One of the joys of living in the northwoods: critter tales. I am starting to write down things that happen to us up here at CWC, both as a resort owner and simple lakeside-up north resident. Am thinking of gathering these anecdotes into a booklet for publishing someday as I continually get the impression from guests that stuff like this doesn't happen to everyone and there may be some interest in reading about 'em. Enjoy.
(by Kim Bowen, June 2016)
A flying squirrel landed on my head at 1:32 in the morning this spring, waking me out of a sound sleep.
Rather startling, to say the least.
I mean, of all the places it could have traversed in our 1800 sq. ft. house, of all the places in our big king bed it could have touched down, including my giant of a husband taking up waaaay more than half the bed, why didn't it alight on my knee, for instance? Or on the nice, soft pillow next to me?
It had to be right on my head.
I sleep on my side, so really it thudded onto my right ear. My eyes popped open and stared blindly into the darkened room.
" . . . ? “ I thought. “. . . the h@!!?”
Warm. Furry. Needle-like nails. Bigger than a mouse. ‘Bout the size of a kitten, I immediately surmise.
Except we don’t own any pets.
As soon as it fell (glided on purpose? Leapt on faith?) onto my exposed ear, we both froze.
Held our breath.
Likely as shocked as I was to encounter another hot blooded creature in its nightly explorations, it dug its sharp little claws into my scalp for smidge of a second to get a good grip and proceeded to scamper off, leading me on a subsequent hour and a half chase around the house.
Freakin’ flying squirrels.
Second time in sixteen years we’ve had one investigate the contents of our house.
My husband, the complicit one who’s been feeding flying squirrels in our detached garage for months now, rolls over in bed in disgruntled grogginess, "Why's the light on?"
"There's a flying squirrel in here."
Grunt. (See? Disgruntlement.)
I pointed to the canopy, a big tablecloth with a design of a dragon hanging directly above our bed.
The squirrel was running drills from one side of the canopy to the other.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Super quick and then, FREEZE.
A bullet-fast dart across the middle and then, STOP.
We watch a ginormous liquid dark eye gaze at us over the edge of the canopy. (I swear 90% of a flying squirrel’s face is all about the eyeball. At least it seems so while their attention is clearly aimed at YOU.)
Wow, was he quick.
I heard my husband sleepily chuckle.
It WAS sorta funny.
And ridiculous, and . . . the critter clearly had no plan to get out of our house.
We didn’t have one either.
How do ya catch a speeding squirrel?
We could see peewee feet imprinting through the cloth with every step he made. (Remember in high school gym when we made a circle holding onto a big parachute between us stretched taut, then we tossed a classmate into the air? Imagine lying underneath and watching your friend’s hand or butt print impress into the parachute material above you. That’s what it reminded me of.)
After a while, I knew I certainly wouldn’t be able to sleep with that frenetic ball of energy running around our bedroom.
What if he jumped on my head again?
I nudge my husband, “What should we do?”
“Let him run,” said Mr. Highly Amused, who then rolled over in blithe unconcern and went back into a doze.
I grumble something best not said in polite company under my breath to newly dubbed Mr. UNobliging, and I get up and head to the kitchen.
I grab a big pot from the cupboard and dab a little fragrant peanut butter into the bottom.
I walk back into bedroom and ascertain where the little stinker is.
There! In the far corner, second log down from the ceiling.
The squirrel was looking right at me.
I gaze back and proceed to have an interminable stare-down.
OK, maybe it was only a minute’s contest. Pretty sure I lost.
I start murmuring nonsense and slowly approach holding up the pot with the peanut butter.
He sniffs the air visibly.
I get within a couple of inches.
Abruptly he scurries up and over into the canopy again.
My husband cracks open an eye, but only to look at my chest.
“Are you half nekked running around trying to catch a squirrel?”
Exasperated, I smack my leering mate on his belly. “Hot flash, and THANKS for helping!”
That moment Pesky Pete pelts out of the bedroom.
I follow with the pot and the peanut butter.
He takes his time in the living room leaving a snag in one of the curtains. Then he wanders under the dining table, nosing through an empty diet soda can, loses interest and saunters into the kitchen. The phrase 'climbing the walls' acquires more meaning in my own personal jargon as our soft pinewood cupboards become both a ladder and rigging system and some kind of modern squirrel-nail indentation folk art.
I hear wine glasses clink in the sink.
“What the heck,” I’m thinking, “maybe a drunken squirrel would be easier to corral?"
I sent out some prayers to the squirrel gods in praise of a good Pinot.
While mini beastie was boozing up, I tiptoed around the pantry wall and silently cracked open the front door. It was temperate outside and no mosquitoes yet. I swung the door wide all the way.
I back up about six feet and wait.
Fickle fellow finally creeps out into the entryway. He ignores me completely and looks out the doorway, yes, actually STARES outside.
I am mentally patting myself on the back for such a simple and clever solution.
Does he take the hint?
A three-foot by seven-foot opening to the big wide world entreats within inches . . . and nope. He didn’t go.
Apparently the staircase to the loft hiding BEHIND the front door is more appealing.
So around the door and up the steps he clambers, knocking a couple of shoes down a tread or two in his haste to search the premises. For what, I haven’t the slightest clue.
At that point I surrender. I was not chasing him around up there. Nor was I getting dressed to go out to the shop and grab a live trap. Hence, I went back to bed and started reading a book with the bed table light on.
During the 45 minutes Nosy Parker investigated our loft, I got the pleasure of hearing what held his interest:
Empty granola wrapper in the trash can.
The chain of a lamp clinking against the metal base as he jumped on a flimsy book shelf to check it out.
“Scritch,” “scritch,” “scraaatch.”
“Scritch,” “scritch,” “scraaaatch.”
“Hey, you’d better not be gnawing on my velvet chair up there!” I yelled.
Hubbie rolls over and absently pats my leg. Then he flops his arm up over his head exposing a somewhat musky armpit and puffs out an oblivious exhale.
By the time I’d read two more chapters and was getting to the final few pages of intense character motivation, I had blocked out the critter’s distracting antics, to the point where I wasn’t aware I hadn’t heard anything for about 10 minutes or so. Suddenly I felt a tug on the flat sheet under my left shoulder, which had been hanging over the bed.
Yep, naughty little attention deficit visitor was crawling back in bed with us.
I comment aloud in what I'm proud to say was a rather sangfroid manner, "He’s in the bed again, Baby.”
Hubbie acknowledges my observation with a light and sibilant “zzzzzzzzzzsh . . .”
And then with a sudden and violent, JERK!
Vexing Varmint had decided to run the bed gauntlet in two seconds flat: collecting a couple of my hairs passing the crown of my head, and then scrabbling overtop a certain manly, tender and rather hirsute underarm.
I already knew from my own initial scalp v. squirrel experience that those little clasping claws did not precisely tickle.
It was nice not being the only one wide awake.
I laughed so hard the snorting hurt.
“Round three, honey-bun,” I wheezed, while awaiting the next hijinks happening in our latest silly saga.
The rush-stop, rush-stop, pitter-patter of furry feet scurrying around underneath the bed created a somewhat apprehensive, if amusing, atmosphere.
The bedside lamp on my side wobbled.
“He’s comin’ back ‘round for a snuggle and a scratch” I voice speculatively, with my finger bookmarking the forgotten novel in one hand, and the blankets now clutched to my neck in the other.
“Well, open the window,” my husband says in a now very distinct voice. Clearly, he wasn’t appreciating the turned tables of my complacence.
I thought, “Huh." Then, "duh. Why didn’t I think of that?”
I drop the novel and reach behind my head to slide up the double hung. After quickly extracting the screen I hold it on top of the covers; as if a bit diaphanous netting and a couple ounces of bendy aluminum would communicate "Yield!" to a racing rodent who hadn't previously shown any indication that spatial boundaries mattered much.
Sure enough, about six minutes later while we lay quiescent, Speed Demon’s third tour of the pillow highway halts abruptly. He just stopped; provokingly six inches between the tops of our heads.
There was some peering going on. Out the open window. A tail twitched.
We were transfixed. With the squirrel between us. In bed.
Fuzzy buddy lunged for the night.
Then stilled: right there in the center of the window sill. Half in, half out.
I held my breath: “Go, buddy, go, buddy, go, buddy, go” I chant in my head.
He darts out.
I seize the upper pane and slide it closed.
I look at my markedly alert husband.
I raise my eyebrows.
We both start chortling. Amongst general comments of “well, that’s a new one,” and "I guess I won’t have to dust that canopy anytime soon,” and a cautious investigation of an armpit or two, we expel a mutual disbelief that the issue was genuinely resolved.
Tippity tap. Tippity tap.
In unison, we gaze up behind our heads.
Guess who had a paw pressed to the glass, peeping at us with a big, black eye?
I kid you not!
We couldn’t believe it.
“Dude, what are you trying to tell us?” I asked in wonder.
So now I am researching totem symbology of flying squirrel to figure out what message I am supposed to be receiving from this farcical critter encounter.
He landed on my head.
I’d better wake up and figure it out.
Author’s NOTE: Am pretty sure this was a ‘wake up’ call for me to get my ducks in a row and start writing these stories down.