One 'squirrely' decision decades ago continues to plague us

Tri-City HeraldNovember 10, 2012 

It was 1974. The world appeared to be going nuts.

Newspaper heiress Patty Hurst is kidnapped, the gasoline crisis creates a shortage, bringing about rationing and the 55 mile per hour speed limit; 149 tornadoes hit 13 U.S. cities and one Canadian province leaving 300 dead and 5,000 injured; the largest bank failure in American history (at that time) occurred ...

and Cal Bickle of Richland, Wash., noticed Tri-City parks had no squirrels. His reflection on this observation may have occurred during his time spent waiting in line at the gas pump.

Since Cal, an employee of the city of Kennewick, couldn't control much of what was occurring nationally, he could do something about his little corner of the world -- with permission, of course. His supervisors agreed that his benign request to purchase five chipmunks and later three tree squirrels should be granted.

It's a decision that has affected others for decades.

Fast-forward to 2012 when during an October Saturday hundreds of people found themselves without power in the Tri-Cities. If frantic women with sopping hair and powerless hair dryers couldn't imagine the source of their household drama, most likely others were in the dark, too.

As it turned out, a squirrel out searching for nuts created a few in the process. Its misstep into a transformer caused a cable to fail which shut down the power -- and inadvertently the squirrel.

But not to worry about the little critter. Hundreds more are at the ready to take its place.

Typically, squirrels see the "light" fairly often and as a result, parts of our community don't -- sometimes for hours. Word on the street -- another place squirrels meet an untimely fate -- is that power outages are quite common, possibly giving city workers less time to ponder why our parks may be lacking in some other creature.

I don't know what the squirrel population is in the Tri-Cities, but we've noticed our walnut tree standing naked, shells strewn about its trunk. And just the other day we spotted two furry tree squirrels that have migrated from town to our rural area, busily burying their cache of nuts.

This observation has given me food for thought: Where there are two squirrels, there will soon be ... Oh no!

If only Cal could have known the consequences of his decision. Nowadays, it's driving a lot of people nuts.

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