Midwest Is Nuts About Squirrels, Professor Insists

Olney, Illinois, has a white squirrel monument in its downtown. It conducts a squirrel parade and what is tagged as a “Squirrel Scamper” event for kids. Numerous squirrel happenings take place in the rural Illinois town with a population of 8,500 that positions itself in tourism materials as “The Home of White Squirrels.”

Marysville, Kansas, bills itself as the “Home of the Black Squirrels,” and has been promoting a special Black Squirrel Night for almost a half century. The town has named the black squirrel its official mascot and honors it with a Black Squirrels on Parade event.

Squirrels are honored with statues, parades and festivals in more than a score of Midwest cities, according to Don Corrigan, author of “Nuts About Squirrels: The Rodents That Captured Popular Culture.” Corrigan presented a lecture, “Squirrels: Icons of the Midwest,” in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October at the annual Midwest Popular Culture Conference.

After the book debuted in April of this year, Corrigan began receiving hundreds of photos and videos of squirrel shenanigans in the Midwest. Photos include squirrels raiding bird feeders and invading homes and schools. Videos include one from Union, Missouri, where a resident allows a pet squirrel to dance on his head regularly.

Although most chapters in Corrigan’s book focus on the humorous antics of squirrels, it also has serious discussions about the role of squirrels in American history and in the American diet. Although squirrels no longer are a major source of protein in the diet of Americans, several university studies suggest that squirrels could return as a sustainable food source for Americans. Millions of squirrels could be harvested for the dinner table every year and this would not put a dent in their population, according to a study from The University of Illinois – Chicago.

Corrigan continues a book tour through 2020. Locally he will present a PowerPoint and lecture on squirrels and American popular culture at the Eureka Oasis Center from 1-2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19; and at the Eden Seminary Oasis meeting from 10-11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

At the October annual Midwest Popular Culture Conference in Cincinnati, Corrigan presented on a panel of professors from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Purdue University-Columbus, Indiana campus; and, Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Corrigan is a professor of journalism and mass communications at Webster University-St. Louis.





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