Column: Witnesses talk about the attack of the squirrel

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

Hartland is a quiet town.

Mal Content occasionally lets his bagpipes squeal just enough to put fear into the town’s teenage population, but the typical hush is what makes this tale intriguing.

This story was related to me by David Harleyson. Names and facts have been changed to enhance the story.

David Harleyson was out for a ride on his Harley-Davidson. He’d never recovered from seeing the movie, &8220;Easy Rider.&8221; David has reached the age where he still respects his elders; they’re just harder to find. David knows his way around town. The irony of life is that by the time you’re old enough to know your way around, you’re not going anywhere. He likes

to ride every street in town. Not much of a task. First Street is on the edge of town.

David passed under the big maple that had just enough elm in its family tree to have contracted Dutch elm disease. He never imagined that cruising on a motorcycle through a residential neighborhood could be dangerous.

As David dreamed of high speeds on long, straight roads, a furry package fell from the old tree and landed with a thump on David’s shoulder.

This transported David’s mind from Sturgis to Hartland.

David screamed like he had experience. If David would’ve had hiccups, he’d have been cured.

The squirrel screamed, too. It began to rip and tear at David’s black T-shirt advertising Bergdale Harley.

As the two continued their ride at slow speeds, David attempted to seize his tormentor. He grabbed the squirrel’s tail and flipped the beast into the air.

David didn’t have time for a cleansing breath before, with a snarl befitting a grizzly bear with a toothache, the squirrel fell from the sky and landed on David’s head.

David swore that he heard Rod Serling’s voice saying, &8220;There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.&8221;

The squirrel attached itself to David’s face like one of those Garfield dolls to a car window. The squirrel had a lot of anger.

Picture a large man on a motorcycle puttering along at 15 mph down a quiet residential street with a squirrel holding a firm grip on the man’s mug. As David used one hand in an attempt to dislodge his attacker, his other hand inadvertently gave a twist to the throttle. This didn’t improve the situation.

Suddenly a large man with a squirrel plastered to his face is roaring 50 mph on a motorcycle through a residential neighborhood. The sound of the Harley’s engine drowned out by the screams of man and squirrel.

The acceleration forced David to put both hands on the handlebars in order to control the big bike. Because the squirrel made a better door than a window, David saw only a tiny bit of the street.

The squirrel, using its keen animal instincts to realize that a high-speed collision with a parked car or large tree would likely not do a squirrel any good, climbed down from David’s face and found a hiding place inside David’s black T-shirt.

By this point, David had lost his ability to scream, but his faculty for thought had returned. David reached under his T-shirt, snatched

the squirrel by the tail, and having learned his lesson, flung the bushytail to the side instead of up.

Now picture yourself as a package deliveryman. You’re just getting back into your brown van after dropping off a package for a homeowner. As you sit down, you feel a breeze as though something had flown past your head. You blame it on overwork.

David pulled his Harley to the side of the street. He’d just gotten his heart restarted when he looked up to see a large delivery van headed his way.

He heard screams coming from the van. One of the screams sounded like that of a man. The other sounded even more familiar.

As the van zoomed past, David wondered if the driver was wearing a beard or had a squirrel on his face.

Hartland is a quiet town.

Witnesses still talk about David Harleyson’s motorcycle ride and the missing brown delivery van.

They agree that the town hadn’t seen anything like it since the day the swarm of bees turned the Fourth of July parade into a stampede.

(Hartland resident Al Batt feeds the squirrels. His column appears every Wednesday.)