Hello everyone, this is Caroline, Toni's niece. I was the kid who sat in her lap on the 1976 Captain and Tennille Show Christmas special and asked Santa to bring me a parakeet. (Speaking of that, some of you have asked if did indeed get that parakeet? Well, of course I did. When you're six, declaring what you want for Christmas in front of a television audience of millions is a pretty sure bet you will actually get it.)
But enough about me and the bird. I want to share the story of an entirely different type of species--from the order rodentia, to be specific--recently unearthed when I was in Arizona helping Toni sort through some boxes in preparation for her move to Florida. The storied pair emerged from a dusty box, wrapped in old, yellowed newspaper, fur brittle and flaking a bit in places but eyes still shining black, beady and eerily alive. These eyes fixed upon me through the murky darkness of the garage with a bemused expression as though I'd rudely interrupted an intimate moment. Upon closer inspection I realized that I was holding probably the oddest fan gift ever: Sam and Susie, the Stuffed Muskrats.
Sam and Susie are two real--and once very much alive--muskrats who have been stuffed and preserved with loving detail. They stand forever frozen in time posed up on their hind legs, holding hands--ahem--claws, a slightly macabre ode to the Captain and Tennille song "Muskrat Love." The muskrat on the left (I'm guessing from the demure expression that's Susie) has her head turned slightly away while the one on the right (definitely Sam; he has that smirk that men get when they want something but don't want to actually say it). Two thick, curling rat-like tails wind up from behind the creatures and frame the romantic tableau like quotation marks. An engraved brass plaque is centered between Sam and Susie's toes- um, claws - with the following inscription:
CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE, DECEMBER 1976
To hell with the Grammy award and gold records--as far as I was concerned this was a pop history treasure. Determined to hear the whole story from the recipient herself, I tucked the muskrats under my arm and went off to find my aunt. After she had overcome the shock of being reacquainted with this long-buried discovery,Toni sat down and told me the true tale of Sam and Susie:
"When Daryl and I began to appear on television we started to get a lot of gifts from fans: needlepoint pillows of our faces and our dogs, portraits, photo collages, and many other wonderful things. One day we received a huge box, light for its size, addressed to Captain and Tennille. Inside, carefully padded with tissue, was some kind of lumpy object. Out came Sam and Susie, the Stuffed Muskrats. Included in the box was a handwritten booklet describing in great detail how the fan, a professional taxidermist, had lovingly created Sam and Susie. Apparently the muskrats had been one year old, "in the prime of their life" as the fan described, when they became the unlucky subjects of arguably one of the silliest love songs ever recorded.
Well, Daryl and I were overcome with mixed emotions about the gift. This sweet fan had spent a lot of time creating his version of Sam and Susie and we both appreciated the gesture. But at the same time we were both strict vegetarians, and being the recipients of these stuffed critters was a little unnerving. We didn't really want to display them in our home, but poor Sam and Susie had made the ultimate sacrifice in homage to "Muskrat Love" so I didn't feel right about throwing them away. For a while I kept them in one of our guest rooms, but every time I walked in the room I felt like Sam and Susie were looking at me and saying with their shiny, dead eyes, "YOU are the reason we became this...all for a stupid song!" Sam and Susie were wrapped back up and put into the closet and there they remained for over three decades.
Faced with a limited amount of space in the moving truck, I was ready to finally say bye-bye to Sam and Susie for good. Caroline flew back home with the muskrats tucked into her carry-on, nearly causing a TSA agent to faint when he looked in the bag during a security check.
Sam and Susie now reside at Caroline's house, modestly but respectfully displayed on a shelf in a back room, high enough to avoid assault from her six cats. They are alive again and, in their own stuffed little way, eternally in love."