Tim Istock: Animal lemons

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

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By Tim Istock

So I was out strolling down my driveway yesterday morning past a large, stately oak tree, minding my own business while waiting patiently for my sweet cocker spaniel to do hers, when I suddenly heard a rustling sound coming from somewhere up above. Thinking it might be a limb that had broken free, and not really wanting to get my already battle-scarred noggin tenderized any further, I quickly turned and looked up to see what all of the commotion was about, and what I saw surprised me.

Instead of a liberated bough hurtling my way, what I discovered was a squirrel plummeting down through the branches, twisting and screeching and flailing every which way but loose before eventually coming to a very sudden stop with a pronounced thud on the hard packed ground. Following a couple of perfunctory shakes and a final shimmy for good measure, the rodent was quickly on its feet again, scurrying across the natural area and over a brick retaining wall before disappearing into the bushes behind our carport.

Interesting, you say, but so what, right?

Well yeah, I realize that in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t rate a tremendous amount of attention, but it did at least get me pondering a few things.

First of all, was the squirrel injured? A twisted ankle? A broken foreleg? A seriously rattled dome requiring a week in concussion protocol maybe? Or was he simply bruised and sore for the next day or two but otherwise no worse for wear for his impromptu 25-foot tumble?

Second, and much more important, just how did this fall without grace happen in the first place? I mean, aren’t squirrels specifically designed for just this kind of thing — climbing and jumping and frolicking with the greatest of ease on all manner of trees, fences and other natural and man-made jungle gyms?

I suppose at the end of the day what we’re looking at here could simply have been an isolated accident, nothing more and nothing less.

But then again, what if it wasn’t?

What if instead, this unintentionally flying squirrel just happens to be an out and out klutz? You know, an animal lemon, lacking the full complement of coordination and agility genes common to most squirrels, but on the whole, not defective enough to warrant having been deep-sixed by the process of natural selection … yet.

And if that’s the case, I wonder what his furry friends think about him?

“Psst … hey Rocky … look, here comes “grips” McGee.”

“Oh man, poor guy. His head has got more dents than Clemmons has oil change places. My nest-mate thinks we should get him a crash helmet.”

“Hmmm … I don’t know, maybe bubble wrapping him from head to tail and strapping a parachute on his back would be a better idea.”

“Can’t argue with you there. And you know, it’s not like we haven’t tried to talk him into voluntarily giving up climbing and going on SquirrelCare (ACA — Acorn Compensation Act), but he won’t hear anything of it. Too proud I suppose.”

“Well, at the very least we need to outfit him with some type of early warning system that can alert those of us on the ground when he’s tickling the branches without a safety net, otherwise we’re going to end up the unwitting filling on a squirrel sandwich compliments of our Flying Wallenda dropout.”

And another thing, if there are indeed certified squirrel lemons out there stumbling and bumbling their way through life, wouldn’t it as least be logical to assume there are other defective animals as well?

Woodpeckers that get migraines when they commence to head banging on tree trunks, bats that suffer from vertigo when they hang upside down to sleep, salmon that swim downstream, nearsighted eagles, elephants that forget where they left their stash of peanuts or carrier pigeons with faulty GPS systems who end up homing to Vinnie’s Skeet Shooting Range in Poughkeepsie instead of returning to their loft in Pittsburgh.

And listen, I would be completely remiss if I failed to acknowledge that there are human duds out there as well. I for one am just grateful that I managed to avoid falling under the lemon law, and, as far as I know, don’t currently have any recalls out there on me either, at least physical ones, that is.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change the dressing on my head and soak my foot. You see, I accidentally tripped over a hazardous lint ball in the garage and tumbled into a shelving unit full of power tools, gashing my bean and yanking a jigsaw off the shelf and onto my big toe as I went down.