A city of Mobile press release sent out earlier this week sounded more like the beginning of a Disney movie than a city announcement. So you know, a slightly traumatizing yet entertaining parable involving adorable, furry creatures. You don’t get a lot of press releases like that.
So put your Disney Pixar glasses on for a moment and picture this in the splendid animation only they can achieve: A beautiful family is sitting on ornate iron benches around Ketchum Fountain in Mobile, Alabama’s Bienville Square. The year is 2022. A young boy who has finally been coaxed off of his iPad or other such device for a moment is happily feeding a couple of obese squirrels, trading a little screen time for squirrel time.
The two hefty squirrels our young boy has “befriended” — let’s call them Larry and Jeff — are slovenly and foul-mouthed. They would most likely be voiced by Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy. Larry and Jeff have become used to not foraging for their own acorns, as visitors flock to the park on a daily basis to give them much tastier nuts they have purchased from these cute little shops called A&M Peanut Shop and Three Georges, which are just an acorn’s throw away.
Larry and Jeff have become addicted to the nuts and are ravenous and aggressive. They will purposefully nip the hands that are feeding them just for fun and steal food from the hands of fancy pants lawyers who are walking around the Square in seersucker suits and bowties.
Larry and Jeff have become loveable nuisances, but they also share the Square with their more-refined cousin, JB, who is a direct descendant of the very first squirrel to inhabit the oldest Bienville oak, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Le Squirrel de Bienville. He is voiced by George Clooney, Idris Elba or Paul Rudd, someone who sounds like they could be Squirrel Magazine’s Sexiest Rodent Alive.
JB is charming and good-looking — while Larry and Jeff are mercilessly preying on the human peanut poppers, JB spends his time flying around the tops of the splendid oak trees that surround the Square, which make all of the city girl squirrels swoon. Because of all of this activity and his unwillingness to eat anything other than “organic, native” acorns he procures from the trees of Bienville, he is a dreamy little beast compared to his cousins.
He still loves his family, of course, for they are blood. And JB often swoops down from the majestic oaks and playfully chides them for being gluttonous scavengers, you know, like any good hero in a Disney movie would do. Of course, they roll their eyes and call him a show-off.
But despite their opinions of each other, everyone seems to be living their best squirrel life. That is, until Larry and Jeff make a mistake that will change everything. After they make a New Year’s resolution to be healthier, much to JB’s delight, they spend the day foraging for acorns and trying to work on their climbing and scurrying skills. At the end of the day, they are exhausted … and starving.
Larry has heard from another cousin, Freddy, that the leftovers from the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration — including the remnants of the “World’s Largest MoonPie” are in the dumpster, just down the street. The two quickly cave on their resolution and follow Freddy, where they gorge on the sugary confection that is made in Chattanooga but celebrated in Mobile.
The massive amounts of sugar make them wilder and crazier than ever, almost rabid, and they head back to Bienville for a reign of terror like the city has never seen. They bite children and kittens and puppies and babies. Which the people of Mobile are a little annoyed about but ultimately shrug off. But when they start crazily biting the oak trees in Bienville and damaging them, well, that was a bite too far. Outrage ensues throughout the city, and Mayor Sandy Stimpson orders their removal. Or at least the removal of “the crazy ones.”
In the meantime, Larry and Jeff come down from their MoonPie high, look around at the carnage they have created. JB shakes his head in disappointment. Larry and Jeff feel bad, but it’s too late. The die has been cast.
A day later, city crews clean up the naughty rodents’ mess, while leaving “metal boxes” around the Square filled with the most magnificent-smelling peanuts ever in them. JB warns Larry and Jeff to stay away, but eventually, temptation gets the best of them, and they jump into the cages. And nothing happens. Except they eat the finest peanuts they have ever tasted. They mock JB for telling them it was a trap. And each day they go back to feast on the tasty nuts from the magical metal boxes.
This goes on for four days, but then on the fifth, as they tried to retreat from the cage, the top would not budge. They screamed to JB for help and being the stud he is, he scampered down from the oak trees and tried to free his cousins. And thanks to the organic Bienville acorns and the many workouts on his Squirreloton, he was able to lift the top of the trap door. But before Larry and Jeff could escape, the trapper came along and pushed JB down in the cage with his cousins and threw them all on the back of a city truck.
The skies darken and it immediately starts to rain — because, you know, Mobile — as the truck drives away.
Fade to black.
When light emerges once again, banjo music is playing and the squirrels find themselves in the magical land of Wilmer, where humans seem to delight in interactions with small animals, especially mini horses (bow-chicka-bow-wow). Larry and Jeff are in Heaven, as the country girl squirrels seem to find them irresistible for some reason. So much so, they do their acorn foraging for them. Hilarity ensues for a bit as they learn the way of the Wilmerians. But the cousins soon realize JB is completely depressed and refuses to eat since these acorns are not from the Bienville trees of his ancestors. All of the hair from his lustrous, bushy tail falls off.
Feeling guilty, Larry and Jeff hatch a plan to deliver JB back to Bienville Square, with the help of some good ol’ boy Wilmer squirrels who go by the names Pee Wee and Tater.
Will they make it all the way back to the city? Will lessons be learned? Will squirrel love be found? And most importantly, will the oak trees somehow be saved?
And this is EXACTLY what led up to (and happened after) the city’s announcement earlier this week they would have to humanely relocate 25 squirrels from Bienville Square to a “suitable,” safe location in Mobile County due to overpopulation and damage to the oak trees.
Well, maybe not, exactly. But I’m sure it’s pretty close.
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