Stuffed Squirrels

Christmas card with tree and deer

“It was nothing like the Christmas we made our paper chain and put it on the tree. We popped popcorn and made our own chains. We took innertubes and cut out squirrels and things. My aunt helped to make them and we stuffed them. They were so pretty hanging on that tree. We made some candles, but we didn’t have many candles too often. We had two up on the mantel, and then we had a Christmas stocking and we made it. That was some kind of a pine! We just went out in the field and got it, and it was so pretty. I took paper (crepe paper) and twisted three different colors around. We didn’t have electric lights, but I’d been quilting, and I took my quilt and put it in the center of my house. I’d twist the crepe paper around the branches, and I hung some mistletoe and then they got under it.”

—Lillian Hooper – “Mountain Voices” by Warren Moore

I wish I could have seen those innertube stuffed squirrels don’t you 🙂

When I was a girl we always went out on the bank or up in the woods hunting for a Christmas tree. Sometimes it was a white pine and sometimes it was more of a cedar bush than a tree.

Artificial Christmas trees or ones from Christmas tree farms are fuller and handier for hanging ornaments and lights on, but there is something so very heartwarming about the trees that are spare and little wonky in places.


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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    December 29, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    Tonight I found an old post by Matt where he was talking about his knives and how to sharpen them. Hearing him talk brought back some old memories from my childhood, when you could take a pocket knife to school and not get sent home. We boys would often take an old plug knife to school to trade. We’d sharpen them to the point where we could shave our arms, oil them to a shine and do our best to trade for a better knife. My favorite knife, a small one with three blades, I have misplaced, Now I have a Barlow, which seems to be indestructible and a Leatherman which I carry when I’m out in the yard. Thanks, Matt

  • Reply
    December 29, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    Growing up we always had a cedar tree too. We’d go out and cut it on the old farm place, where they were everywhere. They always smelled good, but those tiny needles were rough on hands and bare kid’s feet. It would usually last about a week and a half, still smelling good even when being taken out of the house. We had a mixture of old old ornaments, some pretty fancy, some cracked or broken. Mama liked lots of lights of all colors, so we had them. And those old fashioned lights that if one bulb was bad, you had to test every one until you found the bad one. We had a big tree at our house, then a smaller one at my Grandma’s.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    When I saw the blog title, I thought it was about cooking a stuffed squirrel…lol… I had no idea it was a much sweeter and a creative topic on inner tube squirrels. I’m sure they were cute and fun to make.
    When I thought it was about cooking a squirrel, my mind went back to a time when as a child my mom took us to visit her sister that lived way back in the mountains of WV. It took well over 4 hours to get to her house, with no place to stop back then, so we were hungry when we got there. She always knew we’d be hungry from our travel and had the table loaded with some delicious home cooked food when we got there. I was eating some rather small chicken, or so I thought. While licking my fingers from the savory taste, I said Aunt Betty this is the best chicken I’ve ever ate. My uncle started laughing and said “girl, that ain’t chicken, that’s squirrel meat. I killed a bunch this morning so she could fry them up for dinner.” My mouth dropped, the meat dropped and I didn’t eat another bite. Their entire family laughed at the look on my face. I should have noticed that my mom and siblings didn’t get any of the fried meat on the table. Nobody warned me that one never knew what kind of critter would be fried up in Aunt Betty’s frying pan. After that day anytime we visited and she made a meal. I’d eat all the fixings, but never the meats. Funny thing is, I remember I did really enjoyed the meat and it did taste like chicken, however, I’d rather watch squirrels jump through the trees than eat them. My Aunt Betty has passed on, but I’ll always remember her fondly. Now you know why I thought your “Stuffed squirrel “ post was about cooking squirrel. A lot of people eat squirrel and other critters that live deep in the mountains. Nothing wrong with it, and if you know how to cook it right.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    December 28, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    Loved all your tree stories. In our Va. coalfields, we always had lots of cedars for our trees, with the beautiful lighted angel atop and bubble lights!!! The tree we always remember most is the fat HOLLY TREE. Daddy brought it in and…it’s so pretty with all them red berries, it don’t need any decoration. And he was right, it was pretty but on the second day inside,. It was very dry and started dropping it’s pointy leaves. Good thing it was Christmas already . We put on our shoes to open our presents. And the tree was taken outside the next day . We all remember picking up dry red berries and lots of prickly holly leaves!
    It was back to cedar trees after that.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    We lived in town but not far from the Raleigh city limits. When I was small and well into the 1950s, we would walk the 3 or 4 miles to a woods where one of us 6 boys had spotted a good cedar on our woods ramblings. On the weekend before Christmas, or the one before that, we would harvest the tree and bring it home where Pa would nail 2 boards to the bottom that he had sawn ‘flat’ then put spacers on the bottom ends of the ‘top’ board for balance. We would then take it in the living room and make it stand, then decorate it. We had a small collection of store-bought ornaments but we made paper tinsel by pasting strips of paper into a circle then placing the next one in it and so on. We also tried to make popcorn strings but it never worked out well. Either the popcorn popper held over the fireplace fire didn’t produce good results or we ate them before we got enough for a string. One year I remember Pa putting white (‘arsh’) potatoes in the fires ashes before we put the stand on the tree. We ate the baked potatoes while he popped corn. That year we got strings of popcorn on the tree. Those trees never made it to New Year’s because they got too dry and there was always the danger of a spark from the fireplace getting to them.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 28, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    I just now noticed the postcard. A doe and two fawns in the snow. Something don’t seem right. Shouldn’t the fawns be a lot bigger by the time it snows. I see a lot of deer in my yard and by Christmas time the fawns are almost as big as their mothers.
    I’m definitely not a deer expert. The Deer Hunter would know.

    • Reply
      December 28, 2021 at 5:47 pm

      Ed-He agree with you-that’s awful late for fawns 🙂

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 11:49 am

    I don’t know if I’m related to Lillian Hooper or not. I don’t recall hearing the name. Dad’s mother was a Hooper and Mom’s mother was a Cooper and both were from the Graham County area. Earlier ancestors were in the Cades Cove area as well as the NC side and some were from Virginia.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 28, 2021 at 11:36 am

    I stacked up red solo cups to make my Christmas tree this year. It’s sorta like a Jenga game but so far it hasn’t fallen even once. My plan is to leave it standing until I use up all the cups.’

    We couldn’t have a cedar for a Christmas tree when I was growing up. Daddy had 120 acres of mostly woodland with a wide variety of trees, but no cedars. Daddy cut them all down before them got big enough to be used as a Christmas tree. He said they harbored a fungus called cedar-apple rust that got transferred to his apple trees and caused blisters on the leaves and scabs on the fruit.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 10:17 am

    What a creative idea to make squirrels out of old inner tubes. Creativity ran strong in those who came before me and it is those hand-made items that we treasure. My Mother, even in her later years, could take a piece of crepe paper and in a few seconds turn it into the most beautiful flower.
    I love the smell of pine and have had real Christmas trees but I think we switched to an artificial tree in the mid 70’s and this year I used a tree about 4 ft tall and I’m happy with that size.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 9:57 am

    We would always have an Eastern Red Cedar cut on our property. It just didn’t seem right to cut one from a neighbor’s land even though they didn’t care. My wife liked to tell about her and her 4 sisters going out during the night with their daddy and cutting their tree during some of the years. Their daddy was a supervisor in a cotton mill and would sometimes work around 80 hrs or more a week. He never worked a 40 hr week while working in the mill. They would also cut the cedar tree on their land. She didn’t say but I sure they didn’t do this on a school night. I think almost everyone would use an Eastern Red Cedar when we were growing up. A live tree just smells more like Christmas to me.

  • Reply
    Patricia Wilson
    December 28, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Because I have childhood memories of cutting a tree in the woods, I was determined that my children would have similar memories. The only suitable “natives” in central Texas are the cedars – which are actually junipers. From a distance, many of them looked like great Christmas trees, but up close – not so much. Our back yard adjoined an undeveloped wooded property of a hundred acres so no car was necessary -just drag it home. Cedars are not ideal for decorating with ornaments that had any weight (understatement!) and after a week in the house ours felt more like a cactus than an evergreen. The next year, my daughters asked if we could buy a pretty Christmas tree like their friends. So much for trying to recreate my childhood in my daughters’ lives. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 28, 2021 at 3:07 pm

      Howdy, Patricia!

      Another central Texan here! (Temple)

    • Reply
      Jerry Wright
      December 28, 2021 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Robert and Patricia. My maternal grandmother was from East Tennessee. I live near Poolville, Tx.

  • Reply
    Mark Taylor
    December 28, 2021 at 9:48 am

    My family had live trees, mostly cedar, that were as much round as they were tall. When my wife and I first married, we have real trees until our daughter’s first Christmas and she tried to eat the needles that had fallen. The next year we purchased an artificial tree with pre-strung lights. That sure saved a lot of time until we got a kitten who climbed the tree and got tangled in the wires. We had to cut the wires to get her out. We have another artificial tree and the cat, now age 11, watches while I get it set up and decorated. Once I’m finished, she goes under the tree and lays on the skirt with her front legs straight out, like the Egyptian sphinx. I guess she’s claimed that as her domain. Thanks for sharing these stories.

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 9:41 am

    It touched my heart when you used the word wonky for Christmas trees. I remember we always went with Dad to pick a tree for him to cut. He aways had loads of every kind of tree planted. I still remember how lovely the tree would look out in the field, but once it was set up in the living room there was always big gaps and limbs longer than others. We would carefully decide which “good” side would be facing out into the room. Never perfect, but the secret was using lots of tinsel, and soon the tree was transformed into a draped beauty. Later when children decorated the tree all the ornaments were at the bottom. Later Mom had those silver artificial trees that are now very vintage. It took me many years to realize I was allergic to evergreen, so artificial trees became the norm. I wish I had a picture each year of the family in front of the trees, but sadly for all the time and decorating we only have one wonky tree to show for all the years.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    December 28, 2021 at 9:37 am

    I cannot imagine how much work it took to decorate for Christmas years ago. How creative they were. Enjoyed this post, as always. Take care and God bless. Happy, Healthy New Year!!

  • Reply
    Cynthia P or Dennis M Morgan
    December 28, 2021 at 9:34 am

    When I was a child we would cut a Christmas tree off the of the place. When I was around 14 we moved and then we started using artificial trees. Cutting one off our land was always fun. Dennis Morgan

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 9:12 am

    The strand of big Christmas lights that heated our cedar tree at Christmas is a sight and smell I will always remember. We couldn’t let the lights ‘burn’ very long for fear they would set the house on fire. Mom never made stuffed squirrels to use as decorations but she did cut colorful things out of the Montgomery Ward Catalogue to hang on the tree.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 28, 2021 at 8:40 am

    One of the good things of finding and cutting your own tree was that no two of the wild-grown were ever the same, even if the same kind. Over the years, I learned to not mix hemlock, heat and carpet. And in a different connection I learned to never ever put eastern red cedar needles in ones’ mouth. They go forward easily but not back. In an amusing way, it teaches us that perfection is not needed for joy. And that is a valuable life lesson.

    I somehow can’t imagine stuffed innertube squirrels. I’m thinking two pieces cut out and attached to each other then stuffed? I would never have thought of doing that.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    December 28, 2021 at 8:17 am

    I really enjoyed that Christmas memory you shared and yes I too would’ve loved to get a peek at those squirrels! I’m a fake tree person and I’m proud to tell all my little tree had it’s 5th or so Christmas with no ending in sight. Do I love pine? It’s probably my favorite scent. I’m not going into the wilds to chop down a tree. Years ago when Carly and Mara we’re home, we would go to a tree lot or farm to get them a tree. But time changes all things. My tree is all of 4 feet but taller on a table. In years to come I see my ceramics tabletop tree being the BIG exhibit at Christmas…. getting old is NOT for punks and sissy’s…

  • Reply
    December 28, 2021 at 7:29 am

    My ‘wonky’ Christmas tree this year reminded folks of Charlie Brown’s, with the round topper ornament pulling it to lean to one side. Ha! No matter, it was beautiful and still alive and its now planted in my yard. Thanks for all The Blind Pig and Acorn posts. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    December 28, 2021 at 7:21 am

    For years, when our children were little, I took them on a hike to cut our Christmas tree. I’d always try and spot a good one while deer hunting in the weeks prior to Christmas time and remember the spot. They would get so excited when we found the tree, usually an Eastern Red Cedar. After I chopped it down with my hatchet, we would drag it to the car and head home to decorate it. My wife would have cookies and hot chocolate ready and a Christmas album playing. Sometimes, I wish they were little again.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    December 28, 2021 at 6:57 am

    I enjoy every article you post , thank you and Happy Healthy New Year ❤

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 28, 2021 at 6:52 am

    In those days, I think, there was more creativity in Christmas and in everything, actually. It was a time of make your own and make do, and people knew how to survive. I’m not sure we are as strong as the people who came before us. They had to be strong to survive.
    Tip, those old Christmas cards you have are real treasures. I have very much enjoyed them this Christmas season!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    December 28, 2021 at 5:56 am

    Growing up in San Diego, we always had an artificial tree. My parents still do. When I was in my 20s, I moved to Iowa. I would go to a tree farm there and cut my own tree. One year I had the most beautiful and perfect nine foot full tree – until you walked to the other side of it and saw the big gaping area that had no branches at all. But I got it anyways, and put the missing branches side facing the wall. I think it is great that you guys could pick your tree from so close to your house. Charlie Brown trees are just as pretty as big full ones! I remember making paper chains as a kid. Half my tree ornaments are handmade, I think those give the tree such a traditional loved look! Thank you for this post – I enjoyed reading it and imagining everything Lillian Hooper described!

    Donna. : )

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