At either end of the Village of Skaneateles, large iron signs bracketed by street lamps proclaim “Skaneateles, Eastern Gateway to the Finger Lakes.” It’s an impressive greeting. Route 20 is a busy road, so many are welcomed in this manner each day, and it is not surprising that a squirrel, a cautious squirrel, would avail himself of the power lines that cross over the road at this point to get to the other side. No point in getting run down by a driver hitting the gas after enduring the Village’s 30 mph speed limit.
There are three power lines that cross here, so the squirrel had a choice. He started out on the lowest line, but perhaps it was too slack or another squirrel was approaching on the lower line from the opposite direction, or maybe the tiny traveler just wanted the security of the highest line. Of course, being the soul of caution, he kept his grip on the bottom line when he reached up to the highest.
That’s where people began to notice him, about mid-morning. One can only guess what went through his mind (besides a bajillion volts) when he grabbed the top line, but the message to all four paws was immediate: Hold On. And so he did. Even as his spirit was passing to the celestial forest, his earthly shell was holding on to this world with all fours, two up, two down, fully extended, eyes open, tail floating in the breeze, looking like Rocky the Flying Squirrel without the cape or goggles.
There was quite a rain storm in the afternoon, but when I walked by at 5:30 p.m., the squirrel was still holding on by one paw, his left, swinging like a little Tarzan just about five feet away from the iron sign, over the highway, welcoming all the motorists and the occasional pedestrian.
The following morning, he was still hanging by one paw, but by lunch he was gone, without a trace. I’m pretty sure the removal was a professional job. Apparently the Village fathers could no longer bear the thought of dramatic carrion, a furry vignette, draped over the entranceway to this demi-paradise.
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Written February, 1999. Photo by Jon Cammarata.