Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The year was 1869. The night was stormy. The history was a’making. Twelve Quakers held hands in silence. Then they did that seriously unhygienic thing where you prick your finger and smush them with your friends’ fingers, and yuck. A single light shone in the middle of the circle. The Somewhat Eternal Flame of the Squirrel and Nut society had been lit, forever binding the twelve in a…bind of secrecy! Trust, faith, evil! Heartbreak! illusion! lust! deceit! oatmeal!
There was some controversy surrounding the inception of the society. First of all, the name lent itself to ridicule. According to the minutes of a meeting, Charles Hatheway ’68 defended the title with “Well, you sorta had to be there!” (We, as modern readers who hopefully were not there, can therefore not judge.) Other members were concerned that the title would otherize other campus critters. Finally, some were kind of put off by the blood thing. But despite these concerns, the S&N went on, in strict secrecy.
Records of the First Lighting are incomplete. Where did it take place? Who knew about it? Was it SAC-funded? And seriously, what’s with the blood? Buried deep into the annals of history, the answers to those questions may be forever lost. What we do know about the agenda of the society comes from a letter written by Brother James Calloway ’71, in March of 1869. It began with: “Ye olde First Lighting was t3h swell.” and then continues with an unfortunate recounting of Brother James battle with gout. Later, the letter reads “Ye olde squirrels at faire Swarthmore seem a tad timid in mine eyes. How ye old Haverford squirrels look menacing with their ye olde beady eyes! Something must be done. Our first task has been selected, thinksme.”
Suspiciously, records of the Scott Arboretum report a significant plunge in the squirrel population in 1869. Though the Official Squirrel Census showed a robust population of approximately 863 squirrels in Spring of 1868, that number plunged to 223 the following Spring. A study done by biologists at Swarthmore College published some interesting findings in the May 1999 Journal of Squirrely Studies. Gel electropheresis analysis of squirrel DNA at Swarthmore reveals unnerving similarities with Amazon squirrels. The two populations have been geographically isolated for thousands of years…and yet.
The squirrel population was on the rise the following years, finally returning to a population of approximately 878 in 1873. What happened in between? An inspection of the historical record is not clear. BUT OMG I TOTALLY THINK BROTHER JAMES LEAD AN EFFORT TO ROUND UP ALL OF THE SQUIRRELS, TOOK THEM TO SOME UNDERGROUND, OVERSEAS LABORATORY AND BRED THEM FOR AGGRESSIVENESS!! THAT’S WHY THEY ARE SO T3H SCARY! BROTHER JAMES IS SO BAD-ASS.
Of course, one can only speculate.
Return on April 1st, 2008 for the next installment of this one hundred and thirteen part series– “The Free Masons and the Squirrel and Nutters- A Venn Diagramic Analysis”