Sunday, February 20, 2005

Flying Squirrels

Velociman talks about flying squirrels. Set me into a severe rewind mode as I remembered flying squirrels of my youth.

When I was sent away to reform Catholic Boarding School, it was inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere Arkansas. It was a quaint all boys facility run by Franciscan Friars. Smoking cigarettes, while strictly prohibited on campus (simple possession was an offense punishable by licks), was our main pastime and was done on leisurely walks – off campus – and often in the surrounding woods.

School lore, passed down through the ages, taught us how to catch and tame wild animals of various sorts. Flying squirrels were a perennial favorite. Our technique was to go in pairs.

We would walk through the woods in January and February (the nesting season) looking for old dead trees with holes chewed in them. You would take a stick and tap on the trunk of the tree, and if a squirrel was nesting in it, she would peek out.

Once we confirmed the presence of the nesting mother, one of us would climb the tree and hold a black sock over the hole. The other would beat on the tree with the stick as hard as he could and the mother squirrel would jump out into the dark sock.

We’d gather the babies and take the whole mess back to the dormitory with us where we had, in waiting, a bird cage with nuts and water and seeds prepared for its new occupants. Put mom and the babies in the cage and cover it with a towel for the first week. Mom would raise the babies and tame down enough to leave the cage uncovered, but we could never hold her.

Once the babies were old enough to be weaned, we’d let mom go and the babies would grow into loving pets. We used to play catch with them. You’d pitch one across the lawn and he’d spread out and sail until he landed on the other guy’s shirt.

Some of the guys caught fox squirrels and others caught crows. I did the flying squirrel thing for a while and then traded mine for a couple of packs of Marlboros.


Laura said...

My dad went to Subiaco (he is 75 now) and always told us kids about catching the flying squirrels. Of course, back then you could smoke as long as your parents signed a permission slip.

Tulip said...

For some reason your story reminds me of the squirrel tag commercials they had been playing on tv a while back. I miss those commercals.