Some stories just grab your attention right away, even from the Big Stuff.
After all, the GOP presidential nomination race that nobody seems to want to win is continuing at a yawning pace, President Obama is backpedaling toward the center for the November election, gas pump prices are going through the roof again, Congress is ... well, Congress, Iran is ... well, Iran, and Greece's plan for not sinking the whole European economy is harder to figure out than Greek.
Then somebody goes and catches a live purple squirrel.
Not that I like squirrels much. I've always felt they were just furry-tailed tree rats that had the good sense to hire some PR spinmeisters early on so they'd be seen as lovable creatures of nature while their rat brethren were put in cages and fed copious amounts of artificial sweeteners in retaliation for their ill-advised participation in that Black Death plague incident a few centuries back.
Never fooled me, though. I've always suspected they have it in for humankind, particularly humankind that likes electricity. Just last week, a suicidal squirrel got into a transformer in Lee County and knocked out power for a good bit of the county for part of the evening. Last month, squirrels gave their lives to knock out power in Candler, N.C.; Greenville, S.C.; Virginia Beach; Hannibal, Mo., and Emporia, Kansas. Clearly, interrupting electricity is something they feel strongly about.
But while I'm merely suspicious of these squirrels' ulterior motives, my Lab, Brinkley, openly detests them and will, at every opportunity, chase them across our backyard and until she runs them up a tree. Then she'll stand at the base of the tree for hours. She will also bite the bark off the pine tree, either out of frustration or just to show the squirrel she means serious business, while she watches and waits for each squirrel to make a fatal slip-up as it jumps from tree to tree to escape from the yard.
Which one did last year. Slip-up, I mean. After more than seven years of futile squirrel chasing and bark eating, one squirrel fell a good 20 feet from a pine tree when he -- inadvisably, it turns out -- jumped for a limb on the next tree, missed it completely and crashed to the ground ... about a foot from Brinkley. Not surprisingly -- and despite my best efforts to rescue him -- this did not work out well at all for the squirrel, which shortly thereafter expired.
That was a sadder fate than the one that befell the purple squirrel that, according to news reports, Percy and Connie Emert of Jersey Shore, Pa., found in a squirrel trap in their yard. Connie had spotted it earlier, so Percy baited a trap with peanuts, which apparently have some strong appeal to purple squirrels and might be something our friends in the peanut industry can capitalize on in promoting their products. Perhaps Mr. Peanut can have a duel with a Purple Peanut Eater Squirrel, just to get the creative juices flowing.
"I kept telling my husband I saw a purple one out in the yard. 'Oh sure you did,' he kept telling me," Connie told AccuWeather.com. "Well, he checked the trap around noon on Sunday and sure enough, there it was."
How did it get purple? "We have no idea whatsoever," Connie said. "It's really purple. People think we dyed it, but honestly, we just found it and it was purple."
The doubters are already -- what else? -- doubting. A zoo curator suggested the squirrel was dyed in some fashion, such as stumbling into a portable toilet with blue chemical in it. I'd like to think it was the misfortune of stumbling onto a paintball war. It's the romantic in me.
The upshot is the zoo guy's pretty sure the squirrel wasn't born purple and my guess is he's right, based on my first-hand experience with the Great Pink Dog Caper of '73 in my hometown of Newton.
What happened was we were on our bikes and saw a bird dog running down the road, which bird dogs were wont to do back then. As far as being a bird dog, this one was unremarkable in many ways. It had classic bird-dog shape. It had black spots on it like a bird dog. Where it didn't look like a conventional bird dog at all was where its fur was supposed to be white.
Instead, it was pink. Nail polish, lip gloss, girl's baby blanket pink.
Then we began to notice more pink dogs of various breeds, including my German shepherd, whose formerly black, brown and tan fur was now black, brown and pinkish tan. It took us a while to figure out what was going on. For some reason, a good many of the dogs in town had gotten it into their heads that, during their nocturnal roaming, it was great fun to roll around in some fertilizer or some other pink-tinting chemical at the peanut mill in town.
This, it turned out, was a great relief to a lady at the Baptist church who was a counselor for our Royal Ambassadors group. We were laughing about the pink dogs we'd seen when she overheard us.
"You all saw a pink bird dog?" she asked.
We said, yes, several dogs, in fact.
She sat down and gave out a great sigh of relief. "I saw one out the window playing bridge the other day," she said. "I thought I was going crazy."
I later learned that the ladies' bridge club on occasion would serve adult-type refreshments and there had been some widespread fear among the participants at the pink bird-dog sighting that someone had spiked the punch with poorly distilled homemade spirits -- the kind that could lead to hallucinations (like seeing pink dogs), blindness, dementia and, in severe cases, dancing.
But regardless of whether Jersey Shore, Pa.'s squirrel is naturally purple or dyed that way, at least the residents can take some solace in the fact that it could be worse. After all, they could be like that other "Jersey Shore" and get stuck with an bright orange Snooki.
Email Jim Hendricks at jim.hendricksalbanyherald.com.