This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 5, 1995

April 5, 1995 - attack of the killer squirrels

When I was a kid, we had a huge elm tree behind our house -- a rare survivor of the Dutch Elm disease. Or almost a survivor -- before our eyes it began to rot. Finally, because of its great height, my parents decided it had to be CUT down before it FELL down.

Behind our house we also had an old brick garage, in which lived about a score of black squirrels. Black squirrels were rare in that part of the country.

It could be that their rarity made them complacent. They slept late. I never saw one of those squirrels before about 10 a.m.

Although they spent most of their time in or around the garage, scurrying around the perimeter of the garage and dancing like circus performers along the power lines, they also made some spectacular leaps back and forth between the garage roof and the tree. It'd5s a vivid childhood memory: the squirrels against the branches and bark, the squirrels scratching against the roofing.

Well, very early one fall morning, a group of men came to saw down the tree. They had a variety of very impressive power tools. The whole job took maybe half an hour. They were done by 8:30 a.m. at the latest.

An hour or so later, I was sitting on a ladder in the backyard, looking stunned at the stump, squinting against the sunlight -- sunlight where there had always been shade.

I was pretty somber.

Then, out from a hole in the garage came a squirrel. He looked slow and chubby -- like a child in too-big pajamas, all but rubbing his eyes.

Suddenly, his whole body went absolutely rigid. He blinked. He stared. he blinked again. He scampered back into the hole.

A few seconds later, he was joined by another squirrel, who repeated the whole performance. The two of them chattered at each other with an air of complete astonishment. Then the first one again wriggled back into the hole.

Within a couple of minutes, the whole squirrel community was on the roof, staring, squalling, arguing, pointing. I went inside and got my mom, who thought it was the funniest thing she had ever seen.

Here's the strange part of the story: from then on, the squirrels got up early. No matter what time of day I got up, I never again saw that garage roof bare. It was almost as if at least one squirrel stood sentry, on look against the sudden removal of trees.

And I never shook the impression that from that day forth, whenever I went alone into the garage they ... watched me, they encircled me from above. It was as if somehow they BLAMED me.

OK. Maybe you think this story is a little ... squirrely. But it's just another reason to be aware of this year's Arbor Day. This year, several activities are going in to celebrate the day, and volunteers are needed.

To volunteer in Castle Rock, call Bruff Shea (660-1015) or Steve Boand (688-8386). In Franktown, call Janice Rattray (688-5792). In Highlands Ranch call the Highlands Ranch Recreation Center (791-2500). In Parker, call Don Walsh (840-9546).

For anywhere else in Douglas County, call Joe Julian or Ann Ghorbani of the CSU Extension Service (688-8184).

Please understand that I'm not suggested that squirrels can pass along their interpretation of events long past and long distant. Surely, they've forgiven me by now.

Still, it's better to be on the safe side. Let's get up as many trees as possible.

And oh yes, we have lots of books about trees at the library. You'll enjoy reading about them. Of course, these books -- ALL our books -- are MADE from trees. Hmm.

Do you hear something scratching on the roof? Say, you don't think they ....AAHGH!

[Jamie LaRue is the late director of the Douglas Public Library District.]

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