I’m Just Saying: Squirrel: The other white meat

Published 3:58 pm Thursday, January 4, 2018

Like many a weary folk, Paul and I were on the road after Christmas but unlike the others it had nothing to do with the holidays, and so neither of us were recovering from the wrench of leaving beloved family gatherings.

Or the emotional battering from dysfunction. No drunk uncles spouting political declarations, no tight-lipped mothers muttering, “don’t need any help in the kitchen, thank you very much,” no fathers bemoaning one’s choices in life.

No, this was a business related road trip! To Michigan we pointed the Subaru, because we’re idiots, but it seemed a good idea at the time. Why not check out a rather nice horse while we’re at it, have a meal at that great sounding tavern near MSU that got all the terrific reviews on Yelp?

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Paul and I have had the good fortune to have traveled to nearly all fifty states in our great country, generally by air, but not on closer inspection by ground. How beautiful and rolling is the country from the Carolinas through Tennessee and Kentucky! How scenic is the first half of Ohio!

And then the moment you exit the Dayton city limits it comes to a grinding halt.

As flat as my preteen chest (who am I kidding, it’s still that way) seemingly for hours. I kept telling myself, ‘well, this is farm land, after all. This is where all the hay and grain for the horses is grown.’

But that didn’t help. Mile after mile after mile, flat frozen tundra punctuated now and then by a farm house, barn and silos. Bleak, endless monotony.

“I’m beginning to understand,” said Paul, both hands on the wheel while sliding his eyes from left to right, “that whole opioid epidemic up here.”

I nodded. “You can’t even go sledding,” I whispered in the same low tone one assumes upon arriving at a crash sight. “And even cross country skiing–you’d feel as if you’d been in the same place for hours.”

“Not a tree to be seen.” Paul concurred.

As we crossed into Michigan the car’s thermostat read 6 degrees. Heat blaring through the vents, we began to reach for our coats as we arrived at the tavern for dinner. What a great meal! Oh, the craft beer! And what fantastic people! I will enthusiastically proclaim Midwesterners to be pretty much the nicest people I’ve ever met. Every single person we met over the two days we visited wore broad grins and emanated earnest warmth.

I suspect, however, that might be because for six months out of the year they could die at any moment. When it’s minus 11, as it plummeted to that night, make one mistake and you’re dead. Take a tumble off the back stoop with no one there to help–curtains. Have your car break down on a back road without survival gear and a furnace–good bye cruel world. When you’re that perilously close to meeting your maker, it tends to keep you sweet.

Arriving back at the farm New Year’s Eve, we thought briefly of driving the seven miles to Tryon, N.C., to see the ‘ball’ (hand forged by a local blacksmith) ‘dropped’ (tossed over from the other side) from the clock tower (maybe ten feet high?) in the center of town. They do it around 9 p.m. because, y’all, everybody’s got livestock and we have to get up early. But Paul and I couldn’t even muster the strength to do that and certainly not stay up to watch the certifiable lunatics in Times Square on television.

As we toasted our mad turn around trip from either end of the couch we experienced our own New Year’s drop. A bam, really, complete with mad chattering, a sprinkling of soot and frantic scratching. The cats leapt at the protective screen, hanging from it as if rock climbing, while Paul and I jumped up to stop them from crashing backwards with it as the squirrel leapt back to the flue, screaming obscenities at us all.

“All I want is a quiet sort of life.” Paul remarked.

He knew what this meant as it’s happened before. Into the cold night air he trudged, bathrobe fluttering in the freezing gusts of wind and reappearing with the aluminum ladder that he placed against the chimney, and scaling it with rope in hand, tied one end to the short front leg of the chimney cap and dropped the other 20 feet to the squirrel.

“They’re supposed to figure it out in a couple of hours,” he said upon coming back in, rubbing his hands. “And then climb the rope out.”

We haven’t heard a sound for two days so it’s safe to say Squirrel Nutkin has escaped.

Either that or we’ll be smelling ‘the other white meat’ should we light a fire in a week or two…

Happy New Year!