THE INTRODUCTORY SERVICE (12/5) – A few years ago, when STORYSOLD took its big leap into action, I wrote an adventurous mouse exclusion service story for Summer in SE Portland (near the Flats). I called it “The Owl Project,” because (in spite of my high body counts for rats and mice) I genuinely want to engage and support that strange thing we call “wilderness.”
The Owl Project was written on the premise that my efforts would strengthen my customers’ Homefronts (natural territories), and that would force mice, rats, and other wildlife to live wild without the benefits of predator free shelter and or easy access to food. And that, in turn, would push more business to natural predators like owls.
Anyway, as you’d expect from a new business start up, after a few years I drink a few more beers, eat a few more scoops of ice cream, and stream a few more movies and TV shows from the many screens and devises of what I call, “The Fourth Wall” of civilization.” One thing I haven’t become is more cynical. I took one look at the Barred Owl in the back of Sarah’s home and the only thing I thought was “game on.”
Based on the signs, there was a good chance the damage in Sarah’s attic space (literally a few feet from where someone slept) and the droppings in the storage room in the basement was caused by roof rats. There was also a chance that the smaller droppings I found were baby squirrels.
The Generics (super infested pest control corporations) love to tell their customers that They Know what’s happening at any given moment. That need to play The Expert at all times is what makes them The Generics. When I was in The Industry one of my favorite pastimes was following behind a fellow Pest Control Operator and listening to the stories they told their customers. Many year later I realize I should have written them down. It would’ve been pure comedy.
In any case, I decided to reset Sarah’s Homefront in hopes of evicting whatever current infestee without spoiling any of the owl’s meals. Owls are beautiful hunters like eagles and wolves. They think they’re better than the ravens and crows who eat carrion. And I agree. I laughed when I watched the crows circle Our Hero for a few “Cha-chas!” Not too unlike our human heroes, the crows left and my favorite heroic asshole didn’t move an inch.
Who knows, maybe it’s sick? Either that, or Our Hero knows it can feed there…
Honestly I had no idea. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned about The Urban Wilderness is, “We’re not as much in control of nature as we like to think we are…” Even with extreme efforts to edit and exclude my customers’ (aka supporting cast members) environmental Homefronts, I’m often left with the hungry feeling that I only really a part of the larger, more complex story of The Urban Wilderness.
So I decided to make a change in Sarah’s environment, and see what the wilderness had to say about that. The changes I made today were as follows:
A) excluded many large gaps along highest roof line. These are The Before shots:
B) excluded the large 10ft plus gap in back, minus the space where I installed a one way door (all the brown flashing you see in the photo is new):
c) And excluding the “wilderness void” adjacent to the basement, which I trenched and excluded…but left a little open to call the wilderness. I put a “wilderness monitor” of rodent food in a zip locked bag behind the small section I left open. Then I stuffed a plastic bag in the gap. If either of those move, I know it’s “game on.”
There was more action to report from The Introductory Service, but that was the basics. I’m trying hard not to be one of those guys who only reports things. I have no doubt that The Action of Chapter 1 will be more interesting than whatever I have to report about this now…
CHAPTER 1 (12/7): A day after The Introductory Service I received a text from Sarah.
SARAH: I know it hasn’t been a full 24 hours yet, but since we’re on a tighter timeline I figured I’d give you an update! Nothing in the traps, but our little scratchy friend is still around. His friend on the outside was trying to help him out early this morning (very cute and glad he was on the outside) The scratchy one seems to be really focused on the entrance under the patio cover (lots of little wood bits on the ground now).
STORYSOLD: Thanks for the info. I’ll swing by today if that’s ok
SARAH: Sure! I’m around all day!
Later that day I inspected Sarah’s new Homefront. Sure enough our guy had been doing some chewing around the entry hole I excluded. Why he preferred that one (shown below left) over the larger hole (below right) in front I have no idea.
Finally I popped my ladder up to the main entry hole (the one I installed the one way door on) and peer into the dark wilderness void with my flashlight. And sure enough. The beats was there, hanging out calmly a few feet from me.
“What are you doing buddy?” I asked with a chuckle. “Waiting for an invitation?”
Contrary to popular opinion, Squirrels don’t understand English. Disney has been writing that wrong for decades, and the “Infestation Aisle” at Fred Meyers (you know the one…with all the birdseed, pet food, and wildlife feed) is a testament to Disney’s successful selling of the English-speaking squirrel story. Thankfully, thanks to many years of rat catching, I no longer have any strange urges to domesticate the urban wilderness like they were humans.
In any case, I had to do something to sell the eviction story to our squirrel friend. But what?
What would John Wayne do? Answer: He would smoke the pesky bandit out and then gun them down. Or set a trap for them then kill them in some sort of heroic way.
“I have a better idea,” my teammate Wilderness Guide said. “Squirrels aren’t always the brightest of wilderness creatures. Why don’t you do something that spells out the plan for them?”
A moment later I’d filled a zip lock bag full of tasty treats I’d bought at the Infestation Aisle at Fred Meyer and placed the bag directly on the door’s one way door mechanism.
Then I went home and watched the next episode of Succession.
CHAPTER 2 (12/7 and 12/20): A day later I texted Sarah to check in.
STORYSOLD: How is our guy doing?
SARAH: I haven’t heard him today! The treat bag is gone [insert heart emoji]
STORYSOLD: Great sign!
Then I asked her to disarm the traps before they left out of town. I also asked her to put some food and water in the attic space and basement storage room (where there had been activity) as a way of testing to make sure this wasn’t a squirrel eviction and a roof rat hunt.
A week or so later I texted to check in again.
SARAH: Hi Jake! Update – nothing ate the snacks I left out! And no squirrel activity that I know of! I need to reactivate the traps.
STORYSOLD: That’s great news! You can activate the traps if you like, but the true test is the food and water! How about the bag marker in the wilderness void?
SARAH: Still tucked!
Five days later I returned to Sarah’s home, uninstalled the one way door, and did the final exclusion work needed to secure her new Homefront. It was a miserable, cold rainy day, but I didn’t care. Victory always feel good.
Before I called The End and faded back into The Urban Wilderness to service my next adventure, I checked in with our friend the Barred Owl. I half expected to notice some kind of change. I liked the idea that my service story had, in some way, inspired some kind of new action in the life of the owl.
But no. Our friend was still watching The Action from the same branch on the same tree like they were when this story began…
The thought that made me chuckle as I drove away was, “I guess this story wasn’t The Owl Project after all.”
I know I should rename it, but there’s something satisfying about knowing I got it wrong in The End.