Marion resident Rocky Hett recently had a brush with a crazed squirrel that left him with a whale of a tale and a moral to spread throughout the community.
“You never want to think a frozen thing is dead,” Hett said. “They do come back to life.”
In Hett’s cautionary tale, it was a day like any other out at the farm. He was checking live-traps when he came across a squirrel he believed to be frozen.
“I thought it was dead,” he said. “So I picked him up, put him in my pack, and threw him in my truck under the heater.”
A little while later, Hett was just minding his own business, casually driving down the road, when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye.
“It was just lying there, and then all of a sudden it started to move,” Hett said. “The dang thing had thawed out and come back to life, and it was mad. It jumped up on my shoulder and went nuts all over me. It was chewing on my head and chewing on my ear, and I just couldn’t get out of that truck fast enough.”
Hett struggled with the squirrel, managing to keep the truck on the road before he finally managed to pull over and get out.
“It scratched up my arms and face,” he said. “And I got stitches on the back of my neck where it bit me.”
At least that’s what Hett told the regulars at Marion Ampride one morning last week.
“I can make them believe anything,” Hett said.
Marion resident Tim Christensen got there in time to catch part of the story.
“He said he cut the tail off the thing, it thawed out, and started running in circles inside his truck,” Christensen said. “But it’s Rocky. He’s convincing. You never really know if he’s telling the truth. He likes to expand the story.”
Christensen chuckled. He has listened to Hett tell stories at Ampride for years. Hett looks listeners right in the eye and is always dead serious.
“He’s always got stories, like the one where he was abducted by aliens, that are a little far out there,” Christensen said. “But some are believable enough to have really happened, just probably not the exact way that he said they did.”
Hett was happy to debunk his squirrel encounter. He said he got the idea from an insurance commercial he saw.
“I ended up using that squirrel for bobcat bait,” Hett said. “I had some scratches on my arms and face from something else and thought I could make up my own version of those commercials.”
Hett’s daughter, Wendy, called him a “larger-than-life character” who inherited his talent for yarn spinning from his grandpa Manuel.
“Daddy’s always been an entertainer,” Wendy said. “He’s always liked to keep the pot stirred. He always had coffee at the gas station and he used to like telling a story there in the morning, then going down to Markley’s to have coffee again with the guys to see if it came back to him.”
Wendy said her dad’s exploits caused her to believe in Santa Claus until she was almost in high school. She still is convinced he really was abducted by aliens.
“It’s really subtle, but you can tell he’s spinning one of his stories when he gets a twinkle in his eye and the corner of his mouth goes up a bit. Most of his stories I’ve heard a hundred times but the funniest things actually happened to him,” she said.
She noted a story in which he and friend Alan Meyers ended up in a precarious position.
Rocky tells it this way:
“Years back my best friend, Alan, and I were out burning packrat nests out in the woods. Well, one of those packrats came running out and ran into a hollow tree bottom.
“So I run over there and put my boot on the hole so the pack rat can’t get out. Anyhow, Alan, who is a great big fat man, comes up with a shovel full of hot coals and dumps them down the top of the hollow tree, and the dang packrat comes running out and goes right up my pant leg, scratching my leg all the way up, but I grab hold of it before it gets my privates.
“Alan said I was dancing ’round like a movie sped up a hundred times, and he tries to hit the packrat with his shovel but falls backward over a log, and he’s so fat he can’t get up.
He paused, laughing.
“Meanwhile, I can feel the blood running down my leg, until Alan finally gets up and comes over to help,” Hett said. “And there we were, out in the middle of the woods, Alan undoing my pants to get the thing out.”
Wendy loves it when her dad cracks a smile and giggles at the end of a story. She wants to document her dad’s storytelling on film for future generations.
“He’s a real piece of work,” Wendy said. “There is no one like my dad.”