Last week, as I was reading a book in the quad, I couldn’t help but notice a rustling coming from behind me. I turned around slowly and found myself face-to-face with a curious squirrel. As we made eye contact, I realized this was no ordinary squirrel. Unlike others I have encountered in the past, this squirrel had a certain look in his eye that can best be described as spellbinding. I could hear the sounds of drums and flutes drifting through the air around me, and our breathing synchronized.
In those few seconds of eye contact, we had a moment – a moment between man and animal. The squirrel and I were on the same level of consciousness, and it felt magical. I knew I had stumbled upon some ancient relationship lost through time. I looked around to see that there were other squirrels running about, and my mind began to wander. Who are these creatures we share the Hill with? Do they have feelings? Do they use tools? What do they do in inclement weather? I knew I had to put this experience down on paper. I finally understood that these squirrels deserved all of our respect, love and friendship.
Since most of you are probably unfamiliar with what a squirrel is, I’ll give you a brief summary. Coming from the ancient Greek word skiouros, meaning “shadow tailed,” squirrels are an ancient species dating back to the Eocene Era. Squirrels, known as the “chickens of the treetops” or “tree kittens,” by many communities around the world, are a small or medium-sized rodent most closely related to the mountain beaver or dormouse and are known for their ludicrously fast breeding.
The creatures are also believed to have excellent eyesight, which I believe they use to judge the character of the human soul. Most squirrels live around six years although after close examination, I have concluded that the squirrels on our campus don’t appear to age, yet still increase in size, strength and mental capacity.
These creatures are wicked fast, and, at times, near impossible to see. Although squirrels are known to be herbivores, top scientists in the field have seen the creatures prey upon young chickens, and have found squirrels’ stomachs lined with reptile, bird and rodent meat, suggesting, to me, that squirrels share more characteristics with the Velociraptor than a harmless dormouse.
Many consider the squirrel to be a stupid animal, but after my experience at St. Olaf I beg to differ. I’ve deduced that squirrels’ brains are developing at tremendous speeds, making me question how St. Olaf students and squirrels can live together in the future. Squirrels are becoming more and more adventurous, as evidenced by a report from one St. Olaf student that a squirrel attempted to climb up an individual’s leg. With our worlds overlapping, it is important that we understand each other so students don’t feel violated by these increasingly audacious squirrels.
I hope my experience clearly shows that students and squirrels on this campus can become one, and maybe even someday work together to make this campus a better place. Some of you might be questioning my reasoning, saying; “Squirrels aren’t smart,” or “Squirrels don’t deserve my respect,” or “Cole, your writing career is doomed!” Maybe this article is a bit over the top, but stereotypes about squirrels do nothing but harm their image.
It’s time we become closer with our fellow Oles, no matter what species. I only urge you to take the time and interact with our cohabitants on the Hill; it might just make you a better person in the process. Next time you walk by a squirrel, take a moment and talk with it. We won’t judge you. Even a quick smile will do. Once, I saw one of my best friends talking with squirrels. In response, a beautiful girl standing next to us said, “That is the kind of man I want as a husband; I only wish more guys were like him.” Chatting with rodent friends is not only a gratifying method of becoming closer with nature, but hanging with squirrels is also a great way to pick up the ladies.
I have only skimmed the surface of this newfound relationship, but I know there is a deeper meaning, regarding the interaction between students and squirrels on campus, just waiting to be discovered.
All I ask is that you find a little room in your hearts for our furry little friends, because they deserve our undivided respect, love and friendship.