It’s October and the signs of fall are everywhere: Crisp leaves, cozy sweaters, football and, of course, dead squirrels.
If you’ve driven on any roads lately, you’ve seen the terrible carnage that comes with the frenzy of squirrels preparing for winter.
On School Street, I saw two. On Main Street, I saw three. I didn’t drive down all the other roads in Normal, but I can only imagine what I’d find.
To those squirrels, I write this heartfelt memoriam.
I write to the squirrels who make risks to provide, for themselves or for others and to those who spent their lives perfecting their timing, their running and their instincts to cross the street safely.
For all the generations of squirrels that have lived and died to learn to live around humanity, you have my utmost respect.
There was one squirrel in particular whose loss broke my heart. The first time I saw it, it was crossing the wide stretch of School Street that leads up to the movie theater near my apartment.
It ran with intense focus, the bushy tail that usually flounces about when running was straight, aerodynamic. A dangerous trek for some nuts, I thought, but I wished it well and drove on.
I saw the squirrel again making its dangerous journey again the day after.
Lovingly, I named it Evel Knievel squirrel, after the daredevil who was known for his stunts and jumps.
I never touched the squirrel, of course, even I have my limits.
But I always checked for it as I went to class in the morning and as I came back in the afternoon. There it would be: rushing from one end of the street to the other, searching for sustenance.
One day, the squirrel disappeared. At the time, I thought nothing of it. Then, the following day, I saw it. My poor Evel Knievel friend, making the ultimate sacrifice just to go to Schnucks.
I shared its passing with my boyfriend, who did not approach this with the same solemnity I did. Rather, he laughed. In a way, it is a silly thing to be upset about.
Ever since Evel Knievel squirrel’s passing, I’ve seen an influx of squirrel deaths on campus. All of them, I imagine, passing for the same reason.
I also encourage you to pay attention while driving; imagine you were a squirrel waiting for your squirrel parents to come home, and then learning that they never will. And now you have no food for winter. You wouldn’t like it either.
I can’t help but wonder, do they know something we don’t? Are they frantically preparing for winter because it will be harsh? Are we blissfully unaware as we visit pumpkin patches and haunted houses?
On a lighter note, I drove back from class today and saw a new squirrel making the trek back and forth that Evel Knievel cannot make anymore.
To Evel Knievel Jr. I wish you the very best, may you always make it across you ballsy little fella. But, please stop crossing the street right before I car drive by.