I believe the horror officially commenced on September 6, 2006, and it began in the midst of a deceptive calm. Groundskeepers at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin had noted for some time that vandals were stealing the small American flags left to honor veterans’ graves. The assumption was, of course, that the offenders were hippies or communists or just local punks, perhaps the spoiled offspring of wealthy but inattentive parents or the troubled youthful offenders of single parent families.
But on this late summer afternoon as Mr. Dave Ender mowed the grass between the tombstones he spotted a flash of red, white and blue amongst the limbs of a nearby tree. He investigated and discovered a large and intricate “drey”, or squirrel’s nest, constructed from the tattered and masticated shards of dozens of miniature American flags. The vandals had been identified. But Mr. Ender’s only reaction was one of admiration. “The little rascals”, he thought, “They’re just amazing.” Yes, rascals indeed; and not merely amazing, but horrible, too.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ikH9ZRcF2Q&mode=related&search) If anyone cares to take notice, it seems to me that the wake up call for doomsday has been given. It’s time to roll out of bed and meet your maker. And I think he’s angry. And he may be a squirrel…a great big, grey one, with sharp bitey teeth and maybe a bazooka.
Humans are singularly ignorant of the 300 plus species of squirrels in this world. Webster’s dictionary gives a horribly generalized definition. Squirrels are either “any of various arboreal rodents of the genus Sciurus and related genera of the family Sciuridae, having a long flexible bushy tail…” or “…any of various other rodents of the family Sciuridae,…”. It is a definition that makes a mocker of the adage, “know your enemy”. The word itself comes down to us through French (1327) from the Latin (Vulgar) “Sciurus”, which comes from the Greek “slirouros”, meaning “beast that sits in the shadow of its own tail”. The verb “to squirrel” meaning to save something for later use was not recorded until 1939. Oddly, that same year saw the first use of the word as a second person perfect adjective, when Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “Hitler seems a little squirrelly to me.” The problem is that the small rodents are ubiquitous and as such we assume we know them. It is a level of hubris that may well spell our doom.
In San Jose, California, on May 9th a single squirrel turned an entire First Grade classroom into a nightmare on Elm Street - except it didn’t happen on Elm Street. Just after 8:30 am, as students and adults at the Evergreen Elementary School were preparing to leave on a field trip, the small grey Ninja assassin slipped into the room via an open door and ran up the leg of one of the mothers. According to Will Ector, a school district spokesman, the first victim was “…trying to get it off and another parent was trying to assist…one was nipped on the fingertip and scratched on the arm and the other was bitten on the arm.” The errant rodent nibbler then “did a loop around the (blood soaked) classroom and ran out the door”, where he encountered his third victim, an innocent 11 year old girl, whom he immediately bit on the arm. He then made good his twitchy nosed escape.
The school went into immediate lock down which evidently prevented any further assaults. The victims were given medical attention and treated with antibiotics, but not given rabies shots because, as the Santa Clara County Vector Control District Manager explained, “Generally speaking, squirrels are not the type of animal that can survive an attack by a rabid animal. They are prey animals…” It was the kind of comforting speech often given by movie experts to explain why Godzilla or the zombies or the Killer Squirrels are not going come back, usually just before they return and eat the expert.
Nearby Cuesta Park has become a hotbed of insurgent squirrel activity, with six attacks in the last few months. In the spring 4 year old Andrew Packard was on a picnic with his mother when she handed him a muffin. Instantly a squirrel assaulted Andrew. In the boy’s own bone chilling statement, “'My mommy said the squirrel sneaked down behind me and he was hugging me, but when he kissed me it was really a scratch.”.
His Mother, Jennifer Packard, told the San Jose Mercury News, “'It was such a horror. To hear your child screaming the way you've never heard before - it was just bone chilling. As a little kid, …you just wonder if he'll always have fear.” The boy, now with red scratch marks all over his body, is probably too terrified to enter any park with trees. And local wildlife rehabilitator Norma Campbell offered no comfort when she warned against any futile attempts to cull the local squirrel populations. “For everyone you take out, two more will come in”. But is there really nothing we can do to defend ourselves?
Apparently no: according to the newspaper “The Derrick”, last November ,30 year old Postal-woman Barb Dougherty was on her route in Oil City, Pennsylvania, when, stepping off a porch, a squirrel went postal on her. In dramatic testimony she explained, he “…jumped me.” Thinking quickly, Barb “…pulled him off.” She was treated for scratches and released. The squirrel was tested for rabies. A postal service spokesman said, “In the 230 years of postal history, I’ve never personally heard of another squirrel biting.” My guess is, he’s just not listening very closely and he’s not nearly as old as he implies.
In Winter Park, Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports, 3 year old Carson Cox was bitten several times by a squirrel assailant on the calf while playing soccer in the park, a few moments before 19 year old Dylan Osborn was attacked and bitten on the leg, and John Hindman was scratched and bitten on both arms, in what apparently was a rodent spree assault.
And the Sevier County Courthouse in Arkansas was damaged by what the Texarkana Gazette called a “kamikaze rodent” that short circuited a transformer, causing an explosion and a loud bang. County Judge Dick Tillman downplayed the significance of this assault on a government building, pointing out the power never went off and the lights merely flickered. In a droll attempt at distracting humor, Tillman added, “The dispatcher said the computers have been acting funny with the monitors flickering. (But) I don’t think it’s going to cause a problem unless the flickering makes the dispatcher dizzy and she has a seizure, falls out and hits her forehead on the desk.”
Less drolly, the Chief of the Billard Volunteer Fire Department, in East Texas, admitted it was a suicidal squirrel attack that caused a 30 acre brush fire that damaged 11 cars, a motorcycle and a house. He said the squirrel walked out along a power line and then jumped to a transformer. This caused an explosion which killed the squirrel and blew his smoldering corpse to the dry brush on the ground. The chief admitted, “I’ve fought several fires in the past that were started by squirrels.” So perhaps word of the secret war is slowly getting out.
It is clear that this is already an undeclared international war going on. In the German village of Passau a woman in her home was assaulted by a rambunctious rodent. In terror she ran outside and down the street, eventually literally shaking off her attacker, who next assaulted a builder, and when he proved too robust the attack-squirrel attacked a 72 year old pensioner. But this time the little bastard had picked the wrong little old man. Grandpa managed to beat the killer squirrel to death with his crutch.
In Jyvaskyla, Finland an allegedly cute squirrel is displaying an amazing level of brand loyalty. He enters a chocolate shop twice a day to steal a treat called a “Kinder Surprise”. Still in the store he carefully opens the foil package, eats the chocolate, and then runs away with the plastic “surprise”. Exactly what he does with all of these surprises has not been reported, but I would advise the owner that squirrels can live anywhere from ten to twelve years. That could mean something like six thousand “Kinder Surprises” the owner will need to supply just to keep one squirrel happy over his lifetime. Why would any owner suffer such an expense?
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