Dandelion Days

Texas dandelion (Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus)

No matter which dandelion species comes to live in the neighborhood, everyone has an opinion.

Some consider them weeds, taking the emergence of even one perky, yellow flower as a personal affront. For them, the traditional harbinger of spring demands corn gluten, digging tools, or half-used bags of Weed-B-Gon® left from previous battles. Known to curse at the sight of dandelion fluff floating through the air, they need occasional reminders to stop yelling at children who set the seeds a-flying.

Others consider dandelions wildflowers: sturdy little delights meant to become the season’s first bouquets. Some call them dinner: happily boiling their young, tender greens to serve alongside a slice of ham and a slab of cornbread. Old-timers still bottle a sweet, light wine from the flowers, and lucky children still are taught how to weave garlands for their hair.

Loving dandelions as I do, I consider them more wildflower than weed. But above all else, those plump, yellow flowers bring to mind one very special experience:  the year the squirrel went crazy.


Anyone who’s rescued and raised a squirrel as a pet has tales to tell – especially when the relationship lasts over a span of years.  Inevitably, a squirrel in the house means pecans buried in the bedsheets, gnawed furniture, scratched limbs, and a full complement of creative mischief.

It also means providing a nice, balanced diet to maintain those bright eyes and that fluffy tail: a freezer full of acorns, fresh fungi in season, a full complement of assorted greens, and an occasional orange popsicle before bed. As everyone who’s lived with a squirrel knows, if the squirrel’s not happy, nobody’s happy, and popsicles made my squirrel happy.

One year, about mid-January, it became apparent that the squirrel wasn’t happy. He seemed bored and lethargic; none of his usual diversions gave him pleasure. He stopped lying atop the front door, scanning the traffic in the streets. He stopped dragging around his tennis-ball-in-a-sock, or demanding ear scratches. He even stopped watching Letterman, or begging for popsicles.

At first, I assumed creeping age was slowing him down, causing him to become a little crotchety. Then, he became a lot crotchety.  The same critter who’d loved draping himself across my shoulder and nuzzling my ear suddenly took to flying off the refrigerator, grabbing hold of the nearest passer-by, and biting their ear. He scolded everything that moved, and started chasing the bird.  His silent, malevolent glare took on a certain intensity. Anyone who experienced it could be forgiven a shiver of fear, or an irrational belief that a two-pound squirrel was intending to take over the house by force.

Eventually, after a fit of particularly bad temper, I snapped back. Surprised by my response, he ran to the back of the house and scooted straight into a closet: burrowing down among the hiking boots and coolers. That’s where I found him, digging into a plastic bag as though his life depended on it.

A strange but pleasant odor, rather like a brewery, permeated the closet. Puzzled, I pulled open the bag, and found mesquite beans: collected, carried home as a souvenir, and promptly forgotten. Thanks to their high sugar content and perfect closet conditions, the beans had fermented. My furry little darling was flying high on a South Texas version of home-brew, sometimes called atole by those who produce it for human consumption.


Even unfermented mesquite beans appeal to cattle, horses and goats, as well as to an assortment of wild creatures. When the beans ferment in the wild,  cattle who’ve sampled them will do their best to keep bellying up to the bar.

In the case of my no-longer-free-range squirrel, closing the bar was easy. Getting him clean and sober required a little more effort. It took over a week for the effects of the beans to wear off, and during detox he was belligerent, contemptuous, and confrontational.

Unpredictably aggressive, he engaged in fits of foot-stomping rage.  He became particularly fond of jumping up onto a bar near the kitchen, taking the phone cord in his teeth and daring someone to do something about it. Told, “No!” by one of his humans, the previously sweet little woodland creature would curl his forepaws into fists, stomp his little feet on the bar, and chatter away in perfect imitation of a two-year old throwing a tantrum.

Eventually, the aggressiveness ended. Still, he seemed lethargic; uninterested in life; not quite the same critter he was before he went on his bender.  Tempted with his favorite foods, he turned away. He slept a good bit, still refused ear rubs, and generally moped around in his log house. Despite everyone’s concern, the squirrel gurus counseled patience: and so, through the rest of January and all of February, we waited.

Finally, in March, as the sun rose higher in the sky and the grass began to green, the first dandelion appeared in the yard.

On impulse, I plucked and washed it, then carried it to the large aviary which served as the squirrel’s cage.  Whether sleeping or brooding, he was in his log, so I opened the door and rapped on his house. I heard a rustle, so I rapped again, and a tiny face appeared.

When I showed him the dandelion, he hopped out and sat on his feeding log, waiting for his treat. Once he had it in his paws, he sampled a petal or two, nibbled on a leaf, and then, as neatly as you please, bit off the end of the stem. As the milky sap began to collect at the bottom, he lapped up the drops with his tiny tongue, for all the world like an oenophile sampling a particularly fine wine.

I kept the dandelions coming, and within days he was back to his usual self, hanging out on top of the door and hiding pecans in my shoes. Was it the dandelion that made him happy? The coming of spring? The simple passage of time?  There’s no way to know. Perhaps in the end it was a combination of all three, but it hardly mattered. The dandelion gods were back in their heaven, and all was right with the world: at least, all was right in the world of one previously miserable squirrel.

Today, looking around this soft, early spring, enjoying the already-blooming dandelions, waiting for the leafing of the mesquite, I take enormous pleasure in remembering my sweet, funny squirrel. I remember my belligerent, mesquite-bean-crazed squirrel somewhat less fondly, but the experience we shared leads me to wonder about people I see around me now: people who are behaving precisely like my poor, inebriated squirrel.

What have they gotten into? I wonder. What’s left them so belligerent, contemptuous, and confrontational? What could have warped their world view so badly that their life has been reduced to a clenched-jaw, foot-stomping rage?”

In truth, I don’t know. What I do know is that spring is coming, and the dandelions are blooming. Soon the mesquite will blossom,  and the cycle will continue. Someone in West Texas will give atole a try, and vinters around the state will bottle dewberry, agarita and grape. They’ll all be good; there’s no doubt about that.

But if someone gives me a choice, I’m sticking with the squirrel. I’ll take the dandelion, any day at all.

As always, comments are welcome.

148 thoughts on “Dandelion Days

  1. Stimulants of any kind do relieve and give a temperary lift. Your squirrel got high on the mesquite beans. He must have taken more than he could cope with, hence the strange behaviour. The durian fruit that has gone over-ripe is sometimes eaten by monkeys who get so drunk they fall out of the trees.

    Your squirrel was lucky to have you understand his plight. You became his counsellor and made it realise and see its wayward life. It could so easily have spiralled out of control. He now takes it a day at a time.

    Back to the durian fruit. It is also supposedly a strong aphrodisiac. Perhaps they become so wildly excited that that is the reason they fall out of the tree. Who knows?

    People are now cranky and belligerant. The tension of their lives seen in the faces, all drawn into a kind of anger. Is it the huge sugar loads they now are so addicted to? Herds of them in shopping malls’ food courts, all united and bent over boxes of sugar, salt and fat.

    They could do worse than study fields of dandelions.

    1. Always, I learn something from you, Gerard. I didn’t know what a durian fruit was. Now, I understand your comments.

      I had to laugh at this, from the Wiki article: ” Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust.” In other words, the durian fruit can be just as divisive as the dandelion.

      I have seen robins become drunk on fermented berries. Here’s a lovely Audubon article about the phenomenon that even mentions Harris County, which lies just cross the lake from me. Even in the wild, it’s more common than most people imagine.

      As for the crankiness and belligerance, I suspect multiple causation. Turning off the television and having some fresh veggies might not solve everything, but it couldn’t hurt.

      1. In many tropical areas and countries, the durian fruit is not allowed to be taken on public transport especially not on tourist buses. Such is the smell of the durian.
        It does smell as if the toilet is blocked but the jam is lovely once you overcome or conquered its olfactory problem.

        1. That’s somehow funny. I’ve been trying to think of foods here that would produce the same effect.The only thing I could come up with is limburger cheese, but that thought brought me to this article, which might provide some hints on how to lure away mosquitos carrying the Zika virus.

    1. Oh, Shimon — the stories I could tell about that creature. He was the sole survivor of a destroyed nest, and had neither fur nor open eyes when a friend and I saved him. While he still was a baby, but able to travel, I used to take him to work with me, and he was quite fond of the boat. Perhaps the rocking stirred a primal memory of tree limbs swaying in the wind.

      They’re right about squirrels being smart, too. He once chewed off the plastic fitting for the water supply line running to the refrigerator’s ice maker. Every time the ice maker kicked on, he’d run up, stick his head over the back of the fridge, and have a drink from his personal water fountain. It took us a couple of days to figure out where the puddles of water on the floor were coming from.

    1. That’s perfect, Gallivanta — free range dandelions. If you ever decide to give them a try, this article is interesting, and has some good tips. I remember my grandmother talking about dandelion coffee, although I’m not sure whether she made it or only heard about it.

      I didn’t like them the first time I tried them. They were too bitter for my taste. But, they were plucked in high summer, and I suspect now that a taste of tender, early-spring leaves might be better.

      1. Too true! They’re most pleasant if eaten before the buds start to form… Oh, and your grandmother probably drank coffee brewed from the roasted root. (My dad used to make it, back in my pre-coffee youth; )

          1. Thanks Steve, I’m fairly sure Dad tried Chicory coffee as well; although, I seem to remember his constant searching… So last Summer made me smile, as the roadsides were awash with its fantastic blue blossom: ) It is one tough plant!

            1. Chicory is native to Europe but it has spread to North America, China, and Australia (I don’t know where you are). In Texas we have a similar-looking native relative called the skeleton plant, though I haven’t heard of anyone trying to make a coffee substitute from its roots.

            2. But it’s only 200 miles to Breaux Bridge and better beignets than at Café du Monde. Chez Jacqueline is the place, and Jacqueline (who’s French, not Cajun) is sweeter than the beignets.

          2. I’m sure you know that coffee with chicory is a New Orleans staple. I first tried it at Café du Monde, along with some of those famous beignets. I don’t favor the chicory, but I’d love a plate of beignets with some French roast right about now.

          3. I saw your mention below of the skeleton plant. This photo was taken very near the Van Gogh “Starry Night” bridge near Medina last fall. At first I thought it was chicory, but I finally found the skeleton plant, and decided that was it.

  2. Dandelions always remind me of that wonderful book by Ray Bradbury, “Dandelion Wine.” It’s about time to read it again, I think.

    Your squirrel was squirrely (sp?). I am fascinated by the “stop-action” way they move. I have not had a pet squirrel. I have had pet cats. They can get squirrely too.

    Squirrels used to get up in my parent’s old satellite dish. They would eat the insulation off the wires to the motor. You’d try to change satellites, nothing would happen, and my dad would be gunning for squirrel.

    Then, of course, there’s ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), and ADOLAS. (Attention Deficit, Oh, Look, A Squirrel).

    And dandelion? French for “lion’s tooth.” (dent de lion). The seed head of same is referred to as a “clock.”

    Here’s your fun for the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU4DgHHwVCc

    1. You were right about that video, WOL. It was fun. It’s been a while since I giggled my way through my first cup of coffee. Laughter is so contagious, especially when it’s born of pure pleasure.

      Bradbury got it exactly right in “Dandelion Wine” when he wrote, “The wine was summer caught and stoppered.” It’s not unlike pulling a container of fresh peaches or blueberries from the freezer in January, and remembering the taste of a freshly plucked fruit in July.

      It’s been many years, now, but the squirrels living around me still benefit from my experience with my pet. They get their pecans, too — but always cracked, so they’ll eat them rather than bury them.

  3. Sure enjoyed reading about squirrel. I have raised several of them that were released. Squirrels are everywhere in my yard. Waaaay too many. They can eat their weight in birdseed and I must put out twice as much seed. But I love those bush tailed creatures. They rob my figs and that is what really ticks me off.

    Dandelions are blooming here too but I leave them to bloom and to prosper. Interesting to learn that squirrels like the milky sap of this little wildflower.

    1. And not just the sap, Yvonne. He would eat the leaves, too: although he usually only nibbled at the flowers.

      And when it comes to figs, they’re fools for the things. You think you get irritated? A friend made a video of mockingbirds trying to run off some squirrels who were robbing her figs. Of course, the mockingbirds wanted them, too. It was amusing to see the pitched battle.

      Despite their ability to eat us out of house and home, they’re great entertainment. I had no idea until a couple of years ago that they’d set up housekeeping in palm trees. I thought they simply climbed them for safety, or whatever, but then I discovered a nest in one near where I park my car. It was fun to watch the youngsters grow up.

  4. Your Dandelion Detox did the trick for Fuzzy-Face and, I’d wager, would do the same for those humans you mention, as well!
    Personally speaking, I can’t wait for those first fresh greens of Dent-de-Lion.

    1. That’s right; I suppose you have to wait just a little longer for the first dandelions to appear — although everything down here seems just a little ahead of schedule. One of my favorites, the dewberries, are blooming profusely. It’s time to start scouting for patches that will escape both mowing and chemicals.

      “Dandelion Detox” does have a bit of a ring to it, doesn’t it? It crossed my mind while watching the video that WOL contributed that making it available for everyone to watch, every morning, might go some way toward improving things around here.

      Nice to see you — I hope your spring is springing!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Little things in life can be extraordinarily heartening, and it was fun to spend some time thinking about flowers and critters. Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comment.

  5. Hello Linda:

    I was unaware of the effects of dandelions and mesquite beans on humans and animals alike.

    I know I read somewhere that the flowers of Petunias would get honey bees drunk. So drunk or drugged they would fall asleep on the flowers’ petals until the effect was gone.

    There is much to learn…so little time. Thank you for teaching us a fact or two about squirrels, dandelions, mesquite beans and then some.



    1. Now, that’s something I would love to see: a sleeping bee on a flower petal. Maybe you should set some of your petunias outside and see if you can attract the bees. Whether you could duplicate the effect is hard to say, but it would be fun to try.

      Just yesterday, a friend and I were talking about that issue of so little time. We’re both feeling it not so much as pressure, as of a reminder to focus — and to stay away from what we find irrelevant, stupid, or boring. One woman’s boredom is another’s great delight, of course, but figuring out what delights us is the important thing.

      That’s part of what I hope to do with my little stories — delight others — and that’s certainly what you do with your photos.

  6. From Mexico and Central America I know atole as a drink made from corn (and in the form called champurrado, which adds chocolate), but this is the first time I’ve heard of atole made from mezquite. The online instructions are pretty simple: remove the seeds from dry mezquite pods, grind the pods into a powder; boil with a little cinnamon added until any lumps dissolve, sweeten with raw sugar, allow to cool, and drink. With all the mezquite around here, I’m surprised this isn’t a popular local drink.

    1. On the other hand, until I wrote this, I didn’t know about the atole made from corn, or the champurrado. Anything made with chocolate appeals. I found a couple of well-reviewed Mexican (not Tex-Mex) restaurants in Houston serving it, as well as a couple of recipes. Since I’m short on mesquite pods right now, I may give one of the other drinks a try. We’re not going to have any cold weather soon, but it might be nice for the upcoming rain event.

  7. Oh, this was so delightful, Linda, for my Sunday morning reading. Squirrel detox. We see many squirrels rescued here at the animal shelter. I never really imagined it was possible to keep one as a pet.

    Our yard is full of dandelions, and kids do love making the head wreaths, and blow the seeds, and make salad. Of course, we are not very much loved by our neighbors either. Then we let all our chickweed grow too in the flower beds and eat it up too.
    I had heard of drunk cattle and birds, and the monkeys. And even babies!

    But the squirrel story was really surprising – the fact that he got into some long forgotten beans. My baby cousin once had eaten too many poppy seeds from the garden and got intoxicated and slept for a long long time. And your story reminded me of my kids a few days back. After a walk in the woods, on the way home they got a very rare treat, I grabbed an ice cream cone from McDonald for each. Well. Suffice to say, after eating them, they acted very much like your drunk squirrel. I promised myself to never make that mistake again.

    1. Believe me, Bee — squirrels are high-maintenance, especially if you want to keep them healthy and happy. This fellow lived in an old aviary that was probably 12′ high and 5′ in diameter. It was large enough for some nice climbing limbs, a hollow log house, and plenty of toys. He only was allowed in the people house when people were around to keep an eye on him. Obviously, that didn’t always work.

      His most amusing habit involved his tennis-ball-in-a-sock. When it was time to go to bed, he’d drag it up to his house, go inside, and then use it to block the opening — for all the world like shutting a door. When that tennis ball was in place, it was as good as a “keep out” sign.

      As amusing as this story is, mesquite can be a problem for livestock. It’s fun reading some of the forums concerned with mesquite eradication. Back in 2008, there was a lot of discussion about a fellow near Electra, Texas, who used camels to get rid of them. Apparently they’d eat them right down to the ground, with no ill effects.

  8. Speaking of pets, a few minutes ago I came across this in a Wikipedia article: “The lyrics for ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’ were based on a 1959 poem by Leonard Lipton, a 19-year-old Cornell University student. Lipton was inspired by an Ogden Nash poem titled ‘Custard the Dragon’, about a ‘realio, trulio little pet dragon.’ ” One person’s dragon is another person’s squirrel.

    1. I just read the poem, which I didn’t know, and had to laugh, especially at the last verse:

      “Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
      And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
      Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
      But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.”

      That reminded me of the evening he got loose, and climbed a tree for the first time. Unfortunately, he’d never had a mother to teach him how to get down from a tree. Once he realized what he’d done, he sat on a limb and cried until a human with an extension ladder reclaimed him and carried him home.

  9. Buzz was cute and funny.

    We’ve read several accounts of Cedar Waxwings eating fermented crab apples etc. They get pretty looped.

    I can’t imagine having a squirrel as a pet indoors. We had lots of critters, but all outdoors…raccoons, skunks, ground squirrels, crow, cats, dogs, rabbits, …

    1. Well, he didn’t live indoors all the time. That would have been a bit much. He had a nice, big aviary with climbing limbs, a log house, squirrel toys, and such. The aviary had a human-sized door, so it was easy to go out, get him, and bring him in for a few hours at a time.

      He was particularly fond of drinking from the kitchen faucet. He’d go to the sink, drape himself across the faucet, and wait until someone set it to dripping. It was a hard life that creature lived.

  10. What an interesting story. I’ve never known anyone who has kept a squirrel as a pet and I smile at the thought of one eating a Popsicle. I love squirrels and when I was living at my other house I would see as many as 14 at my wintertime feeding station. Where I’m at now I didn’t see any for five years then I’d see two at my bird feeders, and now on occasion I see a black squirrel!

    1. Black squirrels are neat. The only place I’ve seen them is in the hill country, where they seem fairly common in some rocky, wooded places. Have you heard of the white squirrels of Olney, Illinois? That would be a sight to see. The article I linked said there were about 800 of them a few years ago.

      I think it was the cold of the popsicle that appealed, more than the flavor. In the full heat of summer, he liked having an ice cube in his cage, and he’d lick that the same way. But it could have been the flavor of the popsicle, too, as he preferred orange. Raspberry, lime, or grape didn’t cut it.

  11. The previous owner built a golf course on what was to become my backyard. It has five tees, three holes, multiple sand traps, a water hazard (my pond) and several acres of lush green lawn.

    Though I do not golf, I still feel compelled to maintain it, if not as a golf course, at least as a parkland that my neighbor can interpret as a sign that I am not a slacker.

    Dandelions undermine those efforts, they prove in vivid color that despite the hours I spend mowing and cultivating my little Eden that I am still very much the slacker.

    Some say I should restore the golf course to its original splendor, others say I should plow the turf under and replant it in native prairie, still others insist I plant it in native corn and soybeans. No matter what I do I will displease someone.

    So my plan is simple, on each pass, I mow a little less, allowing the pasture to encroach on the lawn. It would be a good plan if not for the dandelions…. corn meal, eh? I will give it a try.

    1. Something for everyone, that’s our motto. I hope the corn gluten works for you. I notice it has the added advantage of having been developed at Iowa State. If you grow your dandelions organically, and there are enough of them, you might be able to persuade rabbit owners in the area to come and dig them for you, then carry them away as a special treat for their pets.

      I’ve never known anyone who had a private golf course. So it was only three holes. That meant a person could finish a round and get back to the clubhouse even more quickly for refreshments and conversation.

      As for displeasing someone: after Ricky Nelson changed to Rick Nelson, he had an answer for that. Rather ironically, it’s titled “Garden Party.”

  12. My lawn and flower beds (er weed beds … lol) are covered in them … was hoping Ray would have time to spread “weed and feed” before he left for Spring Break to visit his mother, and before the storms move in … but alas, I may consider trying some dandelion greens until he returns.

    Sweet story about your squirrel companion. Reminds me … my grandmother had a pet squirrel she rescued from a notorious flood. What was the name of your furry companion, and total life span?

    Happy Sunday!

    1. You might try just a few young leaves in a salad, Becca. But if you’ve been using any kind of chemical around them, it’s best to leave them off the menu. I have a friend who keeps her lawn organic, just so she has a ready supply of the leaves. And people who are foraging for pets need to keep that in mind, too.

      The squirrel lived for eight years — average for one in captivity, although some have lived as long as eighteen years. In the wild, their lives are much shorter, of course. According to one source, the average lifespan in the wild is only seven months!

    1. Of course, a squirrel’s life in the wild isn’t all popsicles and tennis balls. There’s a cat and an old squirrel at a marina where I work that spend most of their time eyeing one another. I’ve never seen the cat pounce, and I’ve never seen the squirrel exhibit fear. I suspect they’ve learned they can’t outwit — or outrun — one another, so they just enjoy their pretend pursuit!

  13. I wish you could see the smile on my face as I read this. I could visualize so clearly your adventures of both sweet squirrel and druggie squirrel! Beautiful imagery, photos, and perfect weaving about the full circle of dandelions.

    But you make an excellent observation — sort of buried in the last part — that reminds me so much of our world today when you wrote: What have they gotten into? I wonder. What’s left them so belligerent, contemptuous, and confrontational? What could have warped their world view so badly that their life has been reduced to a clenched-jaw, foot-stomping rage?”

    I feel that whenever I observe anything of today’s political actions — angry debates, crowds that are riled up in a negative and harmful way, not allowing the discourse and disagreement of opinions without name calling and so much more. I’d like to think it is too much dandelion wine or fermented seeds but I think it goes far deeper than that.

    I’ll leave with a happy note: A dandelion is quite often the first flower a child brings its mother.

    1. I hadn’t thought about those childhood gifts, Jeanie, but you’re right. My first bouquet for my mother probably was either dandelions or violets. We had those in abundance, and they grew close to the front steps, so I would have had access to them in my earliest years — before I was allowed to go out of the yard by myself.

      A side note: I came upon my first wild violet in Texas on Saturday. I think I’ve missed them before because I always was “late for spring,” and they’re among the earliest flowers. My inner midwesterner thinks they ought to show up in April. But now I know they’re here, and with luck, I’ll find more after our big rains this week.

      It’s a sad fact that we don’t have to look far to find the belligerant, contemptuous, and confrontational. For those who have a shortage of that unholy trinity in their real lives, there’s always social media or talk radio. Ah, well. A browse through earlier political broadsides and cartoons can be helpful. This isn’t a new phenomenon.

  14. Linda, what a delightful story! At first I thought you were pulling my leg, but then I remembered you said you’d had all sorts of interesting pets, so a squirrel wasn’t out of the question. And what a delight he must have been — though poor Dallas NEVER would allow me to keep a squirrel as a pet. In fact, he’s not particularly happy that I put bird seed outside for them to snack on!!

    Having a “wild” animal in such close proximity makes it possible for you to learn first-hand about their habits. I love watching their antics from the windows, but you really got up-close-and-personal with one…love the mental image of him riding atop your shoulders!

    Good thing you found out about his “habit” and helped him kick it. I like to think the arrival of Spring made a huge difference in his attitude!

    1. The arrival of spring may have helped, but getting him off the fermented beans helped even more. Actually, spring would have been an even rougher season, had he not had a little surgical adjustment that made him less interested in girl squirrels.

      I was going to say I wouldn’t pull your leg, but then I realized that, yes, I certainly would. But this isn’t a leg-puller. And you’re right, that after the squirrel came the prairie dog. I must say, as interesting as those critters were, Dixie Rose is much lower maintenance, and a better friend.

      I did learn a lot about squirrels in those years: especially about their health and diets. I’ll never forget the time my mother came to visit, opened the freezer door, and discovered it full of acorns. She just sighed and gave me “the look” — the one that says, “I have raised me an idiot child.”

      1. A vet actually “fixed” your squirrel?? Why does that shock me — they have “parts,” too, but I never considered such for a squirrel. Gives new meaning to the word “nuts,” huh?!! ;)

        1. Indeed it does. And, it’s recommended for pet squirrels, as it reduces aggressiveness. There are some vets in Houston who specialize in “exotic” pets, and he had wonderful care — right up to the time he died of congestive heart failure. I’ll bet you didn’t know they could do ultrasounds on a squirrel, either, or that the symptoms of CHF are pretty much the same in squirrels as in humans.

  15. Your delightful story of this little critter, holds all the charm of a children’s picture story. (Otherwise, why would I love it so?) I wrote something once upon a time, about how nice it would be if people would view sparrows as song birds (which they are) and dandelions as flowers (which they are), instead of viewing them as pests. If I changed my mindset, my little acre would be filled with joy. Such a lovely story!

    1. And I like your perspective, Oneta. Sparrows certainly are song birds, just as dandelions are flowers. Now, if only we could learn to appreciate the so-called “bad” weather.

      I will confess that, over the past weeks, I’ve thought of moving a certain osprey into the category of pest, since nearly every work day has had to begin by hosing the remainder of his fish dinner off the boat. But now that job is finished. The osprey can do his worst, and I’ll go back to enjoying his song.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story. I certainly never would have taken in a squirrel on purpose, but when one drops out of a tree onto the driveway, and survives — well, there’s nothing for it but to take on the challenge.

  16. I never knew someone with an inside squirrel. There a couple in the neighborhood that will run towards you upon sighting – I have to keep saying “Noooo, Molly is not your friend. Run far run fast”…one doesn’t listen. Ed got such a chuckle out of this post – that description of the tantrum.

    I used to gather dandelions on dog walks for the “free range in the atrium” giant rex rabbit we had for several years. He loved them so much – and stopped barking when he could have them. Yes. He would bark when mad.
    Dandelions are wildflowers. Period.

    People are far too crazy and angry right now – perhaps after the super moon, the eclipse, and the asteroid passes this week, oddness will tame a bit.

    1. I’ve seen those Rex rabbits, but never knew the name. They are beautiful. Every description mentioned “dense, velvet-like fur,” and of course that made me think of the story of the Velveteen rabbit. I used to have a copy of that book, and now I can’t remember what happened to it.

      The squirrel didn’t live inside full time. His home was a log in a really big aviary, where he had room to play and run around. He could come in when someone was around. Leaving him alone in the house, unsupervised would have been the worst possible idea. Even with humans supervising, things could get dicey.

      I knew the eclipse was coming, but didn’t know about the asteroid. The full moon should be a nice one, if we don’t have clouds.As for crazy and angry? I have a feeling that’s going to be around for a while. I suppose we can hope the election will take care of that.

      1. Asteroid flew by last night around 8:30 ET – NASA kept changing the arrival time (getting many snickers by the non-science community, but the orbit makes it very unpredictable ) Close to a 3 event night/day.

        That rabbit did have the most remarkable fur, but it wasn’t a miniature as promised. Quite huge. And a guard rabbit. Seriously it could look very menacing. Bunny became guardian of the school guinea pig who joined him in the atrium life after I was appalled at the horrible squalour of life in the science classroom cage. Teacher was quite happy to get rid of it. Always room for an orphan…bunny and long haired guinea who chirped and sang like crazy would dig burrows and cuddle together – and get quite annoyed if I dug a peep hole to make sure they were OK.A large hawk used to fly over terrifying guinea, but Rex did his large presence and loud bark and growl thing. Quite a pair.

        Whew. I was wondering if the squirrel was free range indoors. That would be asking for trouble. Squirrels are such comedians and so smart. Bet you had lots of laughs with that one.
        Endless election signs. Bet they don’t even disappear after runoffs for our elections. We managed to vote for mayor early…bet few even show up for that one. So easy to feel voting is pointless these days

        1. For whatever reason, the squirrel wasn’t particularly destructive. Apart from disassembling the icemaker, and taking out a couple of phone cords, he mostly left things alone. He didn’t scratch or chew furninture, either, but we always kept him supplied with nice pieces of antler to chew on. Since their teeth grow continually, they have to chew, of they end up in real trouble.

          He did like to “mark” furniture, though. Nearly every piece of furniture had a set of tiny, parallel lines made by his front teeth.

          Guinea pigs are neat creatures. Maybe some day I’ll repost the story about Spud, the guinea pig who was a mascot for an East Texas police department. They named him Spud because he looked for all the world like a big, fat baked potato.

          1. They always go for the cords…that’s why the rabbit didn’t stay in the house either.
            Baked potato – that is the spot on description of a guinea ( and they are dear…but so messy. Outdoor animal!) Will be waiting for Spud

  17. What a charming story Linda. I never knew anyone who had a pet squirrel, let alone a drunken one! Your patience and help in restoring him to his normal self was exemplary. Many people would not have taken the time. But comparing his behavior to a problem human, shows that alcohol taken in excess can do funny things. I’m glad you got a clean and sober squirrel back.

    1. I’m just glad that the source of the problem was found quickly. He already had started showing some anti-social tendencies, becoming less friendly to familiar people and downright unfriendly to strangers. That wasn’t a surprise. Many people with pet squirrels report the phenomenon. But his rages were of a different order entirely.

      Once we figured out that he’d gotten hooked on fermented beans, it was quite a relief. Something could be done about that. And, honestly? I’m not so sure he wasn’t unhappy with the situation, himself. He couldn’t resist the beans, but he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself after eating them.

        1. You should see me when I decide it’s time to eliminate sugar for a while. There’s no question in my mind that there’s some level of addiction with that, even before fermentation takes place. The withdrawal stage isn’t very long — maybe a week — but it’s real. Once I get past that, the craving is just gone.

    1. Some of my own favorite memories involve dandelions. I have no idea why we did it, or where the custom began, but we always held them under one another’s chins, to see if we “liked butter.” Now, I can’t remember how we knew. I suppose it had to do with the pollen.

      I’m glad to have brought you a smile.

  18. I’m remembering dandycakes with maple syrup at last year’s Maple Table fundraiser at Wagbo Farm . . . I’ll bet my attitude would be favorably adjusted by a stack of those.

    It occurs to me that we say people are behaving “childishly” when we mean “badly” and that the chuckling baby watching Dad make dandelion fluff fly is behaving very nicely. There are no words for the current tsunami of bad behavior. (Although p’raps between us we can find some, eh?)

    1. I just spent more time than I imagined it would take trying to find out what a dandycake (or a stack of dandycakes) could be — and I still don’t know. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the term. I’d bet on pancakes, but you never know.

      I do know this: anything that takes maple syrup is a good thing.

      Wasn’t that video fun? Beyond the truth of what you said, it also reminded me that there’s a world of difference between child-like and childish.

      Of course, much bad behavior in children can be remedied by a cookie, a glass of milk, and a nice, long nap. Maybe we need Robert Fulghum to moderate the rest of the presidential debates.

    1. You’re well and truly north, Susan, so I’m not surprised winter’s holding on. But not even a snowdrop or daffodil? Well, it’s nearly mid-March. Things will turn.

      It was lovely here this past weekend, and I spent both Saturday and Sunday outdoors, roaming wildlife refuges and nature centers. It’s a good thing I resolved to get out and see what spring had to offer, because the offerings are piling up. Of course, now I’m behind on desk work and other chores, but we have at least three days of serious rain ahead of us, so there will be time to catch up.

      In the meantime, here’s an Indian paintbrush, just for you. Your time is coming!

  19. What a cute story! I would never have thought of having a free-ranging squirrel in the house. I think perhaps the new spring flower had the soothing effect on him.

    There is a squirrel in residence at my house now too, either in the wood pile, the big pine tree next to it, under the shop, or in a big tangle of brush just across the little canyon (where his tracks led in the snow all winter). Now I will watch to see if he in interested in the few dandelions that have just started to bloom.

    1. Your squirrel may well favor dandelions, Terry. There are other treats, of course. I’ve been watching our squirrels nibbling like crazy on the new shoots of grass that are coming up. And they’re still burying something: perhaps last year’s acorns or pecans.

      You’re lucky to be able to track animals in the snow. We have to depend on mud, or sometimes sand. We have heavy rain coming, and that means an opportunity to see who’s been out and about, once it’s gone. I’ve found deer, raccoon, and coyote tracks at our local nature center, and I suspect bobcat. I’m eager for more mud, to see if my suspicion can be confirmed.

    1. Thanks, Julie. I hope this one brought a smile, too.

      I realized I didn’t have a clue if there were squirrels in Australia, and I found this neat article about them. Your (introduced) giant black squirrel is quite something, but I really liked the fact that the introduced gray squirrel didn’t make it — went extinct, it did. So there!

  20. What a fun story. I will have to come back and read this to H. It will crack him up. My aunt had a squirrel. He was a happy little thing until one day when he bit her on the neck and wouldn’t let go. I’m so glad the dandelion cure worked for your squirrel. They are characters, but a little too greedy at my bird feeders to suit me. H, on the other hand, feeds them. He always keeps an ear of corn out there for them.

    1. I shouldn’t laugh at your aunt’s story, but I know how difficult it is to persuade a squirrel to let go. Mine wasn’t much of a biter. He’d often express his displeasure by turning his back. In fact, that’s what gave us the clue that turning our backs to him could serve as discipline. It drove him crazy.

      They are greedy little creatures, but, after all, it takes calories to do all that running from limb to limb. In the winter, I feed some of the locals cracked pecans. The cracked are a little more expensive than the whole, but if you throw out whole ones, they’ll just bury them. If the nut’s already cracked, they’ll go ahead and eat it.

      Besides, the pecans aren’t favored by anything else, except the bluejays. I’m still trying to find a way around the pigeons, which pretty much live life as feathered vacuum cleaners.

  21. What a nice post Linda. Squirrels are the animals I probably noticed first when I went to the U.S. for the first time. I always welcomed them at the feeders. However, when I first saw chipmunks, I had no idea what they were. To me they looked like ‘red squirrels’.

    Eventually, I noticed the squirrels were much more cautious when coming to the feeders, whereas the chipmunks were less shy and came as close as the songbirds themselves. Squirrels are shrewd animals, whereas chipmunks are very adaptable and lack the shrewdness of the squirrel. I read chipmunks are killed often for attacking gardens and crops, whereas killing squirrels is more difficult because they can sense the danger immediately (plus their habits are different). I keep telling people there are other ways to detour chipmunks, but killing seems to be easier for them.

    I had no idea there was a Texas dandelion, thanks for the image!

    1. When you say: “But if someone gives me a choice, I’m sticking with the squirrel. I’ll take the dandelion, any day at all”, I agree and see things the same way you see them. Your post reflects the ability of Nature to regenerate itself, whereas humans seem to need so much guidance… If we could only learn from example.

      1. Perhaps part of the difference is that animals live according to their nature, while we have to decide for ourselves what constitutes our human nature, and how we’ll shape our lives in accordance with it.

    2. I’m glad you like our dandelion, Maria. Here’s another view from the same patch that shows two other stages of the flower, plus a cucumber beetle.

      I grew up with red squirrels, so it was quite a revelation to me when I moved to Texas and met gray and rock squirrels. The grays also are called cat squirrels, because of their quick, lithe movements.

      We have flying squirrels, too, but I’ve never seen one of those. This Parks & Wildlife article has a nice summation. I felt a little bad when I read this, about the flying squirrels: “The flying squirrel is quite timid and, if cornered, may become paralyzed with fear and die of shock.”

      “Shrewd” is a good word. The single fact about squirrels that amazes me every time I think about it is that they harvest various fungi, dry them, and keep them in little “pantries” for food during the winter. Nature truly is wonderful.

      1. The one I saw years and years ago was a reddish chipmunk, I found out later because it had the stripes. To me it looked like a squirrel at the time. It would get closer too. Then I saw a rabbit. All these animals were a novelty for someone like me who came from the caribbean. Here in P.R. we don’t have these animals.

        1. In the same way, I was astonished by the creatures I met in Liberia: chimpanzees, pythons, pigmy hippos. And snakes — although I met very few of those personally, and was happy for it. There’s such variety in the world.

  22. A darling story and makes me look forward to actual spring being here. This morning when I stepped out the door the air was just delightful and cool and very spring like. Felt like staying out in nature and plucking dandelion flowers instead of going into the office.

    I’ve never known anyone who raised a squirrel or rescued one, but I imagine they are characters to live with. I know some cat rescuers and they can be characters to live with too until they know the world isn’t as bad as they thought!!

    On the inebriated animals, I do remember watching a show about some adventurer/scientists tracking the source of the Amazon (I think). And, there was a scene of some animals consuming fermented fruit from a tree along the river bank. It was hilarious to see the monkeys and other animals in such a stumbling state. They didn’t seem much interested in defending territory one from another species either, they were in it together.

      1. Thanks, Judy. I spent a bit more time with my weekend photos last night, and was fairly well amazed. For a test run, it was a wholly satisfactory day.

    1. I spent the whole of the weekend outdoors, and on Sunday, especially, it was that kind of perfect spring day: warm, with cool breezes. Actually, it was windy — but that only contributed to the sense of seasonal change. March winds, after all.

      My dear Dixie Rose was rescued, in the sense that I spirited her away from a family that was badly mistreating their mama cat and her babies. She was four months old when she came to live with me, and was mostly accustomed to being dragged around by nine and ten year old boys. Needless to say, she has attachment issues, and isn’t at all a lap cat. When it’s time for a trip to the vet, it can get interesting around here.

      As for that party you witnessed — there’s nothing like a few drinks to make natural enemies into friends!

      1. Yeah that must be true. I remember my Grandmother had a neighbor friend who never really seemed to warm up to me. Then one day Grandmother threw a party and she taught me how to make a drink call a Side Car. Had three ingredients as I recall and unlike a Margarita rimmed with salt, the glasses were rimmed with sugar and kept cold in the fridge until ready for use. Well the neighbor was especially friendly to me that night and I had to laugh. But, really those drinks should have been called “Flat Cars” ; they were pretty strong I think.

        1. Just the mention of a Side Car was enough to evoke that 1950s-1960s culture that was such a part of my parents’ life and that of their friends. Big band music, jazz, and drinks like the Manhattan, the White Russian, and of course the Tom Collins.

          I don’t drink much hard liquor any more, although Campari and soda’s good in summer, and a Black Russian is nice. But from the ingredients of a Side Car, I think “Flat Car” is exactly right. Everything has a history!

          1. LOL, I can count on you to look these things up for me. But, definitely the cocktail party does seem to be rooted in a different time…things my grandparents did. They were quite sociable. While alcohol is a rare thing with me, I do remember loving to get a chance to snitch a maraschino cherry from a Manhattan or an olive from a Martini. Those were great!!

  23. Heee, what a sweet, wonderful story! Your squirrel was lucky to have you.

    The amazing medicinal benefits of dandelions have been well known for millennia (your sweet squirrel knows of them!), so I’d rather they grow free-range (love that!)… Who knows WHO decided WHEN they were deemed a “weed”, anyways. What a term.

    1. How nice of you to stop by, FeyGirl. I’m glad you enjoyed the little tale (of a tail?!) but I’m not surprised. Squirrels are cute, smart, and pesky — a great combination.

      It’s never occurred to me before, but surely there is a history of lawn care, too. There has to have been a point in time when the broad expanse of perfect lawn came into vogue. (Of course there is. Here’s the first article on the history of lawns that popped up. It was the invention of the mechanical lawn mower in 1830 that made lawns accessible to all, since it wasn’t necessary to use scythes or sheep to keep things trimmed.

      Coming up next? Some creatures from your world!

          1. Ah, well…
            Although we come from different countries, and use different languages (with different words for the same things) we are all human beings.
            Simply put? “Do unto others…”

            1. Although I’ll note, with a certain degree of humor, that it’s always best to finish out that saying. I’ve known people who would end it with the less traditional phrase, “before they do unto you”!

            2. Sometimes I can’t help being overly sincere, sorry; )
              I also can’t seem to stop myself from thinking about those beignets and French Roast you mentioned earlier, either, lol!

  24. How I enjoyed this! I have never known anyone rescue a squirrel and keep them as a housepet. I can imagine how engaging and fascinating they must be.

    What wonderful pictures and an even more wonderful story, a drunk squirrel eh! Many moons back I had a couple of dogs that got drunk on rotten apples, fortunately they just staggered around, crashing into things and then slept it off!

    I love the Texas dandelion, how pretty, I too am in the wildflower brigade. As for people, I think there are so many reasons for all this rage… paperbacks could be written on it.

    Fabulous post!

    1. “Engaging and fascinating” are good words. “Frustrating and tiring” also apply. The thing is, I’d never rescued anything, and didn’t have a full understanding of this thing called imprinting. Once that creature opened its eyes and saw what had been feeding it milk — well. I swear I heard it say, “Mama!” There was no way to return him to the wild once he’d gained a few months, so his humans had to make a full-time commitment to him. If only all human parents would do the same, eh?

      My experience with the squirrel is part of what makes your blog so appealing to me. I know just a bit about what your work entails.

      As soon as you mentioned rotten apples, I remembered that smell from the orchards, and the taste of good cider. Now, it’s the blossoms we’re welcoming — the beginning of a new cycle. This year, I’m determined to enjoy spring more fully than I have in the past two or three years.

  25. What a delightful story!! When I was a child living on the farm. we had a long driveway with lawn beside it. My Mother would not allow my Daddy to mow the beautiful Dandelions that grew from the house, all the way down that swath of lawn to the road. That field of yellow flowers made her so happy. Nowadays, people–especially city/suburb people want to Weed B Gone them. I refuse! :-)

    1. Good for you, for refusing WeedBGon. Not only are dandelions (and other broadleaf “weeds”) quite pretty, there are ways to have a nice lawn that doesn’t involve spraying chemicals every week or two. Sometimes, there are reasons to use poisons, but it needs to be done carefully, and specifically.

      I have a vision of that long sweep of dandelion-filled lawn. What a joy that must have been. Your mother’s opposition to mowing reminds me of a couple of signs I saw this weekend, alongside a road. They weren’t official highway signs, just hand-lettered cardboard, or something. Of course they said, “Do not mow,” and no one had.

  26. Wow, that is such a great story, Linda. I admire your open-heartedness in raising the squirrel and treating him like family. No doubt he was suffering from mesquite-bean withdrawal and had a long hangover.

    I enjoy dandelions in the lawn. Not so true of my better half. Mary Beth goes around picking the flowers and places them in a plastic bag to go in the trash. She won’t put them on the brush pile in the woods for fear of them spreading on a windy day. No herbicide but a quick yank to control them. We also have a similar flower, hawkweed, that grows in the lawn and spreads just as aggressively. Those seem to be acceptable.

    The people who owned the house before us used a “Chem-lawn” type service to grow a thick lawn with no weeds. The young girls across the street felt badly for the lack of pretty flowers and used to pick their own dandelions and walk over to blow the fluff on the lawn in hopes of helping out the deprived neighbors. :-)

    1. You need to give Mary Beth a dandelion digger if she doesn’t have one, since you have to get rid of the taproot as well as those fluffy seeds. On the other hand, since you like the flowers, perhaps you don’t want to give her one — they are quite effective.

      That story about the girls who wanted to help out the neighbors is so funny. The other side of that coin was the lawn-obsessed guy in my parents’ neighborhood who was spotted more than a few times out in yards up and down the street with his digger — at midnight or 2 a.m. He didn’t even bother trying to convince the people around him to get rid of the dandelions. He just went after them himself.

      I see we have a few species of hawkweed that are native here, too. One is Hieracium longipilum, or hairy hawkweed. It’s barely present, though, being shown only in one county, north of Houston.What’s interesting is that the same county is shown on the BONAP map. Nice to find some agreement in the world.

      1. We actually have a couple diggers. But she prefers “Off with their heads!!!!”.

        I suspect that my next door neighbor is like your folks’ neighbor. He is very particular about his lawn, has it sprayed a few times each summer, and mows it almost every other day. I would not be surprised if he went around at night doing the same thing.

        Ours is Rough Hawkweed-Hieracium scabrum

        1. Until “off with their heads” jogged my memory, I’d forgotten another technique for getting rid of the flowers — related to Alice, the Queen, and so on. One of my classmates, forced to dandelion patrol one too many times, took to whacking them with a croquet mallet. It was quite a game for us for a while, until the adults put an end to that fun.

  27. Squirrels are always fun to watch, aren’t they. As for dandelions I hold nothing against them, but understand those with gardens may hold a grudge against them. But there is something quite spectacular about a field covered with blooming dandelions. :-)

    1. Until the internet, I’d never seen photos of massed dandelions, but I have seen photos from Europe that are spectacular. Whether dandelions or massed bluebonnets or Indian paintbrush here, there’s just something about those swaths of color that’s compelling.

      It’s intrigued me that, after my personal experience with one squirrel, my affection for all squirrels has grown. There might be a lesson there for us humans, in our interactions with each other, don’t you think?

  28. I’d never heard of an indoor pet squirrel! Goodness, he sounded like quite the character — whether inebriated or sober.

    If all our dandelions looked as sweet as your Texas ones, I’d like them, too! They are much more wildflowery and less weedy than true dandelions.

    1. He was a character, indeed, Nikki. As with all pets, the key to getting along and keeping him happy was understanding his nature. Just as with Dixie (and I’m sure with your troupe), imposing my will never worked quite as well as figuring out how to bend his just a little.

      Our Texas dandelions finally are beginning to appear in clusters, and they are beautiful. Like the invasives, they’re among the first flowers of spring, and even here, where we don’t suffer the ice and snow, they’re a delight to see.

      1. Wonder if they’ll grow here in So Cal… must look up seeds. And I agree with you: there’s only so much one can do to “train” the furry household members. Usually, it’s the humans to get trained.

        1. Here’s a link to the USDA map for the Texas dandelions. I suspect even a quick glance will give you your answer. Even if you could get them to grow, I suspect they’d be more effort than they’d be worth.

            1. On the other hand, you may just have a micro-climate somewhere in your yard that will suit; and – especially with weather patterns shifting the way they are – if you don’t try, you’ll never know… What the heck, find out what conditions they prefer and give it a try (nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?; )

    1. And those animals are more amenable to being in relationship, and revealing some of their secrets, than we might imagine. But it’s the same as with most experiences in life: we need to be receptive, and responsive.

      It just crossed my mind that “acting squirrely” most often is used in a negative sense. In truth, a lot of people could improve their act by being more squirrely.

    1. Now that you mention it — you’re right. Opinions about squirrels do vary a bit, don’t they? Well, now you know why I always love your squirrel posts. They bring back a wealth of memories: some good, some bad, and some just plain weird!

  29. I’m sorry I’m so late to this post! And it’s one of my favorite- if not THE favorite.

    You had a squirrel! Are all these photos of your pet? It looks like a fox squirrel. This is so charming! I love squirrels and I love dandelions. Your TX version is delightful and I’d have a hard time with a neighbor who sprayed these. They do look like a wildflower, but then, we know the definition of a “weed”…

    Was it house trained? Litter box? I love the snoozy photo on the deck. I needed something this adorable to start my day.

    A great Springtime post. Very welcome.

    1. You know there’s never any need to apologize around here, Martha. Besides, I know how busy you’ve been — after your whirlwind trip, I’m surprised you’re getting back in the groove so quickly.

      Yes, I had a squirrel — and then came the prairie dog: although joint custody was involved there, especially after he decided I wasn’t worth his time any more. The squirrel actually lived in an aviary that was big enough for him to run and play in. He came into the house only for visits. I don’t think you can train a squirrel, although the occasional droppings were no more trouble than a rabbit’s. And squirrels don’t foul their nests, so there wasn’t any need to clean the log he slept in, etc.

      He was a fox squirrel. Texas has fox, gray, and rock squirrels, but here in our area, it’s mostly fox, with some grays moving in. I’ve been laughing at them the past couple of weeks. The boy squirrels are chasing the girlls – it won’t be long before we have the young ones around again to amuse us.

  30. This delightful story has brought new light to the concept of “squirrel.”

    It reminds me of a television show which was recommended to me after I ranted about the 75 wild turkeys destroying our lawns and potted plants–a show meant to create love for the wild turkey. It was about a man who adopted 15 turkey eggs,which all hatched. You can guess the rest of the story.

    Here on the Rancho we have viewed squirrels as glorified rats (and domestic rats make great pets, too). Our squirrels are HUGE. I confess to having an “icky” feeling when they run along my wrought iron railing or I find them digging in my pots. Now that I have read your story of a pet squirrel, I will try to view them more kindly.

    To add a disgusting note, our Lab Dinah ate a squirrel about 4 years ago…talk about gross.

    1. It’s a fact that a country nickname for squirrels is “limb rats,” so you’re perfectly justified in your views. Besides, squirrels are in the rodent family. The fact that those furry tails and bright eyes make them generally more attractive than a wharf rat doesn’t change that.

      Of course, the very qualities that make them so endearing — a quick intelligence, persistence, creativity — also make them the bane of gardeners, homeowners, and so on. For years, we had a photo of my mother planting tulip bulbs with a squirrel coming right behind her and digging them up. I don’t know what happened to the photo, but even when my memory’s mostly gone, I suspect I’ll remember that little incident.

      The only reason my mother put up with dad hunting them was her conviction that anything that reduced their population had to be good. She wouldn’t cook them, though. The guys did that, too. If you ever need a recipe for squirrel stew, let me know.

    1. Squirrels seem to be more social, and more inclined to tolerate humans, than many wild species. Of course, they’re probably just smart enough to recognize our, “Oh, cute!” response, and know that it can lead to a handout.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Sheryl, and thanks for sharing that memory about your dad. It’s a sweet one, for sure. Thanks, too, for commenting. It’s always a pleasure to meet someone new.

    1. Thanks so much, Bob. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I remember both the squirrel and the (ahem) prairie dog with a great deal of affection. They had good, long lives, and pretty much ruled their roost when they were around.

  31. As hard as it is losing one hour of sleep, it reminds of what is to come. Tulips and daffodils, etc. (before the squirrels pop off their heads.) I have to keep doing that as we’re expecting snow next week :). Are squirrels friendlier in Texas, it may be, because I would never knowingly befriend the local squirrel in Ontario. It could be since were further up North that they acquire more muscles to climb brick houses and tightrope walk on the electric wires?? What colours do you have in Texas? We have black and grey and a smaller pop.of small red squirrels. Apparently, the black ones don’t populate the eastern shores of Canada. I had a friend whose brother came down from Nova Scotia and took pics of the black ones because he had never seen one!

    1. We have the red (fox) squirrels, the Eastern gray, and the black rock squirrels. The rock squirrels are fairly limited in their range — they tend to be in the hill country — and the grays are moving in from the east. As you’d expect, there are more of them in the eastern half of the state.

      They’re all wonderful, and equally acrobatic. It always amazes me to watch them wire-walk. I once saw two squirrels meet on the same electrical wire. One actually swung to the bottom, so it was hanging upside down. Then, they passed one another, just as easy as you please. Amazing, really.

    2. Hi Tamara, I’m also in Ontario and I’m fairly certain that the little guys (Red Squirrel) are the only Native species; whereas the others: black, grey, (& white, in Exeter; ) are all “Imports”

  32. A great story to start your spring season. From dandelions to a fondly-remembered eight years with a pet squirrel to the present-day thoughts that these memories evoke – it’s always an enjoyable experience to go on a “journey” with you.

    1. Isn’t it strange (that is, delightful) how the turning of the seasons always seems to evoke memories of seasons past? I suspect part of the reason is the comfort that predictability brings. No matter what else is going on in this crazy world of ours, the trees, flowers, and grass get about their business, and thrive. Even the subtler changes in areas like yours (and mine, to a degree) are part of a pattern. It’s so enjoyable to watch.

    1. Oh, yes, I do. I think one of the best things about them is that, since big people mostly think they’re of little value, kids are free to pick them, weave them, play with them, or give them to big people as gifts. What could be better?

      I’m happy to have another dandelion lover around — thanks for saying hello! You’re welcome any time.

      ~ Linda

  33. What a wonderful story, so precious. You are such a great writer. Dandelions do have a purpose. I do not try to get rid of dandelions, I see them as a flower and food source for so many. I also have a tree that drops the propeller seeds. And the squirrels seem to love those.

    1. My definition of what constitutes a ‘weed’ certainly has changed since I became interested in native plants — just as an awareness of the difference between introduced, invasive, and native plants has led me to view some with a more jaundiced eye. But dandelions? They may be European, but they certainly do provide a good food source for many.

      Our maple trees had those winged seeds, and we loved to play with them. It never occurred to me at the time that the squirrels would find them tasty, but of course they would.

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