Two weeks ago, I sent you a true story about my cat’s history as a mouse-catching machine. We found droppings under the kitchen sink, but Rory the Cat sat staring at a vent in the floor in the den. I set a trap baited with peanut butter next to the vent. Next morning, there was a dead mouse in the trap. But Rory the Cat continued his sit-in by the vent. The next day I caught another mouse in a trap. Just last night another mouse ate the peanut butter off the trap so delicately that the trap failed to spring. Apparently there’s a mouse convention in my HVAC system. Either that or a keg party. But they are sober enough to smell the peanut butter.
A number of you sent me your pest-in-the-house stories. One story involved a foul smell and a dead raccoon in a chimney. I’m afraid the raccoon wasn’t the only animal in that story. Flies made an appearance. And maggots. It was quite the horror story and reminded me of the time we had a live squirrel in our chimney. At least we assumed it was a squirrel knocking about because North American Gray Squirrels were frequent visitors to our roof.
We called an extermination service. A gentleman came to our house to discuss removal.
I asked him, “Did I tell you about the time in 1976 when my cat caught a squirrel and left it for us as a gift? It was a flying squirrel. They don’t really fly, y’know.”
“Yes,” he replied. “I was aware.”
“My cat brought us the little squirrel, and we kept it as a pet. My dad made him a cage. The cat was not amused. He sat by the cage and stared at the squirrel, as if to say, ‘This is not what I had in mind.’ We named him Hawkeye. The squirrel, not the cat. The cat was named Tigger. We cracked acorns open for Hawkeye because he was a baby. So how do we get this squirrel out of my chimney?”
“When did you know you had a squirrel in your chimney?” asked the exterminator. “When did you first hear him?”
“Him? How do you know the squirrel is male?” I asked.
“The squirrel,” I said. “You called the squirrel ‘him.’ Do you have a scientific reason to think the squirrel is male?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
I pressed on: “How come people call all animals ‘he’ unless they know the animal personally and know the animal is female? And why are cats the exception? All cats are called, ‘she.’ Do folks think all cats are female? How do they reproduce — clone themselves? Granted, if any species could do it, it’s cats. But why did you assume the squirrel is male?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
“Sorry. Let’s go back to how you’re getting this squirrel out of my chimney.”
“We’ll see if the squirrel takes the rope.”
I didn’t know what “takes the rope” meant. Sometimes a person comes to my house to solve a problem, and they assume I know their language. The base language is English, but every line of work has its own jargon. In my field (theology), we like to show off with words like Christology and modalistic Monarchianism, and no one else knows what that means and no one cares, but we like to throw those terms out so we look smart. Except we don’t look smart, we just look like people who have no useful knowledge, like how to get a squirrel out of a chimney.
“What does ‘take the rope’ mean?” I asked.
“First I drop a rope down the chimney.”
“Wait,” I said. “Do you plan to rappel into my chimney? With all due respect, Santa Claus got stuck last time he tried. On the other hand, you’re younger and slimmer than Santa, but –”
“I won’t rappel into your chimney. I just drop a rope down into it.”
“You drop one end of a rope down the chimney?” I asked.
“Yes. Sometimes the squirrel will use the rope to climb out.”
“Wow, that’s a low-tech solution.”
“Yep,” he said. “We like to start simple. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something more involved.”
I never found out what the more-involved solution was. Maybe it required great quantities of baking soda and vinegar or an industrial strength vacuum. The squirrel evidently took the rope because one day the exterminator left the rope in the chimney, and the next day, the squirrel was gone.
I’m glad to say that’s the end of that story. I apologize to those of you who wanted more drama or raccoons or flies or maggots in my chimney. Or some other plague like gnats or the Nile turning to blood or a hail storm. Those things do make for a good story, but I’m glad to say none of that was required for the exodus of the squirrel.
As for me and my house, we say it’s a good day when there are no maggots in our story.