I’m originally from North Carolina and back when I was in high school, my boyfriend had told me that the squirrels in Michigan were black. He knew this because his dad was from Michigan and he’d been there to visit family and apparently saw some black squirrels.
In my sixteen-year-old mind, I’m like “Holy shit. A squirrel, but like a black f-ing stallion.” I don’t even know why it was such a big deal to me. I guess just cause I’d only ever seen brown squirrels.
It was like the time I told my friend Kyle about the existence of a narwhal or like finding out that some lizards are legless. I couldn’t believe it!
All throughout my life, I have little nuggets that I’ve kept with me throughout the years — not like actual chicken nuggets, that would be weird but also not surprising if you know me — but more like little memories of things I didn’t understand at the time and I told myself at a younger age, “You’ll understand this when you’re older. Remember this.” It’s not something I thought about every day, just something I tucked away in the back of my mind, expecting my older self to one day be able to make sense of it.
An example of one of my nuggets was when I was about seven years old and my Grandfather had minorly crashed his new pontoon boat into his dock when attempting to park the boat back in the slip. So the next day when we were approaching the dock after another long day spent out on the water, I said “Hey Grampy, don’t crash the boat again.” I thought I was being helpful and offering some solid advice, yet my parents both shot me a dirty look and urgently shushed me. I didn’t quite understand but I tucked it away.
Later in life when I randomly retrieved this nugget to reflect on it, I understood … and I laughed … because kids are such dicks sometimes.
Another example of a nugget I kept with me through the years was the vision of this mysterious black squirrel in Michigan. I wondered for a long time if I would ever even go to Michigan.
Texas & True Love
When I moved to Texas, black squirrels were not on my mind but when I met my future husband in Texas and found out he was from Michigan, the black stallion nugget came in like a wrecking ball careening back onto my radar.
Now was my chance. Did I marry my husband so that I could one day see a black squirrel? No. Is that why I started dating him? Maybe.
A year ago my husband and I moved from Texas to Michigan and I knew, my nugget would soon be completed.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I moved to Texas, I only brought with me what would fit in my car, including my 90-pound Black Lab/Doberman mix — Collins Reptar. I adopted Collins from the shelter when he was about three months old. He was a clumsy but fiercely loyal puppy. When he was that size, I brought him everywhere with me. One time I was at a cookout over at my friend Cam’s house and Collins was running around playing in the back yard.
I lit up a cigarette on the porch and watched as he ran around in circles and then crashed into a rock and went flying in the air. This still tiny, yet long-legged puppy did a literal front flip, landed on his back, scrambled to get back up to his feet, and then kept running. In circles. By himself.
“There you go. Shake it off, buddy! Good boy!” I called out to Collins.
A guy who had been near me on the porch walked over to me and asked if he could use my lighter. “Is that your dog?” he asked as he lit the cigarette in his mouth.
“Yep. Collins.” I beamed.
“He’s mentally retarded,” the guy said to me.
“Oh,” I laughed it off. “No. Yeah, he’s just pretty clumsy still.”
“No,” he said. “I’m a veterinarian. I’ve been watching your dog. He’s ,” he said and then walked off.
Alright, maybe he didn’t walk off like that. It’s entirely possible we made small talk as we smoked our cigarettes. I don’t remember. But he might as well of just dramatically stormed off the way I remember it because his words cut deep. He had insulted my child, yet deep down I think I knew something was a little off about Collins.
But hey, I never threw out the R-word. That was uncalled for.
When Collins was five years old, I introduced a ginormous Black Lab and Rotweiller mix baby brother to him — Dexter. Collins was pissed and avoided eye contact with me for weeks but he got over it and now they’re cuddle buds. When I say cuddle buds, I mostly mean Collins lays on top of Dexter or hides behind him when he’s scared or in trouble.
They are not the same.
Dexter was about one year old when I adopted him. He was sick and had been neglected. He did not seem to like me and ran away any chance he could get. The first week I had him, he jumped out of the car window. The first time I took him to a dog park he sat in a corner facing the fence the entire time. Later when we got home after the park, I opened the car door to let him and Collins out and Dexter bolted across the street right in front of a car. Luckily, the driver slammed on the breaks and narrowly missed him. They totally flipped me off too but I can’t say I blame them.
“This dog hates me so much, he’s trying to commit suicide,” I thought.
In the end, it didn’t take long for me to figure out Dexter’s (literal) soft spot — belly rubs and treats. One day he decided to give me a treat and brought me a dead squirrel. I don’t know if he killed it but I know it was recently deceased and in his mouth.
Yet that’s how I knew for sure, Dexter finally loved me. He sat there looking so proud as he dropped it at my feet.
Not long after that, I witnessed Dexter jump up and catch a possum that had been running along the fence. (I know it’s technically spelled “opossum” but that’s ridiculous and I refuse to support it). Collins, who needless to say has zero hunting abilities, merely acted as a hype man and ran victory laps around the yard alongside Dexter who had the possum in his mouth.
It was all I could think about years later when my husband and I moved to Michigan. I let Dexter and Collins into their new backyard to explore for the first time and they went running full speed towards a squirrel in a tree but in my mind, it was in slow motion.
The dead squirrel, the possum, and the black stallion nugget came flashing into my mind at the same time.
The good news is, the squirrel was too high up in the tree for Dexter to get to. The bad news is, it wasn’t black.
One Year Later
It’s officially been one whole year I’ve lived in Michigan now and I still haven’t seen a black squirrel (apparently, you have to go farther north) but I have learned a thing or two about Michigan squirrels. For one, they’re enormous.
Collins and Dexter, very much acquainted with their new back yard now spend mysterious amounts of time behind the garage out of my sight when they are in the yard. The only options I have for creeping up on them and seeing what they’re up to is walking through the neighbor’s yard and she’s a curmudgeon who I avoid. I can’t walk through our yard because the dogs will hear me open the gate and come running.
I had a genius idea one day to leave the gate slightly open when I let them out and sneak up on them when they thought I went back inside. A few minutes went by and then I went into stealth mode and tiptoed through the yard and crept back around the garage.
When I turned the corner, there I saw Dexter taking a shit and Collins looking up at something in the neighbor’s yard. I look up and see a giant squirrel in a tree. He was jumping at Collins like he was gonna make a move and fight him, making his own aggressive noises. It sounded like a quiet bark and I had no idea squirrels even made noises.
The squirrel was looking at him like, “Not today, Collins. I ain’t in the mood for your bullshit. You all bark and no action.” He lunged at Collins again. “Or Baby Collie Wollie like yo mama calls you,” the squirrel taunted.
And then just when Collins even thought about letting a growl, he would say, “Lil bitch.”
Collins went running, terrified. Dexter kept taking a shit. That’s when two things clicked.
I knew this wasn’t the first time this interaction had happened.
I also realized that even Dexter knew not to mess with Michigan squirrels because they’re hard AF.
In Loving Memory of James “Jim” Gleason Crump II & CHOONNKKKYY DEXXYYY BOIII