Before making the big announcement, first just a little background. We see movie stars on the screen acting out their prescribed roles- doctor, cowboy, scientist, soldier, pirate, spy, super hero, astronaut, etc. And while we know that is not their real job or role in life, it is still odd sometimes to see an actor who you always visualize as a trail-worn cowboy or dashing pirate from the movies, suddenly in the news playing in a tennis or golf tournament, or balancing the movie images with how they appear on a red carpet premier or talk show.
We were all discussing that while relaxing in front of the fireplace on a cold night some months ago, about how Johnny Depp is so different in person from his characters Captain Jack Sparrow or Willy Wonka, for example. And then that set us to thinking about our own upcoming stories. The “us” being Little Red Bear and myself, of course.
Word somehow got around this time last year that we were looking for a few different critters to play roles in the upcoming “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short story series, and now we have more birds, animals, bugs, plants, wildflowers, trees, fish and other assorted varmints running around wanting to be in the stories than we can shake two sticks at. Even a few determined backwoods, historical, farming and other human folks have shown up at the door wanting to be included in Red’s adventures. It’s amazing how word spreads. And a little overwhelming.
The sudden onslaught of potential story characters was compounded when the Ostriches caused that fuss and work shutdown in the beginning of the year. The Ostrich Strike set us weeks behind interviewing and meeting with potential characters, all while the line got even longer. If you’re new to these parts and missed out on what I’m talking about with the Ostriches and all, you can catch right up by reading the Ozarks Ostrich Crisis here. There’s a link at the top of the page, under “Short Works & Free Reads”. It’s free of course, just like it says.
And while the different critters and folks may play a role in Red’s stories, just as in the movies- they may not be appearing in the story “exactly” as they are in real life. So while Little Red Bear and I continue to meet with new story characters and finish off the first collection of Red’s adventures to be released for you soon, we thought you might like to meet a few of the upcoming characters ahead of time and have the opportunity to get to know and learn about them as they truly are, not their “play acting” story or “movie role” so to speak. And also for you to get in on some of the happenings and events as we get closer to the release of Little Red Bear’s first collection of adventures. A special “Behind the Scenes” look now and then.
But with Red and I both fully occupied with his stories and not having any more time available, we decided to look for a Blog Assistant to collect news, information and do the interviews for you. After weeks of recruiting and interviewing applicants we have made our selection, and now are pleased to introduce you to our new Blog Assistant—Rusty the Red Squirrel.
Rusty is an American Red Squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus to be precise. American Red Squirrels are a rusty reddish color with a white underbelly, and are a little smaller than the Grey Squirrels you see in your backyard. But a little larger than a chipmunk. They are also known as Pine Squirrels, North American Red Squirrels, Chickarees and Fairydiddles by some. Some folks confuse them with Douglas Squirrels which are found in the Pacific Northwest, but the Douglas Squirrels have a rusty colored underbelly. If you see a Red Squirrel and aren’t sure which it is, just ask them to roll over and it will be easy enough to tell the difference.
Red Squirrels are found all over North America. While traditionally they have inhabited conifer forests (pines, fir, spruce and cone-bearing trees and shrubs) with a diet somewhat specialized in the seeds of the conifer cones, they have recently been expanding their diet and range into hardwood forests as well. They seem to have a fondness for a variety of mushrooms, clipping and hanging them over tree branches to dry out in the sun to store for a later time. Very clever. Red Squirrels can even eat some mushroom varieties which are otherwise poisonous and deadly to humans. I won’t be asking Rusty for any mushroom recommendations or to help gather any for mealtimes.
Of the different names, I have always liked the name Chickaree the best, which arose in the early 1800’s and is kind of imitative of the Red Squirrel’s call, what they sound like. “Fairydiddle”, somewhat more common in the south, is the one Little Red Bear picked up on right away of course, the tease that he is sometimes. I’m sure Rusty will be hearing “Fairydiddle” rather frequently in the woods here now, as he is already becoming known in the area as “Rusty the Fairydiddle”, or as I have overheard some saying—“The Rusty Little Fairydiddle”.
New on the job and still getting acquainted, he’s being polite about it but I can tell by the occasional grimace it may not be his favorite choice of nickname. He’ll probably just have to get used to it though. Just about everybody in this neck of the woods has a nickname, or two, so he might be stuck with it. Personally, I’ve always been known as “Reverend Jim” by some and “capnstormalong” by others here, and I honestly have no idea what inspired either of them. Well, maybe capnstormalong. Nonetheless, there it is. A nickname is the sign of acceptance in the backwoods here, unless it’s hurtful of course. And then it’s usually dealt with straight away and changed. Little Red Bear and other folks here like to playfully tease and have fun in a give-and-take kind of way. It’s all harmless until someone’s feelings get hurt, and nobody likes that.
Rusty had an unusual childhood for a Red Squirrel. He was orphaned in an outbreak of violent early summer storms when he was just a pup (that’s what they call a baby squirrel, or a “kit” or “kitten” sometimes, too). Thankfully, he was rescued by wildlife workers but then inexplicably sent with his three sisters to England where he was taken in and raised by a good-hearted English woman living in Newcastle, in the Northumberland region. Over time and taking odd jobs, he worked his way back to the United States. So although Rusty is an American Red Squirrel thru and thru, he does speak at times with a slight British accent and flair, inherited I suppose from the kindly Mrs. Wilkinson. And Rusty brings with him a fervent love of tea and scones, which fits right in with the rest of us, oddly enough. You can view the video Rusty sent in with his application a few months ago, a May entry in the Blog here entitled “An Applicant for the New Blog Feature”. Just scroll down or click on the “May” link in the Blog Archives on the right to find it. By submitting the video, I thought he may have been trying to play up the “cuteness” angle a little in the beginning of the application process, but it was clearly his qualifications and skills which landed him the position in the end.
Rusty is indeed well qualified for the Blog Assistant position. After returning to the U.S., he decided to resume his education and audited many classes at the renowned Journalism School at the University of Missouri nearby, peering in and listening at the windows while taking voluminous notes, with majors in News Reporting, Watchdog Journalism and Field & Stream Broadcasting. After completing the University’s journalism program, he worked as an Investigative Reporter for the “Squirrelly World” newspaper, which is discussed in the Ostrich Stories if you would like to learn more. Of higher journalistic integrity and aspiring to do better, he left “Squirrelly World” to find more reputable employment, and we are delighted to give him the opportunity here on the Blog.
It will be Rusty’s job to scurry around the mountains, hollers, backwoods and neighboring farmlands here to uncover news stories, dig up interesting features for our readers, and to interview upcoming story characters. He’s very good at undercover, hole-and-corner sneaking about, as demonstrated by his extensive and stealthy reporting experience at “Squirrelly World”. He possesses a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, as you might expect from a squirrel, and is a very dedicated, determined and active little fellow. We are confident he will do a bang-up job for you.
“I endeavor to get the truthful facts of a story out with all the nutty, natty and nitty-gritty details; and want to help readers to get to know the actual critters, the real face and whiskers behind the story mask.”~ Rusty the Red Squirrel
So, Little Red Bear and I are very happy to introduce you to Rusty, the new Blog Assistant. Or “Rusty the Fairydiddle” it appears.
Watch for his first in a regular series of features entitled “Rusty Behind the Scenes” coming soon.
Thanks for reading! — Jim (and Red!)
American Red Squirrel On a Branch
American Red Squirrel With a Pine Cone