I bet most people who live on the land have a squirrel story they could tell. After all, squirrels are pretty “unique” little animals. For thousands of years squirrel was (has been) an important food for people who live in rural areas. Squirrels and rabbits are often the “training wheels” for getting young hunters started. The skills required for hunting them, are the same as for hunting larger game, only these are generally more abundant. Did you know that during the American Civil War, Southern troops’ slang for sniper work was “to go squirrel hunting?” Young people hunting squirrels developed into superior marksmen.
Squirrel meat is red, like beef. It’s flavor is different than rabbit or even chicken. It’s good. My favorite way to fix it is in a stew. But there is more to the squirrel than just its meat. They can be a real nuisance to gardeners and home owners. They sometimes chew on house wiring, causing fires. Yet, on the bright side, they can be quite entertaining and, for all their diminutive size, they are pretty smart little animals! My personal squirrel story involves a rare black fox squirrel who choose to live on our farm, when we first moved in. The kids teased me about “Dad’s pet squirrel,” as I let her be, even after she stole and destroyed one of my leather gloves.
Ron Cook recently shared a squirrel story with me. I told him I’d share it with you here.
“I had a full grown, red squirrel, out here in 2011, during the drought. It would sneak up to the house and drink the dog’s water out of the watering rock. It was a rock that my grandpa carved out to water his dogs in. I kept it snugged up tight to the crook in the South side of the house so it wouldn’t freeze and break in Winter. I thought, ‘Man, if that poor old squirrel is thirsty enough, and brave enough, to do all that and not get eaten by the dogs, he deserves to live.'”
“I started looking for hickory nuts out in the woods and noticed there weren’t any that year, so I drove to Tahlequah and found a hickory tree behind Wilson Hall and picked up a bucket full of nuts there. I took those home and started setting hickory nuts on top of the woodpile every day, so the squirrel would have something to eat.”
Ron trained it to eat from his hand…
“By the end of Winter, I had trained it to where I could call it to me by clacking two hickory nuts together. Eventually, it got brave enough to eat out of my hand. I even got it to where I could set a hickory nut on my shoulder and lean against a tree, where the squirrel would come down the tree, hang by its back feet, and pick the hickory nut off my shoulder.”
“Later, in Summer, I thought it would be neat if I could kneel down and get the squirrel to jump up on my knee to eat. I made the mistake of having a hickory nut in each hand when I tried it. My right hand was on top of my knee, my left hand was on the ground, to steady myself by.”
“That little squirrel was quick as a snake. It was looking at the hickory nut in my open right hand, studying about how to get up there on my knee. Then I saw it glance toward the other hand. I knew immediately, what it was thinking, but before I could even flinch, it reached over; pulled my hand open with its little paws and bit my left index finger to the bone, right between the knuckle and first finger joint! It did it so quickly, that I didn’t even feel the bite, until after the squirrel had stolen the hickory nut and run off with it. I couldn’t even be mad at it because it was my own fault. I just didn’t think about it going for whichever nut was handiest to reach.”
Squirrels can be “dangerous!”
“That little squirrel would scare the wax out of me while I was pulling weeds all alone, out in the garden. I would think I was the only one out there. Then, it would see me on my knees with my back turned. I wouldn’t even know it was coming after me. I’d reach in for a handful of weeds, pull them out, then have that squirrel jump on my open hand when I tossed weeds behind my back. I’d scream like a little girl, and it would run off.”
“Commando squirrel” strikes again…
“One time, during deer season, I shot a buck, running across that open area where my campground is. It was in full stride and didn’t leave a blood trail for several yards. I had followed its trajectory to the general direction where I thought I might start seeing some fresh sign. It was quiet as an empty church, the way it always is right after you fire a high powered rifle, not a bird, not a cricket. I took a knee and set my rifle in the leaves, right beside me, so I could rake some tall, dead grass back to see the ground better. When I reached back for the rifle, without looking, I put my hand on that dumb little squirrel. It had snuck up on me from behind, again. I screamed like a little girl again, and it ran off.
“I think it enjoyed getting the better of me. That rifle was still smoking, and the barrel was still hot from the powder going off behind the shell. You’d think that would be a deterrent, but that little booger didn’t care one wit. It just saw me with my back turned and here it came, sneaking up like an Indian Ninja to scare my guts out again!”
“I think it enjoyed getting the better of me.”
“I miss that little squirrel. It just disappeared one day. Who knows, we may have eaten it?”
See another of Ron’s posts: Generosity and Community in Rural Oklahoma