August 02, 2007

Nostalgia II: Squirrels

I try not to think about the things I’ll be leaving behind in Oregon when I move to Massachusetts, but sometimes it’s hard not to, especially when some event or happening triggers a flood of memories. For instance, just in typing the word “Massachusetts,” I realized that I’m going to miss having a state whose name I can type without having to remember whether there are 2 s’s or 2 t’s. It’s the little things that change, and I think that I’ll discover more and more things as I fight my way through the toughest education America has to offer.

That being said, I want to talk about squirrels. There are squirrels everywhere in Oregon, but I’m not so sure about MA (notice I gave up trying to type it!). Squirrels have always played a subtle albeit important role in my life and I figure it’s time to give them some recognition. I’d like to recount some squirrel lore that hopefully, with the help of this entry, I will remember for years to come.

Smurf Squirrel Attack!

I used to go to a camp called Big Lake (which, incidentally, is awesome, despite the fact they don’t let you eat meat, but that’s a story for another entry). Campers spent a week doing anything from rock climbing, water skiing, videography, gymnastics, or almost anything else you could think of. All summer camps have stories and legends, the story of Big Lake was that of the Smurf Squirrel. Legend has it that about 5 years prior to my attending there was a counselor who captured a squirrel in a live trap. Not quite sure what to do with it, but wanting to leave his mark, he spray painted the squirrel’s tail blue. Thus, whenever anybody ever saw a blue-tailed squirrel, they would know it was this counselor’s trophy. Every year people hunted for the Smurf Squirrel but to no avail, until one of my last years at that camp. Before heading off to the evening campfire theatrical performance, we got a report that a squirrel was trapped in one of the bathroom bungalow things. Well, leave it to a bunch of adventurous 10 year olds to get the squirrel out of the bathroom! 5 of us ran into the bathroom to capture it, and sure enough, there it was, the Smurf Squirrel sitting on the shower curtain bar. The goal was to get it cornered and then flush it out through intimidating tactics such as shouting and general herding. I, on the other hand, had a better idea. I approached the squirrel, but he sensed my intentions. He quickly began to scamper down the shower curtain but I reached out and grabbed his tail.

Let the following account be a lesson for all you squirrel grabbing wannabe’s.

The squirrel, suddenly having been grabbed by a human, FREAKED OUT like only a squirrel can. He leaped off the curtain, twisted around in midair and lunged for my chest. He landed with all four paws centered on my chest, sunk his claws into me, and then leaped off of me, shoving his claws in even farther as he pushed himself away. He sprinted out of the bathroom and into the woods, leaving me bleeding totally shocked. The lesson? Don’t grab squirrels who have been forced into hiding for 5 years due to humiliation caused by humans. They carry a grudge.

Big Squirrels Need Big Ropes

I live in the country and get to experience quite a few animals that don’t make regular appearances to city-dwellers. I see great-horned owls, woodpeckers, skunks, dear, opossums, rabbits, and squirrels! “But Michael, I live in the city and see squirrels all the time!” Ok, what you see are big rats that masquerade as squirrels. They look like this, right?

Right, not a squirrel. At my house, we have real squirrels. Big grey ones that not a lot of people have seen before. One of their defining characteristics is their large fluffy tail, which you can kind of see in the next picture. Here’s one lounging on the railing of our back deck. They get hot and tired, you see, and need to relax, which they do on our deck.

So, they chill on their back deck, but how do they get there? Our deck is about 15 feet off the ground and there is a solitary branch that is near enough to allow deck access. The only problem is that the branch is about 5 feet from the deck and, like city fire escape ladders, lowers to the deck under the weight of the squirrel. The only problem facing the squirrel at this point is how to get off the deck after the branch springs back up. The solution they devised? Jumping. I don’t know what it is with squirrels and flying leaps, but they tend to make them often. We watched them leap into nothingness for a year or two and decided that eventually one was going to die, so we did something about it. We bought a huge nautical rope and attached one end to our deck and the other to a large tree. It took a while for the squirrels to realize that it was there, but once they did, it became a squirrel highway, transporting squirrels with unheard of efficiency. Big Squirrels Need Big Ropes.

I’m Lovin’ It

My mom has worked for the State of Oregon for as long as I can remember, which results in me going to the capitol building A LOT. The area around the capitol is really nice. There are monuments, trees, benches, flags, fountains, and all sorts of nice areas to just sit down, relax, and maybe even have a picnic. Picnics mean food. Food means squirrels*. There are hundreds of squirrels all over the capitol grounds, it’s uncommon NOT to see a squirrel wandering around with 6 of his friends. It’s also a well-known fact that capitol squirrels enjoy french fries. Most people don’t believe you when you tell them this, but it’s true, they honestly love french fries. Today for lunch I got some McDonalds and went to the capitol to eat. A squirrel wandered up so I threw him a french fry, which he started to much on. Realizing that I could finally have proof of the capitol squirrels liking french fries, I whipped out my camera (which I always have on me) and took some pictures and video. Here you go folks, proof!

*Keep in mind, these are of the overgrown rat variety, not the nice big grey variety.

So, will there be squirrels in MA? I don’t know, but as soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. Until then, I’ll be enjoying my time with them as much as I can, because I leave for college in 16 days!


Michelle said...

Squirrels are great. And living in the country is ideal. I also got to see a lot of peacocks when I was growing up. And oh man, 16 days. I'm jealous.

Anonymous said...

dont worry. squirrels are everywhere.

Molly said...

I like the ones that lay on your deck. They are pretty cool.