A Squirrel With Nuts

How a natural disaster spawned a rodental pastime.

When Hurricane David blew a four-pound squirrel out of its nest and into the lives of Chuck and Lou Ann Best in 1978, few could have forecast the phenomenon that would unfold.

"Some friends found her after the storm," recalls Lou Ann Best. "We just kept her warm and fed her. She was probably about six weeks old at the time."

Avid waterskiers from Sanford, Florida, the Bests concocted a nutty notion to help the squirrel feel more at home in her new surroundings: Using their daughter's remote-controlled boat, they taught their furry friend to waterski. And "Twiggy" was a natural.

Named for her penchant to render houseplants leafless and "twiggy," the domesticated furball swims up to the boat, grips the towline with both paws, stands tall, and skims through six inches of warm water at top speeds of five to six miles-per-hour. This weekend, Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel makes one of her favorite tour stops: The Cleveland Mid-America Boat Show at the I-X Center.

"Our Cleveland show is the longest running," says Best. "This is our 14th straight year here, and the response is always tremendous. There are people who come to the shows every year, and they make a point to see Twiggy." Showgoers will have 17 chances throughout the 10-day run to catch's Twiggy's gig.

Be warned, however: This Twiggy is not the original Twiggy. Squirrelly lifespans being relatively brief, the present Twiggy, age six, is the fourth to bear the name and attain the fame. The first Twiggy lived nine and a half years.

"We taught the first one, and everyone started bringing us all these orphan squirrels, so I've taken in a lot over the years," says Best. "They're not all as trainable, they're not all as lovable as Twiggy. It's just that people bring 'em to me."

And what else can you do with an orphaned squirrel?