STRATFORD HOLLOW, NH – Just off Route 3 in Stratford, in a tiny crease in the valley, lies the sleepy hamlet of Stratford Hollow. There, tucked in the back of the Memorial Common, sits a strange fellow, a playground ride that is both Beaver and Squirrel.
Under the chipping, no doubt toxic brown paint, this waist-high creature beckons children to climb onto its saddle, hold the metal handles protruding from the ears and rock back and forth. The beaver-squirrel is connected to the earth by a question-marked shaped steel hinge to allow for maximum rockage. The connection to the ground is tenuous, and one day the beaver-squirrel will lift free of its anchor and make for the woods, leaving some hapless child sprawled in the dirt.
There is a companion to the beaver-squirrel, a gold painted lion. For years these playground sentinels have stood together, luring children onto their backs with the promise of acceleration. But such rocking speed is impossible to maintain in the world of dangerous playground rides, as many a child has discovered after losing a grip on the slippery handles and being flung from the plastic bucking broncos.
But the beaver-squirrel, with its beaver head and teeth and squirrel hind legs and tail, deserves the most respect. What designer in years past could have conceived of such a fanciful animal, a twisted siren, beckoning children to inevitable playground failure?
We’ll never know. We can only enjoy the beaver-squirrel now, before this ride returns to the sands of time.