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A tailless squirrel or rare ‘squabbit’?


WHEN you head off in search of a column, you’re never sure where the journey will lead.

Take my pursuit last week of an unusual wild animal in southern Stafford County.

What started out as a quirky quest to learn about Jackson, the squirrel with no tail, ended up blending into the tale of a unique airborne birthday celebration and the chance to spend some time and talk local connections with Don and Margaret Freeman.

Two of the nicer folks you’ll ever meet, they’ve lived in their Argyle Heights home for 43 years.

The couple had gotten in touch to share details of a squirrel that, from time to time, likes to chow down at a bowl feeder put out for squirrels and birds alike.

What got their attention about this particular squirrel is the fact that it has no tail, just a little bit of white fluff where a long, gray appendage should be.

“I named him Jackson and would make a point of looking for him when they start feeding each day,” Margaret Freeman said.

When he was there, she said, Jackson had no trouble bellying up to the feeder, hanging around long enough to consume copious amounts of seed.

“He’s not a skinny one,” said Don Freeman, who noted that the squirrel doesn’t seem to spar with others of his kind, even in a playful way.

The Freemans have enjoyed watching the squirrel with a powder puff tail, to the point where they shared pictures they took of Jackson with friends and family.

“One person said Jackson isn’t a squirrel, it’s a ‘squabbit’–a cross between a squirrel and a rabbit,” said Margaret, “partly because he’s so chubby.”

Though squirrels are the latest wild animals on the couple’s watch list, they’ve spotted different wild animals in the neighborhood through the years: deer, foxes and even one pheasant.

At this point in the conversation, Margaret very sweetly noted that her daughter was surprised someone from the newspaper would come out to hear about a tailless squirrel, but not her father’s birthday at 10,000 feet.

“His what?” I politely asked.

Don explained that his daughter, Ann Evans, asked him late last summer if he might like to celebrate his 80th birthday with a parachute jump she’d provide as a gift.

Having expressed that interest before, Don, a retired Marine who still runs five miles a pop for exercise, said he’d love to.

So last August, the proud grandfather joined Evans’ daughters Allison, 25, and Elizabeth, 21, on a sky-diving outing at a facility near Warrenton.

Each jumped separately and connected to an instructor, managing to get out of the plane without problems and land safely. It was an experience that left them all glowing.

“There was a moment or two when I was right at the door of the plane when I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ but then we were out the door,” said Freeman.

He said it was an exhilarating experience, especially the peaceful and quiet drift down to earth.

The southern Stafford resident who works in real estate said he loved the experience, especially the fact that he shared it with his granddaughters.

“But I don’t have plans to do it again,” he said, noting that he was reassured to jump with an instructor who had also been in the Corps. “Once is enough.”

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415