Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
When I was a boy of twelve I and my brothers used to get little gray squirrels and little flying squirrels out of their nests and feed them on the bottle, and when they were grown, made pets of them.
The mother gray squirrel builds a nest way up in a tall tree in the woods.
She builds the nest about as large as a water pail, of oak or chestnut twigs with the leaves on, and lines the nest with the inside bark of trees, the bark being stripped like old ravelled rope.
Some time in March the young ones are born. The young are very small. Their eyes are closed and there is very little hair on their bodies.
There may be four or six in the nest.
We boys used to climb these nest trees and take the little squirrels out and look at them. If they were too small there was no use taking them home for they would die. Often we put the squirrels back in the nest to let them grow a little bigger. The little ones were never there when we came back. The mother squirrel builds several nests and changes her young ones to another nest if one nest seems to be in danger.
When we got little squirrels of the right age we took them home and fed them on cow's milk until they were big enough to feed on solid food.
We found that the best time to get the young ones was just before their eyes opened. Just at what age that is I do not know. My impression is that with rabbits who are born blind, the eyes open when they are about two weeks old.
We used to rig a nursing bottle by taking a two ounce medicine bottle, fitting to it a cork with a hole in it through which there was fitted a quill from the wing feather of a chicken.
Of all pets I know of, a young squirrel, up to one year old, is the most delightful. After one year squirrels are apt to become cross and will bite one badly sometimes.
We used to let our squirrels run loose around the house and out of doors. They went everywhere with us in our pockets.
A flying squirrel which I raised and sold to a boy friend of mine, used to be taken in his pockets in the train to New York where his owner worked in an office and stay in New York all day and come home in the train, 25 miles, without attempting to get away.
The flying squirrel is a quiet creature and prefers to sleep most of the day time and go about at night.
One pet gray squirrel which we had, built seven nests in our place. There were three in the Virginia
Creeper vine which covered one side of our two-story house and four in trees on the lawn.
This squirrel got to be a nuisance, for he used to carry off my mother's lawn fichus and use them to line his nests.
My mother was one night much startled to find a store of hickory nuts in her bed. Mr. Squirrel had put them there for safe keeping.
Gray squirrels will live a long while in captivity.
I knew a nurse in Randall's Island Hospital who had a gray squirrel in a cage. My recollection is that she told me she had had it for fifteen years. This squirrel's front or incisor teeth, had grown so long that he could not get his mouth shut.
I cut about a quarter of an inch off his teeth with a bone cutting pliers.
Manning Freeman, a neighbor of ours, had a veterinary come and file off the front teeth of one of his mules because the poor brute could not get his grinding teeth together because his front teeth were too long. The front, or incisor teeth of rodents grow constantly. In the ordinary life of these animals out-of-doors these teeth wear down as fast as they grow.
I once caught a flying squirrel and her four young ones all at once.
The nest of a flying squirrel is built in the crotch of a tree.
It is usually made of stripped cedar bark and is about as large as one's head. This flying squirrel's nest was in a crotch in a cedar tree about twenty feet from the ground.
When the mother flying squirrel is driven from her nest she immediately comes back again.
I took off my soft felt hat, placed the nest in the hat, waited a few minutes for the mother squirrel to return and when she did, I closed up the hat over the nest, and took the nest and hat home with me.
I put the nest and young ones in an old squirrel cage having a tin tray in the bottom and leaving a tin cup of water in the tray, went to bed.
During the night the mother squirrel upset the cup of water and the four young ones were drowned. I let the mother go.
I did raise three little flying squirrels on the bottle once.
These grew to full size. The one I mentioned above who went on the train so often was one of them.
Flying squirrels are in size a little larger than mice.
Their fur is light gray above and white underneath. The fur is exceedingly soft and pretty. It looks about like the very expensive chinchilla.
Of red squirrels I know but little. When I was camping in the White Mountains one summer I thought them an intolerable nuisance with their everlasting scolding and chattering.
Mr. Henry Benzinger of Holliswood, a man in whose veracity I have the utmost confidence, tells me that during the winter of 1927 there occurred some sort of a convention of gray squirrels in a large oak in Holliswood. He went out and actually counted 150 squirrels in the tree.
What induced so many squirrels to come together in one place?
Perhaps they came together, like the members of the Hollis Civic Association, to protest against the cutting of trees on Holliswood.
I suggested to Mr. Benzinger that perhaps they had heard that there was a family of nuts which had moved recently into their woods.
I don't know whether gray squirrels build nests in holes in trees and raise young ones therein or not.
There are on my place several bird boxes occupied by starlings.
Last spring the female squirrel "Susie," who visits my place almost daily, enlarged the openings in three of these nests and in a wooden box nailed to the side of the barn she collected a quantity of sticks from the grape-vine near by. She used to stay in this nest all night sometimes but she evidently had her young ones in Holliswood, a mile away, and came by way of the large electric light cable that runs by our house on into the woods; every day to get her dinner. One could tell from her appearance that she was nursing a family of little ones. This squirrel enlarged the opening into the bird's nest, which is made of a section of a poplar tree about a foot in diameter. She made for herself a warm nest of ravelled old roap. She sleeps there sometimes but never housed a family therein. This nest is in a tree outside our front sidewalk.
Susie is a good deal of a nuisance. Last year she cut about two bushels of pears from one of my trees long before they were ripe. She ate only the unripe seeds and rejected the rest. No matter, the pears are no good anyway.
I have a Keifer pear tree on the place. The Keifer pear is large and coarse and has very little flavor at the best. I grafted Bartlett pear cuttings on to the Keifer pear tree so that now there are more Bartlett pear branches than Keifer.
Susie came early in the spring and ate most of the blossom buds. What pears did mature Susie ate later. No matter, if Susie didn't steal the pears the kids would.
On the sill just outside my dining room window I have fastened a tin tray. I keep a few cracked nuts in this tray. Susie comes nearly every day to eat the nuts. I find that if I do not crack the nuts, Susie will take them away and hide them all over the place. I doubt if she ever finds half of those she buries.
I have two black cats and a dog.
One black cat is named Ebonezer. (note the spelling) Ebonezer because of his black color. The other is Melagchites which is Greek and being interpreted means having black hair. We call the cats Ebbie and Mellie. We can tell them apart because Ebbie's whiskers on the left hand side of his face are longer than those on his right, or maybe it is the other way, or maybe it is Mellie who has the uneven whiskers. I don't remember. I can tell them apart in the dark because Mellie can't purr, he just wheezes, besides when he cries he says ek ek, not a continuous cry like Ebbie's.
When Susie the squirrel comes outside the window to get her dinner and Ebbie and Mellie and Bobby the dog are inside the window, Susie pays no attention to them albeit they are less than six inches away. The cats make desperate efforts to get at the squirrel but she evidently has implicit faith in the glass for if one of the cats is outside Susie will not come near him.
I tried for a long time to take a photograph of the squirrel on the outside and the two cats and the dog on the inside, but to get the combination of two cats and a dog and a good light and the proper hour of the day and time to make the exposures, took me more than two months.
I put my camera on a step-ladder outside of the window and rigged a string from the inside of the house to the trigger of the camera, but what with not having a white background for the black cats and what with the scraping of the string on the window-sill and what with two or three neighbors' cats trying to catch Susie from the outside, I had some job getting even so good a picture as I did get.
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Lasted updated 5/13/99 by Jim Halpin.