Carleton is a pretty cool place. No question about it. Look it up- the extremely authoritative source of Google reviews gives Carleton an average of 4.9 stars. “Outstanding,” says ‘A Google User” 3 years ago. “The best college in the world!” claims another reviewer. “Absolutely the best liberal arts college in America,” comments another. But of all 29 reviews, only the first 7 contain text, and of those, only two specify actual reasons. What specifically makes Carleton so great? Ask around and you’ll get varying responses: things like “the people,” “the teachers,” “the environment,” “the new Hampton creek cookie dough that doesn’t give you cancer,” and so on. But just recently, an opportunity has arisen for Carleton to definitively prove its excellence in a very tangible way.
For the first time in history, Carleton has contacted the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society – the ASPS – with a serious bid to join the world-renowned and extremely prestigious organization. Were Carleton to formally become a member of the ASPS, the indubitable result would be a massive increase in the school’s prestige worldwide. No longer would 5-star google reviews feature such vague and general praise. People would have something to fixate upon – “Carleton’s great.” “Why?” “Well, we’re members of the ASPS. What more could you ask for?”
The ASPS, affiliated with some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including Cambridge and no others worth mentioning, was founded in 2001 at the University of Texas and has since emerged as a global leader in promoting, as quoted from their website, “basically any activity which promotes the well-being of the albino squirrel.”
This legitimate, prominent, and globally relevant organization rests its admissions process primarily on candidates acknowledging their existence, but actually having an albino squirrel on campus is helpful too. And here’s our ace in the hole.
There exists a white squirrel living on Nevada Street. He’s got quite a few names and quite a bit of history. Let me tell you, this guy’s been making news stories for almost a decade. His first appearance on the internet, under the name ‘Jumal,’ was on the blog of one Griff J. Wigley, in a post published on May 13, 2005, which was quickly picked up by Northfield.org and featured as a front-page story on the website. A picture of Jumal, taken by Carleton student Colin McLain, rumor has it, got as close to viral as things could get on the internet of 2005.
The second time our friend Jumal made the news was in 2007. A story featured in the Northfield News section of Southernminn.com, a prominent news site, opens with the line “My recent mention of seeing an albino squirrel in the city’s east side has caused more comment than anything I’ve written in a long time!” It’s evident that these creatures are rare: “This is the first albino squirrel I have seen in my 86 years,” continues the author, Maggie Lee, who was contacted on several occasions by Northfield residents with pictures or stories concerning our friend Jumal.
From the article, “Bill Poehlmann, who lives on Winona, was the first to telephone me about the squirrel. He said that the squirrel gets around the area daily, especially going any place where there is a walnut tree. Bill said that two years ago his daughter said to him, ‘Do rabbits climb trees?’ She explained that something white had just climbed a tree in their yard. He added that the albino plays with other ‘gray squirrels.’”
Mrs. Lee continues to detail the squirrel’s living habits, noting that Jumal’s home is most likely located between Parish and Hill house (notably, very consistent with recent spottings!) and that he seems to be more reticent and shy than most grey squirrels, pointing to a lack of camouflage as necessitating increased caution.
In this instance, our squirrel is nicknamed “Roy,” by Mrs. Lee, named after a long-time Carleton night watchman named Roy Breez. While there is no reason to doubt that Jumal and Roy are the same squirrel, is it possible that the squirrel recently spotted around Nevada street could be different?
The answer is a firm no. The most immediate questions concern lifespan and territorial continuity – could one squirrel live for 10 years in the same place? Jumal, we have determined at the Carletonian (with all due professionalism,) is an eastern grey squirrel (as opposed to an American red.) The two main species of squirrel in Minnesota- American reds and Eastern greys are notably different in multiple regards – physically, reds are smaller, more vocal, more aggressive, and, most notably, more red (although Jumal dodges the question on this point.)
The average lifespan of an American grey squirrel is between 15 and 18 years, and all species of squirrel tend to remain fairly sedentary over the years, suggesting that our Jumal could very well have been here all this time.
Territorial behavior differs greatly between species of squirrel: red boars (yes, male squirrels are called boars. Females are sows.) actually will claim patches of land (which can be up to 25 acres in size, as I’ve learned from a website that absolutely exudes complete illegitimacy) and then defend them by literally running other squirrels off – but the grey ones are generally much less combative, do not stake such bold land claims, and chase other squirrels only to establish dominance, consistent with the behavior we have observed from Jumal.Jumal, as Jumal, as a squirrel, means quite a lot to us at Carleton. But Jumal as an idea means so much more. He is a tangible, if not elusive, symbol of Carleton’s excellence in every way. Carleton student-smart enough not to get hit by cars, full of that specific Minnesota style, and causing news stories every time he’s spotted in public. Jumal, as a metaphor, represents everything a fifth-grade english teacher could ask for. We can only be grateful for his presence, and for everything he brings to the Carleton community.