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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

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COLUMN: Social media meets squirrely winter folklore

Dan+Hahn+is+a+graduate+student+studying+English+and+can+be+reached+at+217-581-2812.
Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

In October of last year I wrote a column about the pumpkin eating habits of nature’s very own daredevil: the branch bouncing, tail-twitching tumbler known as the common squirrel.

In that piece, I conjectured that these bushy tailed bandits eat themselves into a stupor by consuming too much pumpkin, and as a result take unnecessary risks.

There is an almanac.com article about ancient folklore predicting the severity of the coming winter, and it contains some interesting superstitions surrounding the quirky habits of squirrels this time of year.

One squirrely superstition predicting a difficult winter is whether squirrels’ tails are bushier than normal, which to me sounds like a genuine old wives’ tale.

A tale about tails is ambiguous and therefore cannot be trusted. Further, are we to believe that there is no scientific instrument more finely tuned for calculating the bushiness of a squirrel’s tail than the eyesight of an old wife? Please, give me a break.

Another squirrel phenomenon for predicting the intensity of the coming winter is their nesting habits, and according to the article: “nests higher in trees suggest a colder, snowier winter; nests located lower in trees suggest a milder winter.”

This bit of folklore reminds us that we have a lot to learn about the natural world that we simply cannot experience through our smartphone screens.

I argue that we need to be spending less time looking at our phones while walking outdoors and more time paying attention to our surroundings, including gazing up into trees and casually assessing the quantity and location of squirrel nests.

One final piece of whiskery woodland wisdom is a rhyme passed down from the ages: “squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, will cause snow to gather in a hurry.”

I believe that in modern times we cannot predict the snowfall of the coming winter by how actively these acorn acrobats are hoarding food. Rather, our human counterparts are the true indicator.

Indeed, the creation of contemporary folklore can be seen in real time on social media platforms like TikTok, where there are plenty of outdoorsy folks publishing instructional videos on how to prepare acorns for human consumption.

Humans eating acorns is poetry. Never mind that anyone with the time to create TikToks can just go to the store and buy actual food.

Why bother shopping for groceries when one can fetch out their ring light, tripod, and microphone, then spend vast hours editing video ultimately to take food out of the mouths of squirrels?

Granted, I am guilty of watching acorn cooking videos. I learned that acorns are high in tannins, giving the otherwise nutritional powerhouse an overly bitter flavor. But, after a rigorous tannin leeching process, the acorn is rendered safe to eat, or can be milled into flour for baking.

Better bundle up! Observing an abundance of acorn videos and the effort required to make them edible suggests that nature is preparing for a harsh, resource-scarce winter, which might indicate a severe arctic season is imminent.

Dan Hahn can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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About the Contributor
Dan Hahn, Columnist
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2812.

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