Squirrels often endear themselves to people as they scamper about. A well-fed, healthy squirrel is a beautiful, playful and industrious little creature with large black eyes sparkling with intelligence.
Many farm families have kept a squirrel as a pet at one time or another. But they can wreak havoc in gardens and fields and people often go to great lengths to keep them away from their bird feeders.
But nothing to our knowledge equals the squirrel plague of 1839. That spring the squirrel population south of the Missouri River began to explode. Red squirrels, gray squirrels, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, big and little squirrels were everywhere!
However, gray squirrels seemed to be the most prevalent.
Squirrels had always invaded corn fields and proved themselves a real nuisance to farmers, but this was different. By August or September of 1839 thousands of these rodents descended upon the area en masse.
Whatever they set out to do, these rodents did so with gusto. Not even the Missouri River could stop the onslaught, even though thousands of their comrades drowned in the effort.
They could pick where they entered the river but had no control over where they landed, as their landing was totally dependent upon the wind and current. Many met an untimely death when they landed at the mouth of a tributary, likely on quicksand or on thin mire. The first to arrive would be pressed into the mire by those coming behind until enough squirrels were piled up to form a bridge where the others could cross.