Rolling Along: A tale of many tails

My thousands of bike miles in and around the city have provided me with dozens of tales, from captivating accounts of derring-do (or, in my case, derring-don’t) to location humor (you had to be there) to the kind of stultifying insipidity that, once it spews forth from my mouth, makes my kids — by far my favorite victims, er, audience — roll their eyes back in their heads and take on the appearance of a fine holiday ham, which is to say, glazed.

Recently, I had an unusual run of encounters with, of all things, tails.

It started with a run-in with a fellow wearing a coonskin cap. I guess there’s nothing all that unusual about that … if we’re kicking about a Davy Crockett-era Alamo. I didn’t expect to bump into that particular chapeau in downtown Lawrence circa, well, now, but I did, twice in the span of a couple of days.

Then a few days later, I rolled up on a three-foot dragon tail. At least, I think it was a dragon tail. There was a safety pin attached, so I assume it became detached from a Halloween costume (as an aside, I also happened upon a wicked skull-encrusted scythe thing, a bandana or two and a creepy, intact long fingernail. I have a head start on next year’s costume, should I be inclined to dress as a cowboydragonreaper … with a nasty coke habit).

But my latest tail tale takes the cake.

Riding home from racquetball the other day, I spied something in the middle of the road. As I approached, I realized it was a disembodied squirrel tail, maybe three inches long. It’s previous owner was nowhere in sight.

I could not, for all my pondering, come up with a scenario that would explain how a squirrel’s tail could come to be discarded in the middle of a street. I don’t believe squirrels shed them, and I couldn’t imagine an event so traumatic — a run-in with a car or coyote? — and so violent that a squirrel would be separated from just part of its tail.

Then I remembered, on my way to racquetball, I had marveled at a hawk that swooped low overhead and landed on a tree not far from that perplexing tail. I looked but did not see the bird noshing on a tree rat, or anything else, for that matter, but perhaps the hawk — fittingly, a red-tail — had somehow caused squirrel and tail to forfeit proximity. I guess it’s possible.

Regardless, when I pedaled past several hours later, the tail was gone.

To me, that’s even more mysterious. Now I’ll never know how this tale — or tail — ends.

Tagged: bike commuting, bike, bicycle, bicycle commuting


Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 1 month ago

I have saw several squirrels that were either without a tail or the tail was partially gone.. It is my understanding that when the tail is grabbed by a predator the fun and skin will more or less slide off leaving the muscle and bone behind which then forms a lot of scar tissue. The tail is considered inedible by predators as it is mostly fur.

Andrew Hartsock 4 years, 1 month ago

I did not know that. I imagine the disembodied tails also would make awesome fake mustaches. For, you know, faux Movember.

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