Part 3

“A Squirrel Ate Our Mailbox”

The black squirrels of Princeton University and surrounding areas are famous. Visitors to the campus immediately notice these striking creatures, as they are all over the place. Biology classes at the university are periodically recruited to do surveys of the black squirrels. They’ve counted hundreds of them. There are legends and myths about them. They can be very friendly and not at all afraid of people. They are so cute that people wind up feeding them and adopting them almost as pets. One of the myths is that in one of Princeton’s biology labs, an experiment produced this black breed, and they were let loose to roam the campus. The truth is that black squirrels were reported in the New York and New Jersey area as early as 1665. But nobody knows why they are especially abundant on the Princeton University Campus. They are a mystery, a curiosity, and sometimes a down right nuisance!

After Solange and Fernando arrived in Princeton from Brazil to study for their graduate degrees, they moved into a typical university owned house close to the town center. It was a charming white wooden 19th century Victorian house, but the only furniture they had in the house was a refrigerator and a stove. “The refrigerator was broken. Unfortunately we found out only after buying groceries, including ice cream” remembers Solange. The house was cold, the insulation was poor, and the heating system was inadequate. But to make up for this sad state of affairs, they had nice neighbors, they were studying with interesting and, in some cases, world famous professors at Princeton University, and a cute black squirrel named Filomena had adopted them. “We had a squirrel that behaved like a dog”, Fernando remembered with a smile on his face. “We gave her a name.Filomena! Filomena would sit on the porch with us in nice weather. She would greet us when we came back from classes, and she broke into our house many times!!”. Filomena also loved chocolate, and at the slightest whiff of it she was at the door. They could pet her, as she had no fear. The neighbors were recruited to give Filomena the TLC that Solange and Fernando couldn’t when they went on trips. After one long trip, they returned to find a big hole in their mailbox. Filomena was tight lipped, so they had to ask the neighbors what happened. “We had left some peanuts with our neighbor. The neighbor left the peanuts in our mailbox thinking it would be easier just to pull some of them out and give them to Filomena that way.” But Filomena had her own ideas. She ate through part of the mailbox and got the peanuts herself.

Eventually their house was repaired, the heating system was fixed and they got some furniture. “But”, said Solange,” Nothing could fix Filomena. She continued her naughty ways”

More adventures with Solange and Fernando soon.

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