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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Court Square - A Little Squirrely

Court Square is a small, beautiful park in the heart of downtown Memphis. It’s surrounded by office buildings and busy streets, but features towering old trees, statues, a gazebo and an impressive bronze fountain at its center. It’s a peaceful oasis populated by people-friendly squirrels.

If you saw the movie The Firm, you got a glimpse of the fountain. It served as a backdrop to a meeting between Tom Cruise and Gene Hackman.

In my teenage years, I seem to recall a late-night foray to the fountain with a bottle of dishwashing liquid in hand. Well, we thought the bubbles were pretty funny.

Mike and I both have more gentle memories, however, of trips to the Square when we were children. I recall that when my grandmother took a very young me downtown shopping, the day always included time to go sit near the fountain in Court Square.

There was a pushcart vendor who sold little brown paper bags of fresh-roasted peanuts in the shell. The routine was to pinch open a shell then toss the two peanuts it had held to some of the squirrels that had approached and were awaiting their reward. The little fuzzy guys and I took turns. Nuts for them. Nuts for me.

A person could spend a quiet hour doing just that while observing the various squirrel personalities and behaviors. Never once did it occur to me to wonder about the squirrels’ origin until Mike happened upon a small item last week in the newspaper.

It seems that back in 1847, the pet squirrel of a gentleman named W.A. O’Neal chewed up a tablecloth, and O’Neal took the mischievous fellow downtown to Court Square and set him free.

Can’t you just imagine Mrs. O’Neal’s outburst at the ruination of her tablecloth? “W.A., if you don’t get rid of that rodent this instant, you’ll be having him tonight for dinner!” Exit squirrel to safety.

The story goes that others followed O’Neal’s lead and let their pet squirrels find freedom in Court Square. Sort of Born Free for squirrels. As a result, generations have enjoyed the calm, scampering squirrels in the midst of downtown.

Enjoy Court Square the next time you’re downtown. But don’t take along a tablecloth.


Willow Goldentree said...

I love your new pictures! So sexy!!!

Scarlett said...

Aw shucks. Guess we clean up ok.