My column last week dealt with squirrels, an overabundance of nuts and the possible ramifications when the two collide. Looking back, I must admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the squirrels. Although some people see them as nothing more than a furry rodent that lives in trees, I consider them nature’s consummate clowns. For me, nothing can brighten a bad day faster than a squirrel leaping from branch to branch of a tree. It is great therapy and doesn’t cost a penny.
My admiration for squirrels dates back to the early 1950s. A gas station located on Slater’s Main Street (named, appropriately enough – “King’s”) served as the main gathering spot for most of the town’s male population. Although a majority of its clientele were adults, King’s had a way of attracting the younger crowd as well.
For the kids Pepsi, peanuts and candy bars were the big draw; however, there was also a special performer who demanded everyone’s’ attention.
Each morning, immediately after opening the front door, owner King Schaudt would wheel out of the grease room a tall wire cage containing a savvy squirrel.
During pleasant weather, the cage would remain outside the entire day, with its occupant enjoying the fresh air while performing many feats of daring. Admirers often gathered around the cage, grinning and giggling.
The squirrel apparently enjoyed the fame as it would jump from one perch to another and eventually land on a bicycle wheel mounted inside the cage. It would then set the wheel spinning. The greater the number of spectators, the faster it would send the wheel spinning.
The squirrel (its name, regrettably, forever lost in time) was a bit of a rogue. In spite of all the attention it attracted, the furry fireball was anything but cordial with its fans. Anyone sticking his or her finger inside the cage was apt to lose a portion of the digit. The squirrel was definitely not chummy.
I often wondered why it seemed so standoffish. After all, its fans nearly swooned over the furry gymnast. Some would pour part of their Pepsi into its tin watering cup. Others would share with it a portion of their Snicker candy bar – dedication to the extreme!
But alas, during the long winter months, the squirrel spent most of its time in a back room, its cage huddled in amongst stacks and stacks of tires – both new and used. I’m sure that sort of environment did little to improve its hostile demeanor.
I can’t recall how many years King’s squirrel lived to entertain his customers. I believe it was three to four years. I’m also at a loss over how the squirrel finally met his final demise. I’m certain it had nothing to do with plunging off the spinning bicycle wheel during a performance. The squirrel was far too professional for such a fate. That is unless it had over-consumed Pepsi and Snickers before attempting the stunt.
I can only wonder.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.