By Kevin McCoy
In 1915, when Seattle was just a fledgling city of about 8 in city years, Mayor Hiram C. Gill petitioned the Federal Government for Seattle’s first pet. President William Howard Taft, knowing Seattle was still young but wanting to give it more responsibility to help it grow into a well-rounded adult city, signed a bill granting Gill’s request under the provision that Seattle had to feed the pet itself, care for it, and clean up after it when it made a “flapdoodle” (what they called poop back in 1915).
A week later, a parade from the base of the Cascade Mountain Range (led by the Ballard High School marching band holding a giant acorn) marched it’s way into Seattle for the homecoming of Cheeks, Seattle’s new giant squirrel.
Cheeks was instantly welcomed into the hearts of Seattle’s citizenry. The pledge of allegiance in Seattle schools was followed by a pledge to make sure to feed Cheeks and clean up his “tommytrots” (another word for poop in 1915). Many people spent their evenings in Pioneer Square petting Cheeks and playing the classic game “Butts or Nuts”. At the same time, Cheeks became the mascot for several local elementary schools and was often seen at local sporting events, even wearing an American flag cape for 4th of July festivities.
During a championship game against the Portland Pathguzzlers (now the Portland Trailblazers), Cheeks had not been let out for over an hour and suddenly had to pass a carbuncle (a popular term for poop in 2011) and let one loose on the Portland team’s shooting guard near half-time, when Seattle was down 20 points. Seattle went on to win the game 92-70 largely credited to Cheeks impromptu display of city spirit. This was Seattle’s first win against Portland and is credited with being the first time the “wave” had ever been seen at a sporting event, as everyone in the crowd reacted to the giant plume of skulduggery (skulduggery means devious behavior, not necessarily tied to poop) enacted by the city’s giant pet squirrel in chain reaction type fashion.
However, like any fledgling city, the responsibility of feeding Cheeks and cleaning up after him soon became a mundane chore, and Cheeks’ novelty wore off. In the September of a late August in 1917, Edgar Ashworth (47) took his normal route to work alongside Pike street. Coming upon Cheeks, he went up to give the friendly giant a pet. Later, the Seattle Parks Department recognized that Cheeks had not been fed for a week.
Edgar Ashworth was consumed by Cheeks, and his remains were later codswalloped (a popular word for poop in 2010) out in Lake Union park. Mayor Gill shouldered the responsibility himself for forgetting to feed our city’s pet. Cheeks was taken out underneath the Fremont bridge and the events that took place there inspired the 1957 film “Old Yeller.” Later, Cheeks’ final resting spot became part of the inspiration for the four local artists who created the Fremont Troll.