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Service Stories #39, #43, #49, #50, #51, #52: Save the Squirrels! (Part One)

by | Dec 9, 2019 | Season 1 | 0 comments


“I contacted Storysold to get some squirrels out of the narrow crawlspace above our loft. I was very impressed with the creativity they used to fashion a one-way vent in a tough-to-reach spot under the roof peak. They managed to exclude the squirrels, then sealed up the entry point after we confirmed that they had departed.”

Produced for Mike S. of SW Portland, OR on Dec. 9, 15, and Jan. 3 20

Service Story #39: The Swope

Our first producer who was brave enough to allow us to develop our service storyline, Save the Squirrels!, was Mike Swope in the hills of SW Portland. His entry hole was at the pitch of a large three story home that overlooked Portland’s cityscape. After I scampered up on my trusty ladder, I edged over the side of the roof and peaked in the hole. Sure enough, our squirrel friend was there, inches from my face, greeting me at the front door of what he though was his home.

After I explained to Mike that I believed it was not only unnecessarily cruel, but costly inefficient, to trap and kill squirrels…and then exclude the entry hole…he agreed to my plan, allowing me to flex my creative muscles and begin the development of a “venting and exclusion service.”

Here’s a video of the contraption I built that day:

Well that didn’t work. The reenforcement screen I put to keep the squirrel from chewing through the plastic roof held, but…the squirrel’s response was strategic. It vented itself, then chewed the two zip ties I used like a hinge from above.

Now that I knew what the hole looked like, I spent an hour or so in the barn making a better vent.

The squirrel enters a hole in screen from bottom of box (small enough to exit, but not as easily used as an entrance due to pointy wire), and then it exits through the metal flap on top.

The roof was wet, but I remembered my safety training: “Don’t fall.” After I secured it on the bottom and top, I smeared some squirrel attractant inside the box. And then I got the hell of that roof before the rain really started to hit. Beautiful views are also often dangerous ones.

A few weeks later, I returned to Mike’s home. The only signs of squirrels in the entry hole, or my new fangled contraption, was the scratch marks I found on the piece of metal I put on the street side of the contraption. The plan had worked beautifully!

On my way home that day, after a nice post service chat with Mike, I decided to call my new vent contraption, The Swope, in honor of his willingness to produce the first of what I hoped would be many service stories to Save the Squirrels!

Service Story #43: The Harveys

As it goes, Thomas contacted me when I was face up in the crawlspace of another favorite customer James B. He said he was hearing scratching in his attic. After a few rounds of messages, I arrived at his nice home in Irving off Broadway and climbed up on his roof for my first service.

It was nice and quiet up there. He and his family were on vacation.

The picture below was the main entry hole after I excluded it. I found at least a rat sized entry hole in all four corners of their dormer eves.

I went right to work excluding 75% of the entry holes I found. I had high hopes that I would be able to nail an ending on the story in 2 services…

STORYSOLD: Happy 2020! I checked the weather and the only slick roof free day to do the exclusion work in the foreseeable future is tomorrow. Can I come by late morning/afternoon to hopefully close off those entry holes permanently?

THOMAS: Yes, is is OK that we are not there? We’re going to be out of town [again]. Thanks!

STORYSOLD: No problem, I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

THOMAS: Thank you!

STORYSOLD: You’re welcome. I will be doing a little happy dance if I can get this in 2 services!

THOMAS: Me too! 🙂

The 2 service story didn’t happen. One of the custom vents I made had been breached by the squirrels and I wasn’t sure if it was in, or out. So the 3 service story happened instead.

The Official Save the Squirrels! Montage

After I had my first 2 successful venting and exclusion services under my belt, I picked up 4 more Save the Squirrels! jobs all at once.

(#49) The first was from Jack Clarke, one of my favorite Portland Landlords. I didn’t nail the ending on The Harvey’s squirrel story in 2 services, but I made up for it with Jack.

His rental had 3 entry holes and some miscellaneous gaps:

Yes, that’s a custom vent. They can slip out, no problem, but going back in…not so easy

After dancing around the power line, I was able to construct what became a true innovation in the budding art of venting and excluding squirrels. Because the squirrels were used to popping down from the top of the dormer,I fixed a metal flashing shied that hung out, around, and over the entry hole. A few weeks after the first set up service, Brendan the Home Renter reported, “They were upset at first ha. Seems to have worked though! They haven’t been able to get back in!”

The towel in the entry hole was my marker.

(#50) My next Save the Squirrels! call came mere minutes after I finished Jack’s exclusion work. Her name was Eloris and she lived only a few blocks from Jack’s rental.

Eloris reminded me of my grandma. I knew she was on a fixed income, elderly with eye trouble, often bed ridden, and couldn’t afford to pay as much as she’d like…all that before I met her. She was great, and so was her son Ken. From my many years of social work, I used to think I should always “keep an eye on” anyone who leads with their “sob story,” but I’ve evolved since then. Now I “keep an eye” on folks who don’t lead with their stories, or at least try to represent themselves on a personal level. Ken and Eloris were great. Lots of good old fashioned, classic, neighborhood porch conversation, which I won’t share here. All I’ll say is, if Eloris’s home was a glimmer of The Action of the old neighborhood before it was sold off and rebuilt like conquered territory, I wish I’d known it better.

In any case, they were living in what Eloris described as a “squirrel hotel.” I lost count of entry holes and gaps after 15. After my first set up service, I loved that Eloris wrote “roof repair” on her check. It was like that. Was I doing exclusion work, or roofing repair?

White flashing = former entry holes/gaps

It took a few services to dial my vent in back. The squirrel escaped once without my permission, but that only forced me to be better. I’m proud of this vent set up. I imagine the good people of Portland will be seeing this scene on their squirrel hole corners from now on >

(#51) It took us 5 services to vent and exclude the bottom half of Eloris’s Squirrel Hotel (her attic still is suspect) but somewhere along the way we met Eloris’s friend and landlord for the neighboring house that had been converted into apartments. Her name was Udell, and she said one of her friends and tenants had been hearing scratching in her wall.

Our human had an old Marine character in stock; honorably discharged in 2001. He still had a few of those stoic man of steel/tough guy characteristics. You know, like stupidity. He often crawled across rooftops like Spiderman without safety equipment. But not Udell’s roof.

This may seem unbelievable, but Udell’s roof was the first roof in the many years of squirrel and roof rat jobs working for other companies where he/we used safety equipment. When he worked for Pioneer Pest Management, there was never time. He compensated by not inspecting the roof fully…and only selling exclusion on the easy, low hanging entry holes. Most companies simply trap the squirrels from the gutter line, and advise their customers to exclude their entry holes after they’ve killed every squirrel in sight. Our human’s wife, Farmer Emily, has another character they call, “The Daughter of The Son of Safety.” Long story shot, The Coopers of Beverly, Mass take safety very seriously–and we were proud to report, for once, we did it right.

Was it windy? Yes. Was it safe to use the camera there? No.

Udell’s Save the Squirrel story took 2 services. Guide found an active hole with scratch marks, but the other 3 entry holes we excluded where only preventative infestation control.

(#52) The final story in our Save the Squirrels! Montage was Dennis from West Linn. He got our name from Home Advisor, and was kind enough to call the number we listed before he accepted our lead and credit Home Advisor with a $42 payment from Storysold: Pest Control.

Argh! Barbary pirates have better business practices than Home Advisor!

Anyway, Dennis lived in West Linn. The neighborhood was like moon walking into another country after spending a few weeks working on Udell and Eloris’s home fronts. I couldn’t help but stare–completely baffled–at the life-sized bonze statue of a charging stallion that stood like a opulent golden gatekeeper before the locked gate of Dennis’s neighbor’s house. The stallion wasn’t supposed to be scary like a gargoyle, but that didn’t explain why I suddenly felt terrified of something I couldn’t put my finger on. Bookmaker was convinced it was our human’s low class insecurities. Guide thought it was a feeling a lot of wild creatures feel. Humans call it “penis envy.” It’s what happens when you try to compare yourself to some creature that has a golden penis as long as an arm. And Predator didn’t care. It was clearly set there to fool humans. It wasn’t really alive.

When Dennis opened the door, the first things I noticed were: a) the cigar, b) the Red Sox hat, c) and the thick Boston accent. I liked him immediately. As one of Portland’s original Red Sox fans (from the time before they became winners), our human appreciated his presentation of the classic sports guy character even thought Bookmaker was convinced Dennis was only wearing the hat to calm my low class insecurities. Above all, his conversation style was seeming open, intelligent, aggressive, yet playful at the same time. He reminded me a lot of spending time at Christmas with my east coast family in Beverly, Mass.

He reported that he was “under attack by the wilderness,” but I knew he was just having fun. More accurately, he had some time on his hands and the last pest control company he paid to clear his attic of wildlife left all the entry holes wide open for reintroduction. It was a familiar story. So much so, we began to cherish any job where we found that a company made even a half ass effort to exclude the entry holes after the slaughter had subsided.

Given the fact that Dennis’s roof was covered with slippery cedar shingles, we were pleased when we discovered access to all 3 of his entry holes inside the vast attic space.

Note the scratch marks on that board. It made Eloris’s Squirrel Hotel look like an Airbnb

Custom cone style vent. Easy out; not so easy in.

We spent most of our 2 service Save the Squirrels! story bullshitting with Dennis. The most complicated part of it was rigging a custom vent for the biggest entry hole. While Guide was constructing her third vent contraption of the day–headlamp Headlamp on, standing in a sea of insulation, she almost lost her patience. “What I need is something like a bungee cord,” she said to herself as she tried to close off an entry hole big enough for a small dog to fit through.

Then she looked down. Sitting in plain sight in Dennis’s pile of stuff he stored in the attic was a bungee cord. “Really?” Bookmaker laughed at his teammate. “You’re always so damned lucky!”

Once we were certain no creatures were still living in Dennis’s attic, we removed the bungee and did the final exclusion work. Guide made an effort to explain to Dennis that his home was no longer under attack by the wilderness. She did her best to derail his efforts to trap the offenders (who he’d seen swing Tarzan-style into his neighbor’s attic through a hard to reach entry hole), but he seemed to be having so much fun. In The End, Guide gave him some of her best attractant, made the sign of the cross, and put The Wilderness in Dennis’s capable hands.

And like a good sportsman, he had no plan to kill them. If successful, he was going to drive them over the Columbia River to Washington. We can’t be sure, but if we were able to translate his strange Bostonian language correctly…it was the closest place he could release them where he was certain they wouldn’t be able to march back and attack his home again. Go Sox!


The Dialogue


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