It happened over 25 years ago and it is still vivid in my memory.
My wife and I had gone camping at a very beautiful place right on the Yellowbottom river, above Greenpeter Reservoir, outside of Sweethome, Oregon. As strange and unlikely as the names sound, the area is really stunning, and we were far enough upstream that there was seldom much traffic.
People were scarce, but wildlife wasn’t. One of the joys of camping there is that we never knew which animals we were going to see; from rabbits to deer to river otters. We couldn’t afford to go camping there often, because of the distance from home, but we always had fun when we did.
On that particular trip, we arrived in camp at mid-morning. By the time we’d set up camp, it was already getting hot, so we decided to go for a swim. I rolled the windows of the car down a couple inches, and my wife, who had been eating corn chips, put the bag in the front seat so the birds wouldn’t get to them.
The swimming hole was only about a hundred yards downstream, at a place where the river made a bend in the rocks. The water was quite deep and refreshingly cool, though it’s passage through the rocks warmed it up enough that it wasn’t actually cold.
We swam for a few hours, alternating between being in the water and climbing out to lay on the rocks to let the sun dry us off. It was really quite enjoyable. In time, though, my wife began to get hungry. Reluctantly, we walked back to camp.
I immediately headed for my fishing pole, but I was stopped by my wife who had walked to the car. “You have got to see this,” she said.
I walked over to the car and stared in amazement. A little golden-mantled ground squirrel was sitting on the dashboard, contentedly munching on a corn chip. The adorable little guy hopped down into the front seat, grabbed another corn chip out of the bag, and jumped back on to the dash to eat it. There was no doubt that it could see us, but it was totally unconcerned.
As cute as he was, and I certainly didn’t mind him eating one or two corn chips, I didn’t want him to get under the dash and rip up any of the wiring. Those razor sharp teeth can go through a wire pretty easily. So I got in the car to convince our uninvited guest to vacate the premises.
Did you know that it is rather difficult to get a squirrel to leave if it doesn’t want to go? When I got in the front seat, the wicked little beast jumped into the back seat. When I started to climb over into the back seat, it zipped under the seat and back into the front floorboards, causing me to basically stand on my head with my legs securely wedged under the steering column. By the time I got myself unstuck enough that I could look over my shoulder, I saw that the miniature hellion was back on the dash, happily eating another chip!
My mood wasn’t lightened any by the fact that my wife was by this time giggling nearly hysterically and was watching the whole exchange with more interest than a person would give to a blockbuster movie. She could have watched while eating corn chips, but of course, the devil rodent was eating those.
It felt like a week, though it was probably only about an hour and a half, before I finally convinced the blasted creature to leave, noting that it took a corn chip with it when it jumped out. I rolled up the windows tight and was finally able to get out of the car, rivers of sweat pouring down my face from the ordeal and feeling far hotter than I’d been before we went swimming.
I appreciated the fact that my wife was so nice as to fix us both a sandwich, though I was less than appreciative about her laughter every single time she looked at me. I held my cool, though, even when she asked, eyes twinkling, if I wanted any corn chips with my sandwich.
It took some time to cool down, literally, and I eventually did do some fishing, catching my limit. The ordeal with the totally inconsiderate animal was beginning to fade.
We had a wonderful meal, sat beside a crackling fire long after dark and finally went to bed.
I was in a much better mood the next day and even laughed about the determined little squirrel. We were planning on going back home that evening, so we gradually started packing things up and putting them into the car.
Naturally, without a thought, we left the car doors open while we loaded up the car, including when I went down to do a last bit of fishing. My wife even sat on the river bank behind me and watched as I again caught my limit. It was a great day and nothing was going to spoil my mood. Finally, with everything in the car and after policing the campsite, we headed out, taking our time and enjoying the sights and smells.
That was when I glanced in the rearview mirror and instantly slammed on my brakes. The demon squirrel from Hades was back, curled up in the rear window and taking a siesta!
I literally tossed the camping supplies out of the car to get to the wicked, vile creature, and it started pulling its little trick from the previous day, running to the front when I was in the back and running to the back when I got in the front. It didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned about my wife, possibly because she didn’t stop laughing,until tears were rolling down her face.
I finally got it out of the car by tempting it with most of what was left of the corn chips, and when it was out, I threw all the supplies back in, jumped in and floored it, spitting gravel as we gradually attained a suitable escape velocity. The last I saw of the squirrel, he was just sitting there, watching us leave in a cloud of dust, while contentedly munching on his chip.
Don’t get me wrong. I love squirrels and most critters. But that little demon pushed me to the limit.