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Kids have imaginations if we let them express it.

I don’t know where or when it started, just that it was my niece Ava who got this story going. Like the made up game, “Touch You Last,” it was a nothing sort of game, but she had named it “Squirrel.”

When she said, “Squirrel,” for whatever reason, it brought on giggles and sometimes roughhousing, and just fun over nothing. So when I see squirrels romping across our yard, climbing trees, running the electrical lines and climbing up the metal pole that holds our bird feeder, I think of Ava and her game of Squirrel.

It also sent me to my encyclopedia. Yes, I often find it more fulfilling than the computer to learn a little bit more about things like squirrels.

Like ‘em or hate ‘em, squirrels are interesting little creatures that can make you smile at their antics. They are smart little buggers and interesting to watch as they do some things that deserve to be on “America’s Got Talent.”

Some people hate them. They steal food from the bird feeders, no matter how you try to make it difficult for them to get at it. They plant trees at will when they hide nuts that they will later recover. You have to admire their dexterity and ability to figure things out to their advantage. 

We can learn a lot from squirrels.  You can watch them by the hours as you see their little brain figuring out solutions that will benefit them.

We all know that squirrels like almost every habitat, from the tropical rainforest to the semiarid desert. They are predominantly herbivorous, subsisting on seeds and nuts, but many will eat insects and even small vertebrates.

Early spring is the hardest time for squirrels, because buried nuts begin to sprout and are no longer available for them to eat, and new food sources have not yet become available. During this period, their diet consists primarily of a wide variety of plants, including nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi and green vegetables. (We should eat like that!)

In general, the hind limbs of squirrels are longer than their fore limbs, and they have four to five toes on each paw. Their paws include an often poorly developed thumb, and they have soft pads on the undersides. Unlike most mammals, tree squirrels can descend a tree head-first, which they can do by rotating their ankles 180 degrees so the hind paws are backward-pointing, which allows them to grip tree bark.

Squirrels typically have slender bodies with bushy tails and large eyes. As their large eyes indicate, squirrels have excellent vision, which is very important to the tree dwelling species. They have versatile and sturdy claws for grasping and climbing. They also have a good sense of touch, with vibrissae on their heads and limbs.

Squirrels breed once or twice a year and give birth to a varying number of young after three to six weeks, depending on the species.  The young squirrels are born naked, toothless, and blind. In most cases, only the female looks after the young, which are weaned when they are about six to 10 weeks old. They become sexually mature at the end of their first year.

The ground-dwelling squirrels, which we most often see, are social animals, often living in well-developed colonies, but the tree-dwelling species are more solitary.

Most squirrels die in the first year of life, which is not surprising as they dart this way and that in front of traffic and travel to and fro on power lines. Adult squirrels can have a lifespan of five to 10 years in the wild. Some can survive 10 to 20 years in captivity.

I’ve had them nest in bird houses. When I was growing up we had two large Martin houses in our backyard that my dad made. It was fun to see squirrels use them for their winter home, each one (or more) sticking their heads out of the holes. It was hard to believe their bodies were small enough to fit in the openings of the bird house, but they did, and sometimes more than one.

They excel at tree house building, usually going as high as they are able and then making a puffy nest of leaves. You would think they would stay closer to the ground, out of the wind, but not so. Maybe they know something we don't. (Wild turkeys will do the same.)

I think of the squirrels when “Tree Houses” episodes come on the television. It is amazing how much money and work it takes to build a human tree house, but the squirrels seem to be rewarded for all their hard work with an attractive view. 

I think all kids like tree houses.  Why? Who knows, maybe it is the adventure. Maybe they learned it from squirrels.

My Grandpa Schember use to eat them. I could never do that, but then I grew up in another generation. But who knows, there may come a day when food is scarce and it is that or starvation? For now I will enjoy them live and on the run. They say the meat tastes like chicken but I don’t plan on finding out!

I can only say I enjoy squirrels whether they are naughty or nice. I can forgive them for stealing my tulip bulbs or bird feed because watching them is like going to a circus with all the events flying through the air, climbing to great heights and building tree houses.

Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, September 24th, Gilmore Nelson, Nancy Pence, Jayna Domeier, Jazmyme Tayton Martinez, Brandon Wayne, Cherysh Christina Hill Marcks, Brody Carlson, Michael Bedney, Trevor David Barber, Jill Vanden Heuvel, Kathie Lien, Susan Mickelson, Sophie Miller, and Iris & Stanley Jensen

• Friday, September 25th: Amelia Christine Powers, her fourth birthday; Makayla Jayme Haberman, Trevor David Barber, Geraldine Vangen, Tom Lageson, Pat Conklin, Suzanne Enzenauer Skaar,  Cameron & Dayna Schember, Kellen & Alison Utpadel, Dwight & Loretta Schewe, Harmony & Ryan Anderson, Amy & Rick Storlie, Wendy & Marty Schultz, Larry & Elaine Paulsen

• Saturday, September 26th: Becky Tindal, Tammy Beenken, Lori Klemmensen Suchanek, Marc Horan, Verdel Humberg, Virginia Miller, James Henry Neidermeier, Connie Menefee Calderon, Mary & Lee Nelson 

• Sunday, September 27th: Layla Grace Schultz, Judy Christensen, Naomi Wangsness, Mary Wayne, Gail Farr Christenson, Sara Holmes Wencl, Steve Lageson, Kristin Paulsen Zinke, Jacob Tasker, Chris Ritz, Katie Cameron, Eleanor Rodriguez, Daniel Van Kampen, Donna Mae McCamish, Kristin Severson, Lud Borchert, Jocelyn & Jason Heyer

• Monday, September 28th: Madeline Schei, Kylie Lembke, Denise Hagen Olson, Mary Kasper Therneau, Mitch Vangen, Taff Worrell, Haley Mattson DeBois, Bunny Jepson, MIranda & Isiah Payton, Jerry & Ginger Thompson, Bill & Sharon Vavra, Jill & Todd Kubicek

• Tuesday, September 29th: Norrine Jensen, Gail Kaplan, Annette Flugum, Millie Flugum, Ellen Pence, Jenna Quimby, Kevin Klemmensen, Linda Schmidt, Fran Ladlie, Ron & Donna Sletten, Jason & Tara DeWigh, Dave & Donna Meixner

• Wednesday, September 30th: Raigan, Hatlie, Lia, and Shay Broskoff, their 5th; Jordy Philip Klocek, 2013; Chloe Walterman, Dean Hunt, Elmer &Joan Vanden Heuvel,  Gilbert & Harriet Larson,  Todd & Cheryl Utpadel, Amy & Shannon Vander Syde, Aarono & Jean Klemmenssen, Tiffany & Luke Mueller, Kelly & Joshua Warke

Wishing you a day of fond memories and new beginnings.

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