best. Charlene bought it before the two of them were married. The name was coined by Charlene's son, Dennis.
"Right after I bought this place, we were sitting out on the porch and all of a sudden, there went a chipmunk. And then another. And another," Charlene says. "We sat here and watched more chipmunks than we could count — just zipping around doing their business. Pretty soon, Dennis turns to me and says, ‘Mom, it looks like you got yourself a chipmunk ranch.' And the name just kinda stuck."
Charlene began countless hours building and maintaining nature trails, for her own pleasure and that of grandchildren, home school groups and public school field trips. Everyone finds welcome at Chipmunk Ranch.
After Charlene married Walt in the mid-1990s, they spent years living at Walt's place on Meacham Lake. What started as a hobby — observing and recording the weather — became a service to the community. For nearly 10 years they were spotters for the National Weather Service, with a full weather station set up on their property.
It was during this time the couple obtained their amateur radio licenses and got involved activating a network with other spotters and ham radio operators to track severe weather warnings during storms.
"But the place at the lake got too crowded. More and more people started moving in with lots of dogs and kids. So we moved up here — to the Chipmunk Ranch," Charlene says.
Although they continue to improve the nature walk trail system, for the most part, the Davis' leave everything as God lays it down. What might look like duff to some is the Lord's way of giving cover to critters and keeping moisture in the ground, says Charlene. A messy pile of mossy limbs is a mouse hotel. And a rotting log provides a late night snack under a full moon for a hungry bear.
"The Forest Service and most other folks would burn this stuff. And sometimes we have to burn, but I don't like to. You'd see a whole mess of little critters come running out of this stuff if you set fire to it. Anyway, if the smoke didn't get ‘em first.
"For one thing, chipmunks and pine squirrels are protected by law. A lot of people don't realize that, but you look in the game regulations and you'll see it there. I don't mind when nature takes it. Got to give those hawks something to eat — it's the natural order of things," she says.
So is hunting wild game for food. Charlene has bagged plenty of bull elk and bucks in her time.
Trying to pigeon hole Grandma Chipmunk is a tough call — don't call her a hippie or an environmentalist.
"I'm an old logger, not a tree hugger. And I'm not an old hippie, either," she says. "I'm a mountain woman."
A mountain woman who believes in hard work as well as the power of love and laughter to heal.
Before feminism, Charlene earned her own right to work in a man's world training prize-winning Thoroughbred horses, working as a powder monkey on a logging crew and as a construction worker. She sold advertising for KUMA radio in Pendleton and worked as a waitress. Advertising, she says, was hard work and long days, waitressing the most fun.
"I loved getting everybody at the table to laugh and have a good time at dinner," she says.
Charlene opened her heart to messed up kids on community service while working as a park manager for Morrow County, and to the lonely while tending bar. She also shared Jesus with them — both at the park and in the bar.
"I can do anything I want to. I've never been on a job I couldn't take Jesus with me. If I couldn't I wouldn't go," she says.
Calling herself a barefoot Christian, she shares Jesus with everyone she meets — even on the job.
Since her retirement, her life is filled with her hobbies and her passions. Hobbies include wildlife photography, the Chipmunk Ranch web site, and writing books she never finishes and poetry, which she does.
Her passions are Jesus, her family, ham radio and taking care of critters — in that order.
She doesn't believe in going to doctors, either.
"See that finger? I smashed that finger in the pickup door and I had a cut clear down to the bone. Lost the fingernail," she says.
Most people would have rushed into Pendleton for stitches. Not Grandma Chipmunk. She packed the wound with yarrow, wrapped duct tape around it and left it alone for a few days. She kept repeating the process until — voila!
"Look at that," she says proudly, holding up her index finger for close inspection. "Can't even hardly see where I cut it. And look at that fingernail. God gave me that fingernail. It's the prettiest one I got."