Not Your Average Nutcase

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, September 8, 2011

Despite the efforts of their paid, well-heeled lobbyists, squirrels have never been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Not for physics, astronomy, or making strange sounds with wine glasses.

No squirrel, quite frankly, has ever won an award for anything, though there are awards named for squirrels.

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The lack of silverware among the squirrel family doesn't mean that some day some squirrel somewhere might not win a trophy for something. Flying Squirrels, after all, play baseball in Richmond-a city otherwise bereft of aerial nut-seekers-and dream of becoming Giants.

So anything can happen in this world, and often does.

Sometimes more than once.

There is a squirrel in Toledo, Ohio, however, who may one day claim a prize that has nothing to do with dithering over which way, and how often, to cross, or nearly cross, the road.

As an historical footnote, the world record for squirrel road-crossing indecision is 117, attained by a squirrel in Maine who mesmerized motorists by running back and forth between lanes 117 times before finally crossing the road into the path of a passing moose.

The true story from Toledo found police perplexed by the apparent serial theft of flags from a police memorial in town. Officers decided to stake out the memorial and see who would be so brazen and heartless-and so eager for jail.

The officers watched and waited until a squirrel darted and crept up to the memorial, grabbed one of the plastic American flags off the wooden dowel, according to press reports, and made off with it.

The sleuthhounds followed the bark-bound thief and watched it climb a tree, still gripping the flag in its tiny tenacious teeth as it safely returned to the nest it was building.

The officers were then able to detect the presence of at least two other plastic American flags, also stolen from the memorial, used by the squirrel to construct its nest along with the standard leaf and twig construction materials most commonly chosen by squirrelly contractors.

The officers were able to track the squirrel because, believe it or not, the four-legged flag-stealer was building its nest in a tree outside police headquarters, easily seen through a third-floor window.

This squirrel proves beyond any reasonable doubt that though they have more dance moves than Ted And Maxine-The Dancing Machines, LLC, squirrels have a brain considerably smaller than a single piece of lint.

(Editor's note: not withstanding the claim just made regarding their ability to dance, squirrels cannot perform the foxtrot, nor do they do dances with wolves.)

Despite their almost non-existent brains, dancing squirrels have been known to audition for community theater presentations of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet, with tragic results, invariably biting other dancers, setting off a chain reaction that sometimes incorporated otherwise innocent bystanders.

(Editor's note: disregard the previous paragraph. Research has refuted the assertion. In two quite small community theater presentations of The Nutcracker, squirrels actually performed dancing cameos-appearing as sugar plum fairies-without biting anyone. If any squirrel has been offended, we apologize).

There has been no suggestion from police that they intend to press charges against the squirrel for stealing the flags.

In any case, one expects a good lawyer could get the squirrel off with nothing but a stiff reprimand from the judge.

The squirrel couldn't issue a claim of insanity but might convince jury members that it lived in a house, though wrapped in small, plastic American flags stolen from a police memorial, full of nuts.

And we're all, he might add, products of our environment and upbringing.

(Editor's note: for the record, no squirrels or nuts were injured in the writing of this column).