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Communing with the Squirrels
and generally being a weirdo
So, I cracked the frame of the Taint Hammer. (That’s my mountain bike.) Not sure when I did it. I was out this morning for my five miles, and I noticed the crack along the rear fork weld when I put the bike away. I am grateful that it didn’t fail while I was riding it, and cause me any injury. It’s a fat tire bike with a thick frame, and I haven’t done anything extreme with it. Now it’s at the shop for a warranty claim. Maybe there’s a good side to this, as I’ve been getting a little obsessed with the mountain biking. A rest might be good.
I also saw an injured or sick squirrel on my ride this morning. It was dragging its rear legs, as if paralyzed. It dragged itself up a fallen branch and then behind a tree.
My first instinct was to put it out of its misery.
What misery? Squirrels are vocal, and this one was not crying out. They were fearful when I stopped short, avoiding them in the middle of the trail. I wish I’d had some snacks on me to give. The little critter might starve to death come winter, but it’s turning summer and maybe they can forage on the ground for a while. Who am I to decide its quality of life? The term “ableist” gets a little overused, but I would say that wanting to euthanize an animal for having lost the use of its legs qualifies. We don’t do that to pets, we give them little wagons. I didn’t have the means to safely capture it and bring it to a local wildlife rescue, nor did I have a little wagon. So I encouraged the little rodent as it escaped.
This article on hindlimb paralysis in squirrels suggests two possibilities: a soft injury that could be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, and a fracture, which is inoperable after a few days and incurable. Here’s hoping that the little critter had a soft injury which heals, and that their life has little suffering. That’s about the best any of us can hope for.
I kind of like squirrels. They are just rats with better PR—and I once had two pet rats, so that’s no insult—but they have personality, and I like their attitudes. They can be quite cocky, knowing that they can skitter up a tree, and you (and your dog) can’t. But they might deign to acknowledge us groundlings, if we wiggle a peanut. In Minneapolis, the city park squirrels would raid your lunch bag if you weren’t careful. I taunted one with a pebble, to see how close it would come, and it bit me trying to get my faux peanut. I got what I deserved… a tetanus booster (rabies is unheard of in the rodent and rabbit population). That was revenge for the time I euthanized two squirrels at my apartment complex.
One was dehydrated or exhausted, lying on its belly behind my car in a parking lot. I took it to a vet’s office in a paper shopping bag; it had just enough energy to crawl into the bag as I nudged it with my sneaker. I drove to an animal hospital, and I left the bag on the counter! That was awful of me. The receptionist/vet tech looked at me like I was insane. I may as well have thrown the rodent at her, shouting, “Here’s a squirrel! Squirrels for everyone!” I hope they didn’t kill it. My bet is they threw the bag out the back door. The second squirrel was quite unwell. It was doing somersaults and ignoring humans. And… not knowing at the time that squirrels do not carry rabies, some Concerned Parents asked me to “do something,” and I did. Old Yeller style.
This was thirty years ago, and I still feel bad. Especially now, because I know that the somersaulting behavior is indicative of a botfly larvae infestation, which makes squirrels itch like mad. But it doesn’t kill them. So if we had left poor squirrelly alone, he would not have bitten any children (unless the little shits started poking him with a stick) and the larvae would have eventually exited in their horrifying fashion to become a botfly, and torment future mammals.
I’m sorry, Squirrelly. I didn’t see any revolting lumps on that squirrel, so it may have been a seizure, or something else. Don’t Google “squirrel botfly” unless you want to be grossed out. It’ll put you off your lunch.
Today’s post was supposed to be about wanting to feel a sense of community in the United States, and how virulent politics, random firearm violence, and a paucity of leisure time make it very difficult to come by. I’m friendly with my next door neighbor, but I don’t know anyone else in my neighborhood, and people at the dog park where I hike are generally skittish. I’m friendly with an older white guy with a Subaru Forester, who mostly talks about wanting that Porsche 911 Dakar edition.
Maybe it’s because I’m a big hairy weirdo who talks to squirrels? I’ve always been that way. After school, kids would make fun of me for stopping on the way home to watch ducks at the park. I wasn’t even throwing rocks at them! What kind of weirdo was I?
I’m still the same weirdo. At the walking track in our neighborhood, crows congregate near one of the trash cans. Next time I walk there (possibly tomorrow, now that my bike is in the shop) I am bringing a handful of peanuts. And I am going to have a serious chat with my corvid friends.
I am sure the teenagers who hang out there will have something to say about it.
What else do I got? This episode of This American Life, about “Lost Bobby Dunbar,” a missing Louisiana child who inspired trials, media frenzies, and songs, was well worth the listen. A descendant of the boy sought out the truth, and it was not pretty. But she met some new family on the way.
As a child of the ‘70s and ‘80s, cow mutilations were part of the zeitgeist, much like Bigfoot. They were caused by aliens, the government, or both. This article explores their origins, and shares the real answer, which always gets lost, because it’s much less exciting. Unless you think there’s an Alien Coyote Government. ‘
I enjoyed these two posts by Mary Gaitskill, about her students today, and in the ‘90s. The kids are both in despair, and they are All Right.
I also loved this story about the Boot Girls, who are undercutting the private car booting industry in Georgia. Real entrepreneurs!
And last night, I watched Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, a documentary about the photographer. It was quite good, and interesting to see how he and his crew set up the tableaus. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, I recommend this newsletter by Joyce Carol Oates, which was my introduction. His photographs are misty and liminal visions of small town life, laid bare.
I went kayaking on Mother’s Day withand an REI group, way down in Maryland. We had a good time, paddling around the wreckage of ghost ships that predate the first World War. Watch for newsletters from both of us with photos, videos, and ospreys.
“Concerned Parents” are still a problem. Most of the time they need to be told to Mind Their Own Fucking Business.