Sometimes, investigative journalism calls for a wild squirrel

After getting the blindfold on Tippy the wild squirrel last week, I've decided it's just easier to leave it on.
After getting the blindfold on Skippy the wild squirrel last week, I’ve decided it’s just easier to leave it on.

I realize it’s April Fool’s Day, but this is no joke. The retrospective of The Door (of Shame, Blame and Brilliance) in our newsroom has come to an end. But by request, we’ll be spending Wednesdays during April looking back at The Box (Of Weird Unclaimed Photos) in our newsroom with Skippy the Wild, Blindfolded Squirrel.

For those who are unfamiliar with this past weekly feature, or who, after reading this introduction, feel they might be having a stroke, let me explain.

The Box is a collection of odd, unidentified photos which — just like many items in our break-room refrigerator — have remained unclaimed for 10 years or more. Utilizing my journalistic training, combined with the full extent of our 1980s computer technology, I attempt to explain the circumstance surrounding a randomly chosen photo from The Box. This random selection process is achieved by me quietly dumping the photos onto the floor and then, just as quietly, releasing a Skippy the Wild, Blindfolded Squirrel into the newsroom. The photo nearest the first reporter to scream or get bitten (possibly both) is the winner!

The debut photo from The Box appeared in October 2013. It called upon me to utilize my extensive journalistic sleuthing skills like never before. As with all photos in The Box, this one contained no information as to the identity of the individual or the circumstances surrounding it. My only clue was that it was inside an small envelope with the word “suspicious” written on it.


Naturally, the first step in my investigation is to determine a time frame. For obvious reasons, this was easy. Once I identified the type of artificial plants that are in the photo, then tracked down the manufacturer, it was simply a matter of narrowing down the year in which that particular style of plastic plant was made, which I did by driving to Hoboken, N.J. and sifting through hundreds of order catalogues. I eventually determined the photo was taken in 1999. This was confirmed by the date in the top left corner of the sign she is holding, which I noticed shortly after my return from Hoboken.

Armed with the year of our photo, I entered our newspaper’s “morgue.” This is where, as I mentioned last week, we keep issues of Siuslaw News dating back to 1870 which, to answer one follower’s question, was actually several years before I started working here.

In search of 1999 — and the peanut butter sandwich Ieft there that same year.
In search of 1999 — and the peanut butter sandwich Ieft there that same year.

It wasn’t long before an ugly truth began to surface about our quiet little town, and a cover-up involving what I believe was a short-lived senior citizen prostitution ring.

As Geraldo Rivera would say, "I think the evidence speaks for itself."
As Geraldo Rivera would say, “I think the evidence speaks for itself.”

While I could find no direct evidence supporting my theory, I find it oddly coincidental that our local Senior Center held dozens of “bingo nights” followed by “pancake breakfasts” the same year it re-modeled the badminton court and bought all new shuttlecocks.

As expected, when I called the center I was told “no one from 1999 was available for comment” because they were “no longer with us.”

Well… How convenient.

Rest assured I will find out where they went…



(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

36 thoughts on “Sometimes, investigative journalism calls for a wild squirrel”

  1. How does a new shuttlecock play into this whole mystery? I think this is the key to breaking the case. I have found if you follow the shuttlecock you find a racket somewhere.

  2. I really hope you find the long-lost peanut butter sandwich… just in time for National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day, which happens to be tomorrow. There’s going to be an article on ᴀ ɴᴇᴡ ʏᴏʀᴋ ᴍɪɴᴜᴛᴇ where this momentous occasion will be celebrated in style.

      1. I’m not sure I want to weigh in on PB&J Day. The last time I did that I had to buy my local pharmacy a new beam scale.

      1. Please do! Because there ain’t no tellin’ what might have ended up in there from 1981-1985… ha ha! *hint* those were my college days. THANK GOD we didn’t have social media back then!!!!! 😉

  3. Well, well, well. So the truth finally comes out, eh? i knew that those seniors were up to something all that time. they always look so smug, like they know something the rest of us don’t. Fine jurnalistic investigation Ned. I have to say that reading your blog is more informative than reading the New York Times. Keep up the good work!

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