Squirrel thieves a growing concern

By Lindsay Cameron

On a Saturday last October, my friend Crystal and I saw a squirrel with a huge nut in his mouth and, feeling the laziness and delirium of all the studying that awaited us in our rooms on a beautiful day, we tried to include Mr. Squirrel in our conversation. 

He scurried away into a short tree outside the Writing Studio entrance, staring at us unwaveringly. Though it was hard to take him seriously because the nut in his mouth was much larger than his entire head, we felt threatened. Of course, this was ironic, because he was the one who actually felt threatened by us. When he chattered, which Internet research confirmed as “angry squirrel chattering,” we realized he wasn’t afraid that we were going to hurt him. Rather, he thought we wanted his nut.

Frightened, his thumb-sized heart and battery-sized lungs marched a Memorial Day parade in his chest. He was an Eastern grey squirrel with bits of brown painted on the tips of his fur. His tail was bushy, his eyes were beady, and his personality was introverted like any other squirrel you may have met.  

Even though his chattering made us withdraw from fear that he would pounce on our faces and gouge out our eyeballs with his grappling claw hands that can rotate 180 degrees, we chased Mr. Squirrel and forgot our responsibilities as college juniors. 

Soon Crystal and I transformed into undercover spies, cupping imaginary walkie-talkies to our mouths with our hands and making static “kkkerrrt” sound effects before our dialogue. At one point, Mr. Squirrel climbed to the top of one of the trees in the Clark parking lot, and Crystal and I distracted ourselves with conversation. I could imagine my professor’s face when I would tell him I didn’t do the week’s reading assignment because I had leisurely chased a squirrel instead. 

Through the projected radio of my imaginary police car, I yelled, “We have your family in a secure location! Drop the nut, and no one will get hurt!” Crystal added, “If you ever want to see your family again, come down from the tree now!”

We looked up to find the squirrel swiftly and quietly jumping from tree to tree to get away from us—all the while there were two papers, essays, and over a hundred pages of reading awaiting me in my room. 

I confess that at one point she and I had both crawled through those thick hedges in between Clark and Bixler while chasing Mr. Squirrel, who we code-named “Beaver.” 

“Kkkerrrt. Come in, C-Girl. Have you spotted the Beaver? Kkkerrrt,” I said.

  “Kkkerrrt. Roger that, Chicken Little. He’s headed through the hedges. Over. Kkkerrrt.” 

Eastern Grey Squirrels are classified as scatter-hoarders, meaning they bury and hoard nuts in as many as a thousand different places each season in their habitats. These Ashland University squirrels have shopping carts full of nuts stored underground, and they remember the locations of most of their caches.

My friend and I chased this squirrel amongst the hedges for over an hour until my friend looked at me and definitively said, “Lindsay. I want that nut.” 

Pushing the squirrel to a state of anxiety (yes, he probably will relapse into post-traumatic stress disorder from now on whenever he sees an AU student) and indecisiveness, he quickly dug a hole for his nut and buried it in less than thirty seconds as we crawled through and around the hedges, trying to articulate the specific spot where he was burying the nut. 

He dashed up the tree and my friend grabbed a stick, wedged her body into the hedge, and began scraping at the dirt in search of the nut, while I remained on the lookout for passersby who would certainly think we were nuts if they knew what we were after. 

After twenty minutes of trading digging duties, she finally found the nut and we gathered together in front of Mr. Squirrel, who nervously had been watching our digging the entire time, and we raised the nut for his viewing. With taunting voices and appropriate egotistical head-flicking and finger-pointing, we sang, “See, Mr. Squirrel. We got your nut!” 

My friend and I have done something that probably no other college student has done—to be so clever, strategic, diabolical, and determined to steal a squirrel’s hickory nut and succeed. We don’t need it for anything, but it’s ours now. 

While you may call us immature (or perhaps you are in rigid shock that people you go to school with actually act this way), first think about how treacherously inhuman it is to act always like an adult. Daily, we are expected to function in intellectual trances at ages that we don’t want to be, in a place so serious that if we don’t exercise the child within us, we will crack and go crazy. 

I am twenty-one years-old—an adult—and I stole a squirrel’s nut for no reason other than to write this column and tell you that I have done so. I confess to everyone in the departments of my three majors that I blatantly looked at my stack of homework square in the eye and told it that chasing a squirrel was more important—that chasing a squirrel would revive my youth lost somewhere amongst that toppling stack of textbooks. 

The playful innocence of the day helped me revert to the more carefree lifestyle that I used to have before college, before experiencing a taste of adulthood’s rigidly horrid routines. The drill of college life almost seems to prepare me for a life without leisure, without fun—a life that seems inhuman to me. And if it means something as crazy as plotting to steal a squirrel’s nut in order to reject that inhuman lifestyle, I’d do it again and again. Stealing it relieved me of the stresses of growing up and being responsible. Stealing it made me feel human. 

 Sure, we probably stole the squirrel’s dinner. Maybe he had kids to feed. Maybe they’re actually dead now because of us. But I’m guessing that scatter-hoarder didn’t really need that nut. I think we needed it more than him.