Sometimes it takes a little help to get kids to pay attention to serious issues.
Enter Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel. While she’s performing tricks that captivate even adult audiences, her owner, Lou Ann Best, is making sure kids learn important facts about water safety.
For nearly 40 years, Best has been touring with Twiggy. She and her husband, Chuck Best Sr., trained the first Twiggy, a hurricane rescue, in 1979 as part of a running joke between family and friends.
Chuck Best built a pair of water skis for the squirrel and attached them to the back of his remote controlled boat. It wasn’t long before the media caught wind of the water-sporting squirrel and word began to spread. The Bests traveled all over the world for Twiggy’s gigs, which were just geared toward entertainment at the time.
Twiggy’s core message today – learn to swim and wear a life vest while boating – hits close to home for Lou Ann Best. Chuck Best Sr. passed away in 1997 during a family boating trip while rescuing his stepfather from drowning. After a hiatus from Twiggy’s tour, and some soul searching, Lou Ann decided the squirrel has a higher purpose – to teach kids about water safety. She and her son Chuck Best Jr. continue to carry on the Twiggy family tradition.
Kids seem to listen. Chuck Best Jr. said that after Twiggy’s shows, they can be seen approaching his mom and telling her how they are learning to swim just like Twiggy.
“I’m doing the talking, but that’s the magic -- they hear twiggy,” says Lou Ann Best. “My goal is to make Twiggy the Smokey the Bear of water sports.”
Twiggy’s routine lasts about 20 minutes. She does a few rounds on her water skis, while wearing her squirrel-sized life vest, and demonstrates some swimming. If the show takes place in a waterpark where she and the kids can be in the water, Lou Ann Best will give them a lesson on how to float. After the show, kids are invited to ask questions and pet Twiggy.
This year, Twiggy VIII has performed at five Splash Kingdom waterparks throughout Louisiana and Texas. The Bests are hoping to add more waterparks to future tours. Information on how to book Twiggy can be found on her website.
And now, the answer to the question you’ve been asking: How does one teach a squirrel to water ski?
“It’s like having a husband,” Lou Anne Best says. “You give them lots of love and affection and tell them the same thing over and over.”