Friday, September 13, 2013

Pigs and squirrels

On a crisp, cool Sunday morning in October of 1993, I hit a pig.

There. I've said it. Now the horrible family secret is known to the world. It's a nightmare I have carried with me ever since. The pig, not so long. The particulars surrounding that dark day aren't important right now. All you need to know is that I was minding my own business, driving along at a law-abiding 55 miles per hour when a pig came out of the roadside weeds and crossed my path.

It was a good-sized beast. Not as large as you would find getting a blue ribbon at the county fair but much bigger than Arnold Ziffel from Green Acres. An animal that you would not expect to see emerging from a ditch as you drive along in your Smurf-blue Chevy Corsica.

Ever since that dark day, whenever I'm at my in-laws house for Easter, preparing to take that first bite of my mother-in-law's mouth-watering ham, someone inevitably will say something to the effect of, "Hey! Do you suppose this was that pig you hit?" Then everybody laughs and I get to field questions about what kind of driving skills it takes to hit indiscriminate swine on a lonely country road.

But I can't complain, for you see, my father-in-law deals with a much larger but similar situation than mine. If I am to go down in history as the "The Pig Guy" amongst my family members, then he is most definitely considered "Mr. Squirrel" to all of his family, friends and many folks and small animals scattered across the continental United States. Allow me the opportunity to explain how he earned this title.

From what I have learned over the years, back in the 1980s, my father-in-law (we'll call him Dave because I'm getting tired of typing "father-in-law", and that's his name) was coming home from work one afternoon when a life-changing event crossed his path. As he travelled that day in his silver-colored 1979 Ford Granada, he was most likely engaging in a pleasant conversation with a co-worker who car-pooled with him, probably chit-chatting about sports, hunting or fishing.

Legend has it that at some point in the trip, I'm a little hazy on the details, a squirrel darted onto the roadway, directly in their path. Somewhat startled by the furry interloper, Dave cranked on the steering wheel in order to avoid hitting the animal. At this point, all control of the Granada was lost and the car left the roadway, careening through the ditch, banging off of things like an out-of-control pinball before ending up in someone's front yard.

Dave sat in the drivers seat, feeling disbelief over what had just happened, thanking his lucky stars that both he and his passenger had come out unscathed. They both sat there breathing a collective sigh of relief that things weren't worse than they were. To make a long story a little less long, neither the Granada nor the squirrel survived the incident.

Ever since that fateful day thirty-some years ago, my father-in-law has been inundated with anything and everything squirrel-related. His house has become a sanctuary to literally hundreds, possibly thousands of squirrelly items. There are stuffed animal squirrels, squirrel statues and figurines, squirrel pictures and posters. His shirt drawer is filled with t-shirts printed with squirrel pictures and funny sayings hilariously involving the word "nuts."

Every birthday and holiday, he receives greeting cards decorated with squirrels. He even gets things in the mail from an "Earl the Squirrel." He swears these things are from some of the more trouble-making members of the family but I wouldn't know anything about that.

As the wrecker pulled away with the totalled-out wreckage of that once proud automobile, which is now referred to as "The Silver Squirrel" in family lore, Dave couldn't have known about how his life was about to change. Several thousand squirrel jokes later, he still laughs about it.

That's my real reason for writing this. You see, my father-in-law has a class reunion this weekend and I want to make sure that all of his classmates have something to talk about. So if you see Dave "Mr. Squirrel" Schindel sometime this weekend during the Homestead Festival, be sure to ask him about it. I doubt that I have gotten all the facts straight and he'll be more than happy to share the story. Besides, he tells it better than me.

And while you're at it, see if he'll tell you the story about what his buddies did to his "Buck Master" hat one day at work. It's a real hoot.


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