Twiggy the legendary water-skiing squirrel is at the Milwaukee Boat Show this week, carrying on a tradition that began more than 40 years ago.
She's really not that old, and over the years there have been at least 10 "Twiggies" that have put on shows in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The talented squirrels have also performed on national television and in movies.
The first Twiggy was an orphan adopted by Chuck and Lou Ann Best, from central Florida, after Hurricane David hit their home state in 1979. They named her "Twiggy" because she chewed the leaves off Lou Ann's house plants, leaving nothing but twigs.
Chuck taught Twiggy No. 1 to ski with a remote-controlled boat he had bought for his daughter's 6th birthday, and found that he enjoyed playing with it more than she did.
"I have to learn to drive the boat so I can teach my squirrel to ski," he'd say.
Twiggy became famous after Florida newspapers did a story about her that went viral long before the internet. A boat company offered to sponsor a tour, and calls poured in from folks wanting to book the squirrel for shows.
The original act came to an end in November 1997 when Chuck suffered a heart attack and drowned while saving the life of his stepfather who had fallen into a river.
However, the Best family brought the show back and made teaching children about water safety an important part of it. Lou Ann even created a squirrel-sized life jacket for Twiggy to wear in her performances.
Twiggy's Water Safety Tour went on to appear in movies and TV shows such as "Good Morning America" and "Late Night with David Letterman."
In 2018, Lou Ann and Twiggy VIII, age 10, retired. The family business has since been run by Chuck Best Jr.
Twiggy is scheduled to perform at the Milwaukee Boat Show on Wednesday at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday, 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.and Sunday, 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.