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The True Meaning of Tenacity

May 22, 2017

From  Tenacity: noun

  1. the quality of being tenacious, of holding fast; persistence
  2. the quality of retaining something
Chipmunk in the woods

Chipmunk in the forest

When we bought our country property (just about a year ago) there was a small hole about halfway down the (very long) gravel driveway. Thinking it was ‘just a hole’, my husband shoved some small rocks and gravel into it to ‘plug it up’. Less than a week later, it was there again. Not one to give up easily, hubby tried jamming more rocks and gravel down the hole, followed by screenings, sand and water (to make a kind of poor man’s cement); it reappeared within days. Then one morning, as we were returning from our walk, we saw a chipmunk disappear into the hole. It emerged from another one (that we hadn’t noticed before) on the side of the driveway (where it slopes down into the forest), and scurried off into the woods. Clearly what we’d thought was ‘just a hole’ was one of the animal’s many entry points to his extensive tunnel system. And he wasn’t going to let us keep him out!

The young man who lives next door told my husband that the chipmunk hole had been in the middle of the driveway for years; the previous owner had tried repeatedly to block it up, without success. I kind of liked the chipmunk’s persistence; his determination to retain a specific entry point to his home. My husband, however, was convinced the hole would be eliminated when we had the driveway ‘paved’ in the fall (we had recycled asphalt layered several inches thick over the gravel, and then compressed with a roller and a compactor). Surely he wouldn’t be able to dig through THAT, hubby thought. He was wrong.

As soon as the winter snow had melted, we could see that the hole was right back in the middle of the driveway (as was the ‘side door’ leading into the woods, which had also been buried under the new driveway surfacing). How an animal no more than 6” in size had managed to dig his way through a thick layer of compressed asphalt and rock to re-establish an eight-foot long tunnel between the two holes is beyond me! (And where he deposited the ‘debris’ he removed remains a mystery. There was little evidence of any rocks or asphalt pilings at either end of the tunnel). Even more fascinating to me is how/why this particular tunnel has repeatedly been ‘excavated’ over the years. Chipmunks only live for about three years, which means it’s highly likely they’ve passed information about the ‘family tunnel system’ – and how to keep the entrances clear, no matter how the humans attempt to block them – down through multiple generations.


Main ‘entry’ hole in driveway


The side ‘exit’

I’ve blogged about chipmunks before, but this particular experience has given me a brand-new respect for them. Every time I see that little chipmunk disappear into that hole (he often sits right in the middle of the driveway as we pull in, darting down the hole just before we reach him; I suspect he’s playing a version of ‘chipmunk chicken’ with us), I marvel at the tiny creature’s doggedness in keeping his tunnel accessible. As a result, I’ve nicknamed him ‘Tenacity’. I think he’s earned it. Just as I’ve earned a new admiration for all the creatures who live in the forest that surrounds me here on … the other side of 55.

  1. August 2, 2017 9:54 am

    “Excuse me? You’ve made a driveway over my home? How could you?” Talking chipmunk. Isn’t that what all chipmunks do? I wouldn’t know, we don’t have ’em here in the UK. As far as I know, anyway. Here we have a big hole in our driveway – not in the main part, thankfully – but it’s too big to be from the voles that live here.

    • August 2, 2017 10:36 am

      I have holes all over my property and ‘battling chipmunks’ are common (they are VERY territorial). I’m a huge fan of wildlife, so I don’t mind.

  2. Margy permalink
    June 4, 2017 10:27 pm

    This is pretty funny! Interesting how the ‘hole’ information could be passed down. This passing down of information clearly doesn’t happen in the deer family, which is why deer never learn that the ‘deer in the headlight’ pause just doesn’t work out well for the deer.

  3. May 27, 2017 10:07 am

    Your place sounds wonderful. I agree with Mama’s Empty Nest…a good cat will keep them away. Our neighbors’ cat Blaze keeps our chipmunk, rabbit and mouse population under control. But I wasn’t very happy when I saw him carrying off a cardinal.

    • May 27, 2017 11:26 am

      Our new property is heaven on earth! I have 2 cats, actually, but they’re indoor cats (they like to go out on the deck and ‘look around’ but neither has ever shown any interest in jumping off). We have foxes living in the woods across the street (we’ve seen them several times) and a hawk that circles overhead regularly (it ‘got’ one of the neighbour’s chickens last year), so I imagine they keep most of the critters under control. I do love the majority of the birds and animals but I have to keep reminding myself that we’re right in the middle of the ‘web of life’ out here – the creatures are either predators or prey (or both!)

  4. May 22, 2017 4:30 pm

    Well, that little fellow and all his kin surely do live up to your name for him! Determined little critters, aren’t they? After our cat died a few years ago, we started noticing ‘tunnels’ in our yard — the work of moles. They have the same doggedness as chipmunks! But now that daughter’s cat has come to live with us, she’s keeping them away or at least far enough away from the house.

    • May 22, 2017 6:29 pm

      We had a number of mole hills and tunnels appear during the winter, but they seem to have disappeared once spring arrived (I assume they’ve gone off into the forest). I’ve recently ‘discovered’ a ground squirrel in the yard (something I’ve never seen before!) I’m loving (most of the time) all the animals we have here (I could do without the skunks, however – between the digging for grubs and the occasional ‘interaction’ with the neighbour’s dog, they’re not my favourite animal).


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