I am unhappy this evening. I’m unhappy because, up until about 20 minutes ago, I was under the impression that I had solved my squirrel problems. But I now realize just how wrong I was… This displeases me for several reasons; 1) because, while cute, I have come to believe that squirrels are – at their core – evil little beady-eyed tree-rats with fluffy tails and razor teeth who will gnaw your house to the ground if it suits their fancy, with little or no regard for property values; and 2) I really hate to lose. But I’m ahead of myself, so let’s go back to the beginning…
Several months ago I came home from work to find a large piece of fascia dangling from the side of my house, however, I had dinner reservations that night, and no time to deal with it properly. I needed a quick fix, and dragging out the extension ladder wasn’t an option, so instead I called upon the sum total of my experience as a homeowner and a man, dug deep into my bag of evolutionary instincts, and stood tip-toed on my windowsill, hanging from the trim with one hand and yanking violently on the damaged fascia with the other until I managed to tear it – mangled – from the roof. I then celebrated my victory with a gin and tonic and a bottle of wine and forgot all about the house. (Four months later that fascia board is still sitting in my garage; a glimmering monument to quick-thinking and improvisation. My wife, however, believes it to be more a monument to ineptitude and wasted space, and would have me throw it away. We’ll agree to disagree.)
The next day we started calling contractors, and roughly a week later, found one that would call us back. Contractors are a strange lot. They’re generally personable, and very manly – with handshakes like an iron vice, only less delicate. And yet, if you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have any work done, you’ve no doubt noticed their obvious disdain for you as a customer – and for the work in general – and yet they continue to take on jobs that they will subsequently ignore.
I imagine they’re forced to adhere to a very strict code in order to maintain union membership, such that if they ever were to complete a job in a reasonable amount of time, all their best tools would be publicly revoked. Anyway, this particular contractor did a walk around and alerted us to additional storm damage on the house, suggesting that we call our insurance adjuster, which he graciously offered to help with. We foolishly obliged, and lo and behold, the adjuster agreed there was covered damage to our roof and several other items, which the contractor assured us he could fix. “We can deal directly with the insurance company,” he told us, “you won’t have to worry about a thing.” What he failed to mention was that dealing with him would be much worse. We then waited for the adjustor’s estimate, the check, the mortgage company’s signature on the check, and the contractor’s schedule. Cut to this week, and I would like to give props to both the insurance company and contractor for pushing a one day job off for nearly four months, thus giving the squirrels ample time to find and settle comfortably into my soffits.
Which brings me back to my initial complaint; I didn’t notice the squirrel until the day before the fascia was supposed to be fixed. I happened to be outside with my son when I noticed a tiny head poking out of the hole in my soffits. I immediately sprang into action, cursing and shaking my fists in the front yard. When that didn’t work, I brought my son in the house, gave him a snack, and put him in front of the TV while I got the ladder and some safety glasses. My brain imagined these glasses would protect me from a ‘Clark Griswold’ type of squirrel attack, wherein the diseased vermin would come leaping out of the soffit, latch onto my face with its tiny demon-claws, and cling to my head as I fell off the ladder and laid dead on the lawn, unnoticed until Sesame Street was over.
When I got up to roof I was met by not one, but TWO squirrels who looked very happy in their multi-bedroom nest, just out of reach. A fresh round of cursing again failed to coax them out so, once more trusting my instincts, I located a large smoke bomb, checked on my son – who was still blissfully unaware, eating his goldfish without a care in the world, let alone any concept of the unwavering determination and bravery being displayed by his father – and climbed back up the ladder with a lighter and a plan. The smoke bomb blew a heavily sulphured cloud into my eaves for probably close to 60 seconds, but if the squirrels were at all bothered by it, they didn’t let on. Though where I expected them to go when my arm was blocking their only exit with an active smoke bomb is beyond me. Anger does not tend to encourage rational thought. For instance, it did not immediately occur to me that the entire house would smell like a hot-spring when my wife got home, leading to embarrassing explanations of my ‘logic’, and a house full of open windows on a 90+ degree August evening. However, with reinforcements now inside doing the parenting, I decided to ratchet the fight up a notch. The next time I climbed the ladder, I had a long pole and pellet gun in tow; the new plan being to dig out the nest with the pole, and then shoot the intruders with the pellet gun, at which point I would’ve had dead squirrels laying far beyond my reach in my eaves, but like I said, anger and rational thought… Part 1 of that plan was slow, but effective. I pulled enough yard waste out to mulch a city block, destroying a veritable squirrel city, and exposing the surely frustrated rodents for easy shooting. However, part two of the plan turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. Hanging off the side of a ladder two stories in the air, while simultaneously holding a flashlight and aiming a pellet gun did not prove to be terribly effective. I have no idea where those shots ended up, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the safest place to be was right where I thought I was aiming, so my house guests were at best experiencing mild irritation at a nosy neighbor, and not the unbridled terror I had hoped to inflict as they took their last tiny breaths.
At this point it was nearing 10pm and, fearing that my neighbors would soon call the police, I played one final card in the form of a peanut-butter-and-poison-mole-worm sandwich placed just inside the soffit. The next day the sandwich was gone, but the squirrels were still there. I’d like to think they at least had an unpleasant night. Of course the contractor saw no sign of them when he replaced the fascia, and I foolishly thought that meant they’d been out –possibly scavenging materials for New Squirrelville – but tonight, 6 days after project completion, I heard the unmistakable skittering again. I see no entry or exit points; no obvious signs of chewing. I have no way to get at them now, and I’ve made them immune to poison. There’s only one reasonable course of action remaining; I’m thinking of just burning the place down. It’s not like the contractor was ever going to finish the rest of the job anyway…