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It's a good thing I don't believe in omens or I'd probably think that 2011 is fucked. One of the first sights I saw on New Year's Day, when I was out walking the dog in the morning, was a dead squirrel hanging from power lines where they attached to the second story of house in our neighborhood.

Hanging Squirrel 6 The squirrel looked perfectly intact. It was hard to tell how it died. Maybe it had a heart attack. Maybe it froze to death. Maybe it touched a bare spot on one of the wires and fried. Whatever happened, I found the sight of it fascinating and compelling. After I took Ella home, I went back with our good camera and took as many pictures of it as I could.

Over the following days I kept checking on the poor creature. It appeared to be gripping one of the higher wires with its back paws, while it's body was draped over a lower wire. I thought it would likely fall off soon, or that someone would remove it, but as days turned into weeks the squirrel just kept hanging there. At first I found this encouraging. As January turned to February, though, I found it more and more disturbing.

Laura and I considered leaving a note on the front door of the house, reasoning that perhaps the residents had never looked up and seen the dead squirrel decorating their home, but we never did. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we were walking Ella together past the house. A compact SUV was parked at the curb, and three young children were carrying things from the house to the vehicle while a parent loaded the back.

"Oh my God," I said loudly as we passed the kids. "Is that squirrel still hanging up there?"

Laura elbowed me in the ribs, but it was too late. As we continued down the sidewalk, we heard a kid behind us say, "What squirrel?" Then there came a startled squeal of disgust.

I smiled, because I'm the kind of person who finds that sort of thing funny. Message delivered.

Still there, but new grip This past Saturday morning, out walking Ella again, I checked on my friend Wallenda. (Yes, I have named the dead squirrel.) I didn't think I needed more pictures of it until I noticed that the squirrel was now clinging to the wire with three paws instead of two! My first thought was that the thing had been slowly trying to pull itself up onto the wire and make good its escape from death. Or maybe a strong wind had just blown it around and another paw had caught.

It was only when I was able to examine the new photograph against the older ones that I realized the squirrel was now hanging upside down from one of the lower wires. Its back paws must have finally lost their grip on the higher wire and somehow snagged on the way down. Or someone deliberately moved the squirrel.

Whatever the case, I will keep monitoring Wallenda's progress. Now that the weather is warming up, he should make for an interesting sight over the next few weeks as he thaws, assuming he doesn't fall on someone's head. And if he really is an omen for the year, maybe the message is that even when you're down you can't be counted out.

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William Shunn

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on March 8, 2011 11:23 AM.

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