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The White Squirrels of Marionville, Missouri
The sign as you enter Marionville welcomes you to a town that has existed for almost 160 years. In 1854 the town was established and still survives to this day. Home to around 2,200 citizens and several stores, it also houses one of a handful of White Squirrels in the country.
While enjoying a meal with my wife and son at the local Dairy Queen, we decided that we would finally seek out the squirrels in this quaint little town. We had heard of this curiosity for many years but had never taken the time to drive and look for ourselves. We have driven through Marionville any number of times on our way to Branson and Silver Dollar City as it is shorter, has far less traffic, and it is much easier to make our way into Silver Dollar City as we approach from the west as opposed to traveling through Branson and all that traffic on the strip. (Shudder).
So today was the day. We asked our waitress at the counter where we could best see these little guys. We were given directions to The Manor in town, so after finishing our $5.00 lunches, complete with ice cream sundaes (yummy!) we made the short jaunt into the town proper.
Not that we expected to see white squirrels bounding from tree to tree, or sitting on every porch in town, but we did expect to see something! Oh, we saw numerous grey and fox squirrels happily gnawing away on the many hickory and walnut trees in the small city but after perhaps ten minutes we had practically covered every street in town without seeing a single one.
We were about to give up hope when I spotted one just across the street from The Manor. I quickly turned the corner and eased back around to get a better look and perhaps a picture or two. This little guy, instead of acting like a celebrity posing on the red carpet at the Oscars, sat up and took stock of us. Evidently he didn't like what he saw. With a flick of his tail he scampered to the nearest tree and clambered up it, pausing only long enough to peek around the tree to check on us. We had pulled over to watch and see if he would come back down. He cursed us in squirrel for disturbing his mid-afternoon snack of a hickory nut and refused to show more than his head to us.
Have you ever seen a White Squirrel?
But I am a human, and am smarter than a squirrel. I am also a hunter who uses a bow and arrow. I have harvested several deer using my stealthy tactics and superior brain. I casually drove away and turned the corner, intending for the squirrel to see me leave and feel safe enough to come back down and finish his snack. At the next intersection, I turned around and snuck (at least as much as a solid white SUV could sneak) back into sight of the tree.
Pulling over at a point where I felt confident I could use my digital camera to snap some shots, I put the truck into park and reached into the back to grab my camera. This is where everything went horribly wrong.
I picked up the camera, which had its strap around the drink holder. The drink holder was doing what it was supposed to do, i.e. holding a drink. My son's to be exact. It was his drink from Dairy Queen, and contained a bit of root beer. The strap grabbed that drink holder and as I lifted, the drink came with it. It fell over, effectively spilling out the remainder of his drink into the rear floor board.
My wife, spot on to any faux pas I may create (and this was one, believe me) turned with extraordinary speed to grab at the drink. I, being sloth-like at best the majority of the time, turned to see what the noise was behind me and in doing so brought my elbow around.
Directly into my beautiful wife's right eye.
So now we have root beer on the floor, my wife holding her eye in pain, me trying to figure out how to take care of her and clean up the spill at the same time. Needless to say, I failed miserably at both.
She dabbed at her eye and assured me she was alright. I got out of the truck and opened the rear door to see what I could do to help her clean up yet another of my messes. She scolded me that she had it under control and for me to get back into the truck.
When I sat down and looked for the squirrel, he was gone. I guess he couldn't stand to be near such a Keystone Cops event as I was putting on.
But as I drove away, I swear I heard squirrel laughter coming from more than just that one tree.
Now for some facts about these squirrels. Per the Wikipedia page on Marionville, it is home to one of a handful of populations of these variations in the country. Another location, Olney, Illinois also has some but according to legend these originated from Marionville. Sometime in the 1930's a couple of rascals trapped a pair and sold them to Olney. So one is left to assume there is money to be made here.
However, there is currently a $500.00 fine if one is caught squirrel-napping inside the city limits. If they take this so seriously, could a repeat offender face actual jail time? One has to wonder.
Rumors as to their origins range from a traveling circus alledgedly had some escape, or even they were genetically altered into this variation by a local mad scientist named Flournly. Both stories are interesting, but my money is on the mad scientist. Can't you see a dark basement of a local Victorian home housing a chemistry set sometime in the latter half of the 19th century? Electricity has just found its way to this quiet little hamlet and the local scientist decides, on a whim, to genetically alter a pair of normal squirrels. Weeks and months of failed experiments later, he hits on the magical equation and voila! White squirrels abound where none had ever been before! (Que maniacal laughter).
Olney and Marionville are not the only places who host these pale white tree rats. Far flung locations such as Kenton, Tennessee, Brevard, North Carolina and Exeter, Ontario also lay claim to have these little critters.
Kenton states that they have had the squirrels the longest, dating back to 1869 when a "travelling gypsy caravan" reportedly left them.
Brevard hosts a White Squirrel Festival around Memorial Day each year, so if you don't have anything else to do one Memorial Day, maybe you could take a trip to see the squirrels here.
Exeter is the northernmost haven for the white squirrel. They have a festival there as well, and if you are sufficiently interested, I'm sure you could find the date they have it.
You will notice these squirrels do not have pink eyes: they are not albinos. Their eyes are a normal black in coloration; it is just their fur which is white rather than their normal coloration. I am unable to determine if they are a Fox Squirrel or a Grey Squirrel in origin. Due to their size, I would hazard a guess as to their being Grey Squirrels. Fox Squirrels tend to be a bit larger than these.
I got White Squirrel Fever!
White Squirrel Fever!
There's nothin' like them!
They're all around!
Just see them b-b-bound!
(With deepest regrets to Ted Nugent for using his song Cat Scratch Fever in this creation. Sorry, Uncle Ted!)
- Home of the White Squirrels, Marionville, Missouri
Marionville claims to have the oldest colony of white squirrels in the world.