I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t have seen it. I now know what it’s like to have seen Bigfoot. Or maybe a Yeti or even the Loch Ness Monster. Or the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. You know - crazy, far-fetched, unbelievable events. The stuff that legends are made of.
For my family and friends, and those of you who might be casual readers of this column, you are probably aware that my father-in-law has a history with squirrels. As a recap for those of you who don’t know, during the early 1980s or late 1970s (legends can be rather sketchy), my father-in-law had an incident involving a silver-colored Ford Granada and a squirrel-colored squirrel. Following an unsuccessful swerve attempt to avoid the aforementioned beast, a tow truck had to be called to pull the wrecked Granada out of the ditch. As bad as the car was, the squirrel was worse.
This event occurred several years before I ever became part of the family. But I think that I was informed of it the first time I showed up at the house. I have also been reminded of it every time I enter my in-laws domicile. Over the years, he has literally received hundreds of items of squirrel-related paraphernalia. There are squirrel statues, squirrel posters, squirrel T-shirts and sweatshirts, squirrel Christmas ornaments, stuffed squirrels (fake and real), squirrel underwear, etc. …
It used to be that it was a small feat to find a picture of a squirrel on any kind of a greeting card, but now it’s like you can’t swing a dead … well ... squirrel around without finding one. My father-in-law, I believe, is responsible for all growth in the squirrel-related greeting industry. The card racks are full of them. Many involve the hilarious use of the word “nuts.” Tee, hee, hee, hee … nuts. (I am actually giggling while writing this.)
Up until now, for me, the squirrel story has been merely a tale of lore. Something that I have heard about many, many, many times, but I never had any real, concrete, personal connection to the story. Until last Sunday.
That was the day that he offered to take me fishing in his boat. As we eased down the driveway to leave his house that sun-drenched afternoon, he stomped on the brakes. I looked at him to see what was the matter, he had a visage of panic upon his face. He told me that his steering was acting funny. He inched forward a few more feet and stomped on the brakes again just as we were about to enter the roadway. He said that he had no power steering whatsoever.
At that point, we exited the 2003 midnight-blue Ford Ranger to see what the problem was. At first we checked out the tires to see if we had a flat. They all looked fine. It was then that I popped the hood. I noticed some fur floating in the summertime breeze.
I’ll never forget what my father-in-law said next. He said, “Oh shucks! It’s a squirrel!” or something to that effect.
Evidently, the unlucky critter had crawled into the motor compartment of the truck and got caught up in the serpentine belt which powers a whole host of things on the vehicle including the power steering. The belt was knocked off of the pulleys and the squirrel … well, it did not survive. Fortunately, I think that the end came rather quickly.
It was somewhat surreal as we started cleaning up the mess and figuring out how to put the belt back on. All I could think amongst the fumes of singed fur coming off of the manifold was that I finally had my own connection to the family legend. I had seen Bigfoot. Well, actually a little foot and part of a tail, but you know what I mean. It was just like 30 years ago, a deceased member of the tree-dwelling rodent family and a Ford that didn’t operate properly.
It was then that my father-in-law looked directly at me, and again, he had an ashen look of sheer panic on his face. He said something to the effect that this happened in front of the wrong person. I asked him what he meant by that. “I’m afraid this is going to end up in the newspaper,” he said in a trembling, fearful voice.
I told him in my most reassuring, comforting tone, “Don’t be afraid. Of course, this is going to end up in the newspaper.” He said, “Oh shucks!” or something to that effect.
I’m sure that the poor guy will hear about this incident for some time to come, and for that, I feel somewhat sorry. However, I consider myself to be the official chronicler of this ongoing epic saga, and it would be a travesty for me to not tell this story.
To be completely realistic about the whole thing and to put it in the proper perspective, apart from any animals bagged during his numerous squirrel hunts, these are the only two documented squirrel deaths attributed to my father-in-law that I am aware of. Two over a 30-year time period isn’t too bad. I’m pretty sure I’ve got more than that under my belt.
As a side note, this Monday happens to be my father-in-law’s birthday. So if you see Dave Schindel around this weekend, wish him a happy birthday.
But if you’re a squirrel, you might want to hide your nuts. Tee, hee, hee, hee …
You can contact Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.