Did you observe Squirrel Appreciation Day?
It was Saturday, Jan. 21, but it’s not too late to throw some corn on the ground and sing along with Ray Stevens:
The day the squirrel went berserk
In the First Self-Righteous Church
In that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
It was a fight for survival,
That broke out in revival.
They were jumpin’ pews and shouting, Hallelujah!
That’s the chorus from his “Mississippi Squirrel Revival.” If you’ve never watched the video of this songwriter-comedian singing his Top 40s single from the 1980s, take the time to do an internet search. It is worth the laughs.
The Ray Stevens song is about a young boy who catches a squirrel while visiting his granny in Pascagoula, puts it in a box and takes it to church to show a friend.
The squirrel breaks loose and causes mayhem by running up the skirts and pant legs of the sinful but self-righteous church members. They don’t see the fast-moving squirrel so they interpret its shenanigans as a message from Above to repent.
Now you’ve heard the Bible stories, I guess,
Of how He parted the waters for Moses to pass,
All the miracles God has brought to this lo’ world.
But the one I’ll remember to my dyin’ day
Is how he put that church back on the narrow way
With a half-crazed Mississippi squirrel...
Does a day to honor squirrels seem as nutty to you as the self-righteous church members?
SAD — Squirrel Appreciation Day — does really exist, with credit going to a North Carolina animal rehabilitation named Christ McKenzie, who launched the day 16 years ago.
Jan. 21 is now marked on U.S. events calendars, noted on web sites, covered by the media and touted by nature-loving organizations. Even the National Wildlife Federation refers to it as a “National” day but I don’t see our Congress capable of taking such a decisive step.
SAD will likely remain an unofficial holiday, kinda like Fruitcake Toss Day in January and Toothache Day in February. Why not a dedication for squirrels?
Lack of appreciation
As I write this I try to ignore that a few years ago I paid big bucks to replace a car fuel system that squirrels turned into lunch. Or, that I put $100 into a special pole that really does keep squirrels and raccoons out of the bird-feeder.
None of that alters the fact that on the proverbial SAD scale, I get more pleasure than frustration out of squirrels.
Back when I had bird-feeders on my Biloxi property, the gray squirrels common to our Coast were not so numerous that they posed a problem. I didn’t deny them the occasional stolen seeds.
The Virginia property is a different story. I am surrounded by woods that are fantastic squirrel breeding grounds. I first tackled their glutinous bird-feeder raids with makeshift baffles and stinky homemade garlic-pepper sauces, but I’ve graduated to skillfully engineered pole that really works.
Squirrel ebb and flow
I’ve observed Virginia squirrels six years now, amazed by the annual changes in numbers and fur colors. Four species or subspecies have come and gone in a squirrel ebb and flow caused by Mother Nature’s natural culling process, acorn-less years, foxes, coyote and hawks.
I suspect the current scurry (that’s the equivalent of a “flock” of squirrels) is a subspecies of the fox squirrel, because it is not as reddish as the first pair that showed up last winter.
This year’s scurry numbers several dozen but they don’t appear as destructive as the earlier gray squirrels. In fact, they are the friendliest so far, if such a thing can be said about a wild animal.
“Friendly” certainly did not cross the minds of those at the First Self-Righteous Church in Pascagoula. After that squirrel encounter:
Well, seven deacons and then the pastor got saved
And $25,000 got raised
And 50 volunteered for missions in the Congo on the spot.
And even without an invitation
There were at least 500 re-dedications
And we all got re-baptized whether we needed it or not!
Kat Bergeron, a veteran features writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Mississippi Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or at Southern Possum Tales, P.O. Box 33, Barboursville VA 22923.