Saturday, February 13, 2021

Strange Archives

 from The Animal Book by Dorothy Childs Hogner and Nils Hogner (1942)

The migrations of Gray Squirrels from time to time are remarkable. Movements are sometimes local, sometimes cover a great territory. As early as 1857 one of these enormous migrations was recorded in a document in the House of Representatives. The Squirrels started from Wisconsin in the fall, moved southwest for a month. Large rivers did not turn them from their course. Squirrels were reported swimming for one hundred miles along the Ohio. . . .

Similar movements have been witnessed in recent times. In the fall of 1933 there was a westerly migration to the states of New York and Connecticut. The little animals swam the Hudson or scampered across bridges. Others climbed aboard ferries. . . .

In the early days someone seeing a group of Squirrels crawling onto logs while swimming a river reported that the little Rodents crossed bodies of water on chips of wood with their tails hoisted for sails!

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The previous entry is the first in an intermittent series of posts that will plumb the murky side of my large book collection. The collection is a good deal less murky than it used to be: when we moved from Harmony, I reluctantly shed many of the tattered this-n-thats I'd accrued over the years. But I do have a weakness for the peculiar, and many still remain.

The Animal Book is a family favorite. I bought it from a central Maine Goodwill when the boys were little, and I fell in love with its entirely unscientific tone. Though the book purports to be natural history, and does include many facts about the habits of North American mammals, the prose is both recklessly anthropomorphic and early-20th-century quaint, in the manner of regional pamphlets sponsored by local historical societies cross-bred with pulp novels for church ladies. I often read aloud excerpts from it at dinner, as Tom is equally fond of its unreliable weirdness. Last night, for instance, we learned that "In the dark of night . . . Mountain Lions find Opossum good eating."

Regarding the squirrel excerpt above: I cannot stop thinking about the squirrel document in the House of Representatives. Also, squirrels catching ferries, squirrels sailing down rivers with their tails as sails . . . given the brazen industriousness of the squirrels in my backyard, this seems entirely plausible. Tom has taken to calling them Concord Street Squirrel Union, Local #39. 

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