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Makers and Takers: Samuel and Hussein



Squirrels can teach us much about makers and takers

Editor’s note: Ever notice that the best way to teach moral principles to a child is to use anthropomorphized animal characters? What if two real, live animals acted out their own morality play for a little boy? Don’t laugh: it happened. Our newest contributor shows how two squirrels illustrated beautifully the concept of makers and takers.

The other day my 2-year-old grandson was over the house and, as he normally does, he placed peanuts on the back patio for the local chipmunks and squirrels. Then he went about riding his tricycle through the house banging into the corners of the kitchen cabinets and woodwork.

The Maker

In about fifteen minutes the first squirrel appeared. We alerted him and Ethan went to the glass door and pressed his nose to the glass so as to get as close to the squirrel as possible. Mr. Squirrel approached the door from the right side, hiding behind the 8-inch wood barrier of a flowerbed. When he felt safe, he hopped onto the patio and carefully selected a single peanut from about thirty or so, put it in his mouth and went back to the right and on to a different flowerbed about 20 feet from the house. I expected him to eat the nut right there, since this is what the little furry rats did all summer to Ethan’s peanuts. Instead, he buried it in my flowerbed by digging a hole in my neatly laid black mulch, placing the peanut in the hole and, as I was happy to see, smoothly covered the peanut with the black mulch to the point that only a bloodhound could find the hidden cache. Or so I thought. This went on for eight or nine trips to the patio and every peanut was buried in a different, neatly packed spot of my flower bed. I realized that he was just storing what he found for the long winter since the weather was in the fifties and it was still December here in Nashville, Tennessee. January and February were the cold months and they were in his future. Enterprising little rodent.

The Taker

Squirrels can teach us much about makers and takers

A squirrel eating a nut. Photo: Peter Trimming; CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License

Normally there were many squirrels in my back yard but this time only Samuel, as I named him, was making the round trip from patio to flower bed. I was happy that he was neatly patting down the black mulch so as to not put my flower bed in disarray. Hard-working, enterprising and considerate. What a guy! I was a little disappointed that all those peanuts were going to go to one squirrel, but what the heck, they were there and he was willing to do the required work to take them. All of a sudden I saw something move from the left of the yard. Another squirrel, I named Hussein for reasons that will soon become apparent, moved in from the left. However, he didn’t come to the patio to harvest a peanut, but instead went to the flowerbed which was closer to him and started to dig up one of the sequestered nuts. I guess the 20-foot hop to the patio was too much work for him to consider. He stole the nut and went back to the left of the yard.

From the right, Samuel hopped back to the patio and selected another nut, turned to his right and headed to the flowerbed to bury it. From the left Hussein approached and started to uncover another buried nut when Samuel spotted him and chased him all the way to the fence at left of the yard, from which he came. I can just imagine Samuel yelling,

That’s my nut, and I created that cache. Go get your own.

I could understand Samuel’s attitude, Hussein had the ability to run fast enough to get away from Samuel but didn’t want to spend the energy to gather his own food.


Makers and Takers

So, from Aesop’s Ant and the Grasshopper to modern day’s Makers and Takers, little has changed. There will always be those who prepare for the future and those who would rather others prepare for them. And, believe it or not, Samuel did approach from the right and Hussein did approach from the left. Now I’m not trying to indicate anything here, just stating a fact.

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Retired art director, military veteran, retired restaurateur, retired real estate broker, grandparent, active essayist and budding author.

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Cute story, but as a “Conservative Fable” it needs a bit of work. In Aesop’s fable, the Ant was a diligent worker who made his prosperity happen, rather than walking up upon it laying there as a gift for one and all.

In this tale however, it’s more than a little ironic that the only work being done by the “Maker” in this tale was storing the free handout he stumbled across by chance. The author even describes him as “taking” the nuts he found.

Meanwhile, the so-called Taker had to seek our the buried nuts so well-hidden “only a bloodhound could find them”, then dig them up, and run off out of sight to bury them in his own cache. That’s even more work than Samuel did, since the nuts were laying out in the open for him to carry off.

I take care of the squirrels and birds by feeding them in the winter too, and the reward for the handout is watching beautiful animals up close with my kids. I’m glad the author and his grandson share a similar experience, but in Terry’s “Ayn Rand World” point of view, I wonder what name would go to the character in the story who puts valuable items out for anyone to take for themselves, instead of them earning it for themselves as nature intended? Almost a “redistribution of wealth” theme going on there :-)

And before everyone takes this too seriously, lighten up – it’s just an observation, not an attack.

Terry A. Hurlbut

The Maker still had to exert some effort. All the Taker did was steal. Do you really want to keep going down the road of supporting outright theft as an instrument of public policy?


Of course I’m not advocating theft – that’s why I said not to take my comments too seriously.

The moral failings of squirrels aside, I was noting that while the “maker” did some work, he was starting with a free pile of nuts laid out for his convenience. The “taker” actually had to do more work than the “maker” to get the nuts, whether honestly obtained or not.

To use a human analogy, Samuel is a guy who comes upon a table of free government cheese, with a sign saying “take all you want”. So he does the “work” of carrying block after block to his home and locking it up in the fridge. Then Hussein comes along, goes through the effort to break into Samuel’s home & fridge, and makes off with cheese to put in his own fridge.

Now Samuel has every right to chase off the thief and say “Hands off my cheese!”, but he never earned the right to say “I made this cheese”. In fact, Samuel is what an Ayn Rand fan would call a moocher, not a maker.

Anyway, tweak the story to have Samuel gathering acorns from the ground on his own, and he’s the self-reliant role model you’d want him to be. I just had to laugh at the idea of a squirrel loading up on a handout being portrayed as a “maker”. To that, all you can say is “nuts”!

Terry A. Hurlbut

Well, I wouldn’t expect you ever to advocate the common garden variety of theft, that a man commits while wearing a mask that makes him look like a raccoon, carrying a flashlight, using a classic jimmy, etc.

But I maintain that the welfare state is an institution that has theft as its basis.

And that’s the point that the contributor was making.

Furthermore: Hussein didn’t “do more work” than Samuel did. Hussein spied on Samuel, watched where he put his stash, then walked over to it and dug it up.

The proper human metaphor is that ancient and disgusting variety of humaniform tapeworm called a publican, or a tax gatherer, or a tax farmer, who “worked” a province in ancient Rome. Happily, even these may reform. Consider the case of Zacchaeus. He rated dinner with Christ Himself, even though (as he admitted) he had not only gathered Rome’s taxes (with more than a little skimmed off the top for himself), but had “shown the fig,” that is, planted contraband, “discovered” it, pretended to be “shocked, shocked” (someone should have cast Claude Rains to play this guy in a story of Jesus), and shaken the hapless property owner down for more of his lunch money. Of course, now that Jesus had told him to climb down from a sycamore tree, he proposed, without Jesus’ asking, to pay those people back four times as much.


I’d say that you’re reading too much into the behavior of squirrels :-)

Your “taker” is just an animal foraging for food by instinct, and equating that to tax collection or institutional corruption isn’t even a stretch.

You’re also missing or deliberately ignoring the point that your “maker” is just a “moocher” in the opinion of anyone claiming to be a fan of Ayn Rand, since he was just helping himself to a handout in the first place. Kind of a mixed-message in a story meant to teach your values.

Terry A. Hurlbut

When the “taker”, as part of his technique of “forage,” spies on another of his own kind, watched him bury his cache, and the raids it, that is not honorable forage. That is theft.

The only person who may justifiably, or at least excusably, steal from another, is a prisoner of war trying to escape. That does not apply in this scenario.


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