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This author is just nuts about squirrels, and highlights their role in pop culture

Rescuers free squirrel from a nutty predicament

Emergency responders in Connecticut rescue a squirrel after the rodent got its head stuck in a paper cup.
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Emergency responders in Connecticut rescue a squirrel after the rodent got its head stuck in a paper cup.

I think Don Corrigan has anticipated all the puns he could expect about his new book with its title: “Nuts about Squirrels”.

It’s the story about the rodents who conquered popular culture, as the subtitle explains.

So no one can ask Corrigan, a native of Belleville, that punny question, “Are you nuts?”

Obviously he is. He provides other puns and refers to that extraordinarily punny show, “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” about the adventures of a moose and squirrel as they battle enemy agents Boris and Natasha.

Corrigan is editor in chief of the Webster-Kirkwood Times, the South County Times and the West End Word, and teaches journalism and mass communications at Webster University in St. Louis.

Tongue-in-cheek he explains, “I thought about writing an expose on Donald Trump but that idea was taken. Besides, squirrels have more staying power.”

Corrigan admits to a lifelong fascination with squirrels, starting with his father trying, and failing, to get rid of them. Webster Groves and Kirkwood have many older neighborhoods with lots of old-growth trees — and squirrels.

2020 Wally Spiers

“Like movie producer Steven Spielberg, I grew up watching the “Rocky & Bullwinkle Show” on television,” Corrigan said. “Spielberg was inspired to create the television show “Animaniacs” with cartoon squirrels Slappy and Skippy. I was inspired to write “Nuts About Squirrels.”

Corrigan says people do not realize how widespread squirrels are in our culture. In his book’s wide-ranging discussion of the furry rodents, he manages to drag in media theorist Marshall McLuhan, one of his favorites from teaching.

“When it comes to squirrels, the medium shapes the message for how these rodents are covered in stories,” Corrigan said.

Squirrels, often the bad guys in newspapers, invading attics and killing power substations, which lead to prolonged outages, are usually heroes in childrens’ books and cartoons on television.

Squirrels have invaded pop culture, even popping up in video games. They are part of our historical lore as it was crack shot squirrel hunters who were credited with helping win the American Revolution.

Squirrels are big in tourism, too, thanks to the white squirrels in Olney, Illinois, and even black squirrels in Marysville, Kansas.

Squirrels’ ability to get into bird feeders and attics are legendary. But Corrigan punnily asks us to read natural science on squirrels and crack the nut of truth.

Do they really merit a book length treatment, 226 pages in paperback?

Yes, he says, warning that people should take note before humanity is overwhelmed.

“Squirrels are everywhere,” he said. “Look out your window ... we better start paying attention”

“Nuts About Squirrels” is available at book stores and from the publisher online at McFarlandBooks.com.

Wally Spiers: wally.spiers@gmail.com
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