Little Critter Stories

Capt. Mike

My cousin Bobbie tells this true story that was later published in the News & Observer by Dennis Rogers.

Chipmunk Chase

Anyone who has done much camping knows what summer days like this are like. It has been too hot and too humid for too long. You are too far from air conditioning, too long from a long, luxurious shower, and memories of what it is like to sleep in a real bed are fading. Things are just . . . well, testy.

Frank and Sandy were in New York's Adirondack Mountains with their 7- and 8-year-old kids, Dawn and David, on a day just like that a few years ago. Everybody was hanging on to their generally good natures as well as could be expected under such close conditions. But then Dawn was playing with a stick and swung it around and hit Sandy.

"They decided that the best way to save the family was for Mom and Dad to escape onto the lake on a canoe," said family friend Bobbie, who told me this tale of too much togetherness at lunch last week.

Mom and Dad were floating placidly on the lake, in clear sight of the kids playing on the nearby shore. Tempers were cooling nicely when the kids started yelling and waving their arms. Frank and Sandy immediately paddled to shore to be greeted with the news that a chipmunk had bitten Dawn. The Hot Day of the Chipmunk Chase had begun.

"It just ran right up to me and bit me." Dawn said innocently. OK, so a little investigation showed that Dawn had been luring the chipmunk with peanuts.

But the parents were worried. There had been reports of rabies in the area and chances would not be taken.

After learning to which nearby hole the chipmunk had fled, the family's battle plan was laid. They lined up some sunflower seeds, a chipmunk favorite, near the hole while Frank got fishing net.

The plan worked like a charm. Out came the hungry chipmunk, swoosh went the net and they were ready to have the suspect, tested for rabies.

"Knowing that chipmunks can chew through anything, they put it, in a duffle bag, put that duffle bag into another duffle bag, put both bags in a cardboard box and put that box into a larger box and took off for the Vet's," Bobbie said.

Those four-layered precautions lasted a mile or two before the chipmunk ate its way to. Freedom inside the Frank's van. Now we have one loose, possibly rabid chipmunk scampering about the van and nobody seemed to want to take their feet off the seat.

They headed back toward the nearby campsite to recapture the chipmunk.

"They had to leave the van windows up so the chipmunk wouldn't get out," Bobbie said. "And it was hot, very hot, in that van. There's Frank in the van, sweat pouring off him, and he's mad and he's hot and he's scared."

The van, of course, was full of camping gear -- it takes a ton of stuff to sustain life for a family of four in the untracked wilderness of New York -- so the possibly deadly Mr. Chipmunk had lots of neat places to hide. Frank began to unpack the van, opening the window to hand items out and then closing it quickly to keep him inside the four-wheeled oven with the chipmunk.

A crowd of fellow campers gathered to watch this madness. The pile of gear was growing, Frank was getting hotter and the chipmunk proved elusive. Soon the wily beast was firmly, housed under the dash and nobody was reaching up there. Then there was a knock on the van window.

“Sir, would you step out of the van?" the park ranger said.

"I'd rather not,” Frank said.
"Sir, please step out of the van. It is illegal to trap wild game in New York and you are under arrest," the ranger said.
Frank was, as you might guess, in no mood to be arrested. He finally explained about rabies and his sweet baby girl and the vicious chipmunk.

"You know what you ought to do?" the ranger said. "You ought to Catch that thing and take it to the Vet."

That Frank did not beat the ranger to a bloody pulp is a tribute to one man's self-control. The ranger finally got the picture and hurried off to fetch a cage. Of course, being just a notch or two brighter than a sofa cushion, the ranger came back with a cage with holes so big it would not restrain anything smaller than, say, a new-born calf.

Figuring the chipmunk would stay in his little critter motel under the dash, and too hot, tired, mad, scared and frustrated to care if he didn't, Frank headed off for the Vet's.

"There are two things you need to understand," the Vet said. "First of all, you've got to get that chipmunk out from under the dash or he will eat your entire van.

"The second thing is, chipmunks never, ever, get rabies! Not one case."

Back at the campsite, a trail of sunflower seeds coaxed the chipmunk out of the van and back into his hole, while the family watched. It is only a rumor that the chipmunk turned, grinned and waved as he disappeared into the hole.

"Two years later, they were camping there again, heaven only knows why," Bobbie said. "They were out on a canoe when a couple waved to them and called 'Aren't you the people who tried to catch a chipmunk?' "

This column cannot report Frank's pithy reply.

Thanks to Dennis Rogers -- check his books out. They are a wonderful mix of funny, happy, sad and remeniscing. "It's Bad News When the Bartender Cries" is still listed on via the Site Bookstore.

Gary B. Dixner

New member
A wonderful story. Those terminally cute and tiny chipmunks are not only elusive but powerful. I have one in my yard that daily rearranges mulch that took me weeks and several wheelbarrows to put down. Glad to know they don't carry rabies. We have skunks that are apparently expert at that.

Capt. Mike

Things that go 'bump' in the Night!

Transferred to consolidate similar topics.

DWS Junior Member Posted July 17, 2001 03:53 PM

On our vacations, we typically avoid KOAs and other "conformity camping," and seek out-of-the-way places to pop the top of our Westy---the more out-of-the-way, the better.

While on a trip into the Pacific Northwest, we'd parked in a spot along a river where it looked as though someone had just pushed the brush back and did a little fishing. Just our kind of spot.

Around midnight, there came a drumming on the underside of our vehicle. In the silence of the black night, the rapid thumping sounded as if it surrounded us and was threatening to jackhammer a hole in the floorboard of the van.

Parked as we were, a considerable distance from any house, our imaginations instantly envisioned the tomfoolerly of a local group of boys. We are cautious, but we don't normally assume the worst.

We lay still and quiet for a few moments, even though the kids up top were whispering at top decibel. After a few moments, we decided to open the door and investigate.

I braved the ground in my bare feet, leaving the wife and kids shuddering in the warm bedrolls. With our camping habits, I place my engine at top priority, and once outside, the noise seemed to be eminating from the back end of the van---the engine!

Hatch lifted, I gingerly raised the engine cover and feverishly shot the flashlight beam all over. There, curled on the edge of the warm manifold, was a small animal no bigger than a red squirrel. With a flick of it's tail, and a few more raps with it's huge back feet, it dissapeared into the darkness under the van.

By flashlight, and with shaking fingers, we leafed through a small book on mammals our son had purchased at a souvineir stand. We found the culprit---a Pacific Northwest ground squirrel. Evidently, it had climbed up onto the engine to take a snooze, and when we moved around in the van we disturbed it. They don't like their slumber disturbed. When they get angry, they pound furiously on any surface with their back feet.

So, the next time you're up north and there's bumps in the night.......

And then there was the time I decided to check the oil while the wife made breakfast. Good thing I did. During the night, a mouse had built a nest right on top of the engine. In starting the engine, I would have killed the whole family of little tykes!

Posts: 1 | Location: Cypress,Ca. 90630 | Registered: June 27, 2001

Capt. Mike Tech Writer Super Member Posted July 18, 2001 10:14 AM Hide Post

I think I covered our "bumps in the night" under the Bear Breath thread, but when something starts to rock the van in the middle of the night, the imagination soon makes Jurassic Park seem like a petting zoo. In our case, we were in a completely remote area and had the gray water drain hose just running away from the van -- not to the tank. A young cub had gotten interested in the apparent food smells from washing dishes and was pulling on the hose. Actually broke the fitting! Must have been a Southern Bear going for the grits!
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Capt. Mike


Here's your pathetic old man story for the day. A couple of days ago I found a squirrel had gotten closed up in my shop overnight. When I came in the next morning, he was on top of a wall cabinet behind my radio. I poked him with something; he jumped down and disappeared. The main shop door was opened so I didn't think much more about it.

Yesterday I went back into the shop to work. Lying on the workbench was a case for my vacuum tester with the lid open and laid back. Sort of like an open briefcase, but smaller.

I did a lot of work. I had a big frame for a log rack that needed welding so I'm clamping it into the workbench vise, banging, grinding and eventually bringing in the welder and welding it. That means zap sounds and bright arc light. I then painted the work.

In the mean time, I discovered my radio didn't work so I crawled up onto the bench and brought it down. Sure enough, the power wires were chewed through. I had a discourse on what I thought of squirrels in sailor-ese (the kids weren't around), then cut out the bad section and spliced it. All right on the bench. Snips, dropping pliers & parts and flaring matches to do the shrink-wrap. Then I climbed back up on the workbench to plug the radio back in, first to test and then again when finished.

Finally, I cleaned up all the clutter, put the tools away and last, went to close the vacuum tester case. Under the lid was that damn squirrel!

Now I'm not dumb enough to grab a squirrel with my bare hands -- I know all about those teeth -- and I'm not going to start smashing with a ball-peen hammer next to my $100+ Snap-On vacuum tester, so I went to retrieve a pair of heavy gloves. Finally, when I grabbed at him, he wiggled away and ran out the shop.

Now it was my intention to chase after him making lots of noise and stomping until he ran up a tree in hopes of a sufficient scare to convince him my shop wasn't a good home. However, this squirrel was apparently as much an idiot as I, so continued to run, me hard on his heels. He went completely around the house, and then doubled back across the front porch before heading to the woods. Now this old man is about spent, plus wearing loafers and heading into the woods covered with leaves. Out go the feet from under and I'm looking at this retarded squirrel at his level 5 feet away at the base of a tree. "There he goes," I thought. Finally going to head up a tree.

To hasten him, I made a lunge on his side of the tree, but knowing he'd go around behind and climb, at the last minute I zigged the other way and grabbed almost blind around the tree a couple of feet up. And caught him! I don't know who was more surprised.

Of course, now I've got a mad squirrel with a firm flying-tooth scissor-lock grip on the thumb of my glove. Not me, mind you, but a good grip on the glove.

I had the appropriate level of discussion with him about his behavior and chewing through my wires and we won't have that problem again. I caught my breath a few hours later at suppertime. I thought of getting in I-V of beer, but finally decided I could take it orally if buffered by 3½ slices of the Admiral's homemade sourdough pizza. The kids suspiciously checked to make sure squirrel wasn't present amongst the sausage, pepperoni and cheese. To tell the truth, I hadn't thought of it -- maybe next time. Damn hairy rodents!