Because of A-bal-ka’s many enemies, he was very watchful. He seldom went far from home, and when he did venture to go abroad, he nearly always followed the same path. At first it ran along under the side of a fallen log. From the end of this, a few quick leaps carried him to a brush pile. A jump or two more brought him to a rock and yet a few more to a stone fence. Once there, he felt safe. At the least alarm, he could run into a hole too small for any of his foes except, perhaps, A-tos-sa, whom he dreaded more than any of the others.
All along the stone fence stood nut trees,—oaks, hazels, walnuts, beeches, and others. And at one end was a cornfield.
This made it very handy for A-bal-ka. He could gather the nuts which fell upon the stone fence, and when he went for corn, he could keep to the fence and thus avoid his enemies. Early in the fall he began to fill his storehouse. To and fro he went along the fence with his cheek-pouches full of corn and nuts.
Little Luke often amused himself by watching him. He would pick up the nuts with his paws and put them into his cheek-pouches, and it was amazing how many they would hold. When he started for home, his cheeks sometimes looked as if he had a very severe case of the mumps.
One day in the autumn little Luke found out a queer thing about A-bal-ka. He was going up the trail with Old John. A-bal-ka started to cross the trail, but seeing the old Indian he became scared and ran up a tree. This was a thing which he seldom did; never unless he was obliged to, to escape from his enemies. He is a ground squirrel, and no tree climber, like his cousins the Red and the Gray Squirrels.
“Now,” said Old John, “I’ll show you something.” So he got a stout stick and began to tap the tree. Tap, tap, tap, tap, as if he were beating time to music. This tapping had a strange effect upon A-bal-ka. At first he was greatly excited and tried to run farther up the tree. Soon he gave this up, turned around, and began to come down head foremost. He would lift his little feet and shake them as if something hurt them. Lower and lower he came, until the old Indian could easily have killed him with his club or caught him with his hand. He did neither. He just laughed and threw away his stick.
“There,” said he, “that’s the way to make a chipmunk come down out of a tree. They’ll always do it, if you tap long enough,”
“That’s queer,” said the little boy; “what makes them come down? Why don’t they run farther up?”
“I don’t know,” said Old John, “perhaps they think you are trying to cut down the tree, or maybe the jar hurts their feet. The Red Men used to think that there was some kind of a magic charm about it.”
“I am glad you didn’t hurt him,” said the little boy, as they went on up the trail.
“Hurt him!” exclaimed the old Indian, “why, don’t you know that no Indian ever hurts a chipmunk?”