From where he sat on a tree, the lone chipmunk watched animals moving around below. Sulky the chipmunk was searching for others with handsome stripes just like his own. But he didn’t see anyone who looked exactly like his reflection in the still waters of the pond.

That’s okay, Sulky thought. At least I’ve found some cousins. And he ran down the tree to join them. 

Skittering along the path, Sulky first spotted a ground squirrel. She wore dark brown and tan stripes along her sleek brown back. “Hello!” greeted Sulky. “I’m happy to meet you, cousin!” “You don’t look it,” grumped the ground squirrel. “No wonder they call you Sulky. You don’t appear very friendly with all those dark stripes on your face. You look rather mean.” And the ground squirrel scurried farther into the woods.

Does my striped face look mean? wondered Sulky. Surely, his other cousins would feel differently! He scampered away and soon met a groundhog.

“Hello!” said Sulky. “I’m happy to meet you.” 

“Doesn’t seem like it,” said the dull brown groundhog. “You look anything but happy.”

“Really? I feel glad. And we’re cousins, you know,” the chipmunk pointed out.

“That may be, but I want nothing to do with you,” grouched the groundhog, waddling away.

Suddenly, something stirred up ahead. Sulky caught sight of a wispy red squirrel’s tail. “Hello,” said the hopeful chipmunk. “I’m happy to meet you.” 

“I wouldn’t have known it by looking at you,” sassed the squirrel. “If you want to be friendly, you need to look the part.” 

“But this is just how I look on the outside,” cried Sulky. “My face has nothing to do with what I think and feel. Besides, we’re cousins.”

“Doesn’t matter,” answered the red squirrel. “I spend time with those who look much nicer than you.” 

With drooping ears, Sulky the chipmunk headed toward his burrow.

As he walked, an acorn caught Sulky’s eye. Guess I’ll take it home to eat later, he thought. As he reached for the nut, Sulky came nose-to-nose with another animal. Hesitating, he pulled back a bit to examine this new arrival. Light stripes decorated his face. And he was marked with dark stripes along his brown back and tai…wait a minute. Where was the rest of his tail???

“I know exactly what you’re thinking,” chattered the other chipmunk. “What happened to him…am I right? They call me ‘Stubby’ because I lost part of my tail in an accident when I was just a little kit.” 

“Oh, I didn’t notice,” answered Sulky. 

“Thanks for your kindness, but it’s the very first thing everyone sees. Then they get embarrassed and don’t even try getting to know me.”

“I understand perfectly. My cousins don’t like these dark stripes on my face. They say I look mean and call me ‘Sulky.’”

“Looks aren’t important,” said Stubby. “How we act should be what matters most.”

“That’s right!” Sulky agreed. “And you can have this acorn. I think you probably arrived one paw-length before I reached it.”

“So polite of you,” Stubby said, with a swish of his short tail. “But here’s a thought. Let’s work together and gather acorns for both our homes.”

“Great idea!” answered Sulky, with happy eyes.

The two chipmunks scurried about, filling their cheeks with acorns. Along the way, they also found time to race and play. They smiled beneath twitching whiskers when their cousins asked to join in the games!

Written by Becky Ross Michael / Image Credit: