Rusty the Pet Squirrel

From The Sentinel, Sept. 19, 1934

“Rusty,” a recently acquired pet squirrel, is quite the post important member of the Wilson family in Dexter. The boys found the tiny fellow nearly starved, apparently an orphan, so they brought the hungry baby home, fed him bread and milk, and how he has thrived on these rations. He is especially fond of peaches and will also eat all the bread and butter you will offer him. He climbs all over anyone who will pick him up, nosing into pockets and sleeves in search of any hidden crumbs of food. He is quite the cutest pet we have seen in some time.


Rusty hid nuts and other things in the door of the cabinet of Leora’s sewing machine.

Darlene with Rusty, Oct. 1934.
Rusty is on the fender, Oct. 1934.
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Rusty has climbed onto the windshield.

Dexter, Iowa. 1934.

Here’s my earlier story about Rusty, and that old truck.


  1. I loved this. I had a pet squirrel for eight years, and he was the source of a lot of fun and frustration. Smart? Oh, my, he was smart! It was really fun to see this glimpse into another family who enjoyed the experience. (Mine liked to hide pecans in shoes.)

  2. Our most amusing pet was a crow with a broken upper beak. About ½” was missing. My older brothers fed it. It stayed around all summer. It would ride on the tractor with dad in the field, on the hood of the school bus when we got on, and play havoc with our many cats. Then, late in the fall, it disappeared. Maybe the call of the wild and other crows was too enticing.

    • What fun! A neighbor near town had a pet crow, which he’s written about in his memoirs as being the town thief! It would visit the big old school and steal pencils and anything else. The teachers got tired of it, but we kids were entertained.

  3. Totally cool story. people don’t realize it, but this is the kind of stuff that really shapes people. My neighbor had a racoon. One of the most interesting things I recall is he gave some ice cream once, it washed it, and then has this sad look as the ice cream just melted away.

    • Raccoons have such expressive faces anyway. Must have been fun to watch. Also their paws. Bachelor farmer neighbors kept one outside when we were kids. The Wilson brothers were crazy about their little dog Spats. Danny would even kiss him when he came home from school, delighting a neighbor lady.

  4. My mother was born in 1934. I love to hear her stories of growing up on a farm. I love seeing the old photographs like the ones you show here. She tells me how she like to play with the barn cats, and other animals. This was such a fun read with little Rusty!

    • Thank you, Linda. If your mother won’t write down her stories, maybe you can! Mom’s stories were so painful that she didn’t get very far with them, but she would talk about things, so I had notes on the back of envelopes and scraps of paper until a couple of years ago. When I get the family’s WWII story done (hopefully by the end of the month!), I have the Depression Era stories all mapped out!

  5. I really enjoyed the photos! (And everyone’s comments, too.) Whenever my brother and I would make overtures about perhaps adopting a squirrel as a pet, my mother had one word to say (which also applied to raccoons): RABIES.

  6. I should write down my mother’s stories! I feel like I am back in time when she talks about the old farm house and all the people who lived there. She does not like to write in particular, even though she is quite good at it. I will try to write down some notes and start a journal. I hate to lose these memories…thank you for suggesting I give it a try. 🙂

    • Some of my very favorite things are my grandmother’s stories–many are shared on here under Turn of the Century, along with my mother’s which actually begin then. I’m surprised at how much they both remembered from very early ages!

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