Hello humans. It is I, your friendly neighborhood Wilderness Security Guide again. Today’s Wilderness Guiding News is a special report featuring the squirrels in N Portland. Normally I don’t make much to do about the adaptations my wilderness creature friends make to The Urban Wilderness everyday, because it’s not really news. They’re adapt to the changes we make in their environments each and every day. This story, however, which features Erin and Lion’s beautiful Homefront in N Portland is an exception. The squirrels are building foam cave, and they’re living in them. Those who track The Action of squirrels will know, but for those who don’t understand what this means…
If squirrels continue to build and live in foam cave, the species may be in danger of devolving. The plush comfort of foam caves like the one shown above will cause wild squirrels to become more domesticated, and I fear that if squirrels (especially those bossy Eastern Grays) become any more domesticated than they are now, they will have to be reclassified as (gasp!) “pets.” Or at best, you humans will have to start calling them else. We like the term “phets,” (feral pets).
And we all know squirrels aren’t the brightest critters in the bunch. Can you imagine how dumb a pet squirrel would be?
I know it’s too early to say for sure, but I predict: if squirrels continue to build foam caves they’re in danger of suffering an evolutionary break in intelligence as great as the moment wolves and wild canines became the sobering, order-following, comfortable domesticates we name and dress in sweaters today.
Never fear. With Erin and Lion’s help, I was able to successfully put an end to this foam cave building malarky.
Our service story began with Erin standing on her front porch. It was winter in Portland, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Yet she was watching little white flakes of something falling down all around her. For a fleeting moment, she felt a strong urge to make a cup of hot chocolate (with tiny marshmallows) and sing a Christmas song or two. That was until Lion tracked The Action and discovered the source of “the snow” was a small area a few inches below the highest pitch of their roof. There was a large support beam that acted like a work platform just below the area where the white flakes were flying from and falling down on the driveway.
“Had someone installed a snow machine in our attic without telling us?”
“No,” Lion replied. “I bet it’s those darned squirrels!”
The course of action was clear. They had to find a way to block the entry hole before the squirrel was able to dig all the way to the other side of their attic’s relatively fresh coat of foam insulation, and then run willy-nilly through the attic pooping everywhere and causing a ruckus like a pound puppy. Trouble was, they didn’t have a ladder tall enough to do the job.
So, with much trepidation, they went in search of a pest control operator on Thumbtack.
When our Storysold team arrived on set, the first thing I did was inspect the attic. I was thankful that I didn’t have to swim through a sea of blown insulation, but the new spray foam insulation pretty well covered any possible entry holes. The good news was, my wilderness creature friend hadn’t broke on through to the other side yet.
In the next scene, I broke out my ladder. It’s the second tallest extension ladder you can buy at Home Depot, but it wasn’t even close to reaching the snow machine port at the top of the roof. Over a year ago, I bought and tried to haul around the tallest extension ladder money can buy at Home Depot. It was nice to have a few extra feet, but it was heavy and I was in constant fear of dropping it on someone’s car, or head. I remember feeling a sense of defeat the day I returned that ladder and exchanged it for the one I have now. Mainly because I didn’t feel strong enough. You know, like if I was a capital-M Man (and not so feminine) I’d be able to whip around job to job with the tallest ladder money can buy at Home Depot. Thankfully that feeling didn’t last long. I’m fairly comfortable with my identify as a female character hosted by a human named Jake. And he remembers doing bird work with Pioneer Pest Management (now called “Purcor” after the buyout), where he was assigned to work with one of Portland’s finest pest control operators named Mick every time he broke out his long ladder for bird work. And Mick was as capital-M Man as they come.
Instead of dwelling on my frustration (aka short ladder syndrome), I decided to inspect the roof for entry holes. Sure enough I found “wilderness preserves” under both of the back dormer eves. Tucked behind a piece of metal flashing, the squirrels had dragged a lawn bag full of twigs and leaves to make their nests. I also found traces of insulation from deeper in the corners where our friends had begun to dig for a way in. I would have inspected the eves in front, but there was still a layer of frost…and I didn’t feel like playing the part of the fallen hero. I’m sure Erin and Lion wouldn’t enjoy that scene.
Thankfully I had some work to do. After gathering all my supplies in my roof satchel (I hate tool belts because they remind me of the war belts our human wore in the military), I took the two eves off Portland’s list of wilderness preserves.
On my way back down to the ground, I had a brief chat with Lion. I don’t remember what we said, but it must have jogged something in my imagination, because a few short moments later I had an action plan.
“I recommend we let the squirrel do the work for us,” I grinned through my mask at Erin. “You know, we’ll Tom Sawyer it and let our friend do the work for us…and then I’ll exclude the entry hole from inside the attic.”
I was expected Erin to say something like, “Gather your short ladder and be gone fowl creature!”
Instead they agreed to the plan. And I returned a week later to go spelunking for squirrels in their sea of foam. Prior to The Action of my first chapter (the initial service is the introductory), I’d borrowed Farmer Emily’s sawzall just in case the foam was as hard to cut through as the foam I use to fill and mark rat holes.
“Ready or not, here I come!” I mumbled as I began to cut the foam with my long insulation knife, which immediately sank into the foam like it was butter. Relieved that I didn’t have to use the sawzall, I continued to cut through the foam in search of squirrels.
In a few moments later I’d dug my way into the plush living lair of Portland’s first “Neoneanderthal Cave Squirrel.” That’s my working title for my new species. I also like “Devolved Cave Squirrel” and “Man Caver.” Although I don’t think “Man Caver” will catch on. The connection between strong heroic men who build comfortable “man caves” and squirrels who build foam caves isn’t instantly digestible by anyone other than us. My teammate Bookmaker Jake Got It immediately. “No doubt,” he said when I started to repo all the squirrels things heartlessly. “If I was a squirrel living in a foam cave as plush as this, I’d be set. I would never have to worry about snakes, hawks, owls, or coyotes ever again! I could spend the remainder of my days warm in my foam cave writing a series of live action novels that will, someday, make me famous like those humans who do nothing but speak and sign their books at large gatherings of humans they pretend to know!”
“Can it, Asshole,” I said to my teammate. “We’re still on the clock here. And I need you to help me come up with a creative way to block this would-be phet out of our customer’s home.”
“You know that squirrel dug straight through that wall, right?” Bookmaker shot back hotly.
“Yes I see that Asshole,” I sighed (why does everything always have to be a debate!), “but if you took the time to track the story Erin shared with us, you’d know that it was a bird that started the hole.”
“Bird my left foot,” Bookmaker mumbled as he presented our team with some exclusion options.
“Why do you always feel the need to be right?” I replied as I chose one of his options and went to work.
“Don’t know,” Bookmaker said as he watched me work. “I think I was abused as a child.”
“Yeah,” our third teammate jumped in. “The humans call school. I blame my all Asshole disorders on all the time my human host wasted going to schools. Might be good for willing domesticates, but not wild live action characters like bedbug destroyers, rat catchers, and other half-wild characters capable of tracking and engaging The Action.”
“Hi Pest Predator,” I smiled. “Glad you could join us. What do you think? Is it a bird or squirrel hole?”
Pest Predator lowered his fly face mask and said, “How should I know? I forgot my time machine at home.”
“Yeah whatever,” Bookmaker said as he grumbled and helped me work. “I know I wasn’t there when the squirrel made the hole…but I still feel like I’m able to read the right signs and know The Truth.”
“That’s because your an Asshole who still thinks he can know the living stories of other creatures like they were your own.”
Bookmaker laughed and put the finishing touches on our double-thick mesh squirrel block. “So what if I talk to God? That doesn’t make me an Asshole. It feels good to have someone like Him at my side telling me The Truth all the time.”
“You know we should really make a point to deduct the storytime we spend in these little team meetings from The Bill,” Predator mused as we cleaned up, gathered our equipment, and closed the attic back up. “That’s what we used to do when we minted our qualitative-based storytime-standard currencies in The Living City.”
“I agree,” I said, smiling as we climbed back up on the roof to check the formerly frost covered side of the roof. “I’ll be sure to deduct any inactive time when our team was only talking to ourselves. And I’ll also deduct the moments where we talked to Lion about poetry, economics, and giving our live action characters names like Lion. That conversation was so engaging we should have paid them for the time they took to listen to all our delusional prattle about how our personal live action stories can be harnessed, like the wind makes electricity, and used as a new kind of super money that humans can use to build better, more wild, action packed homes in the cities of the future.”
“No joke,” Bookmaker smiled. “I really liked Lion’s line about how humans put their ‘auras’ into their work. I can’t remember what they said exactly. Something about how humans don’t own them. I reminded me of the live action signatures our human hosts used to sign their ownership of their storybank accounts in The Living City…I’m pretty sure Lion would enjoy becoming a storybanker.”
“You would like that line, Asshole,” Guide laughed. “It’s the only one they delivered that agreed with something you wrote!”
Bookmaker didn’t have a slick comeback for that one. All he said was, “I should send them a free copy of The Living City.”
“Don’t do it,” Guide said seriously as we wedged our human’s fat ass under the first eve. “They called us to help them strengthen their Homefront…and keep their wilderness safe. They didn’t call for another book to add to their slush piles.”
“GROAN!” we groaned as we sucked our gut in. “God I hate the holidays.”
“Cheer up!” Bookmaker smiled suddenly. “It’s a small price to pay for science! All the scientific journalists will be beating our door down to interview us about our latest discovery in The Urban Wilderness. There’s going to be volumes of very smart books written about the day we discovered Neoneanderthal Cave Squirrels in N Portland. If ever there was a mutant jump in the evolution of squirrels..this is it! If humans don’t secure their Homefronts better, and keep the phet squirrels from building foam caves in their homes, the next chapter of our planet’s evolution will include Neoneanderthal Cave Squirrels.”
And so our service story came to The End working to exclude two more wilderness preserves on the roof of a beautiful home on a beautiful sunny day in January.
CHAPTER 3 – “The Wilder Ending”
One of the lessons I’ve learned from writing live action stories is, endings are often beginnings in disguise and visa versa. And Lion and Erin’s service story was a perfect example of how The Alpha was actually an Omega in disguise. In other words, our wilderness creature friend decided to let The Action roll…
ERIN: Hi Jake! Yeah – seems our friend has taken up residence – not sure how or when, but they are up there all day, and it worries me a bit because of all the feces etc that may leak into our space and down the sides of the house!
I should explain: Erin’s home has a large support beam at its peak that extends beyond the exterior wall. It makes a perfect gargoyle-like ledge for our squirrel friend, birds, and roof rats to hang out on. And apparently it’s a good spot for chewing holes through walls.
STORYSOLD: Is he still scratching and pulling debris out?
ERIN: I work in the room underneath tomorrow, so I’ll listen. No more debris that I can see, but he is always perched up there…I’ll keep you posted.
STORYSOLD: Here’s what I’m thinking: A) I’d be very impressed if he breaches my exclusion; B) it would be easy to check if he’d make it back in by looking from attic; C) that ledge isn’t a good nesting spot, but you will see the twigs and leaves if he tries; D) sometimes it takes squirrels a “period of adjustment” to deal with the new reality. My guess is that he’s in denial…I suggest monitoring our guy for another week. If he breaches I’ll come right away. If he’s still hanging out up there next weekend, I’ll find a taller ladder somehow and close the sides of that ledge off too.
ERIN: Sounds like a well thought out plan!! I like it. Thanks so much!
That was January 21st. On February 3rd Erin texted the following report:
ERIN: Hi Jake! Just saw this wood below the place the squirrel has been hanging out. 🙁 I’ll keep my eyes out. Hopefully they will give up and not do any more damage.
STORYSOLD: OK I’ll block it off. How does Tuesday morning sound? All I will need is the driveway cleared
Tuesday was no good, so I planned to come sooner on Sunday. My solution to the tall ladder question was simply to buy a new ladder. 10% military discount at Lowe’s!
I tried to recruit Pete (who is a farm friend and working with us once for a clean out in Fairview) and Farmer Rachael and Evanshoe (see Adventures of Ratty Claws, Episode 1) who all live in N Portland to hold the ladder for me. $50 an hour! But Pete’s partner had COVID and Farmer Rachael was going out of town.
I was about to wing it and try to muscle my new 32 foot ladder alone when Farmer Emily (aka The Daughter of The Son of Safety) came to my rescue!
“Our hero!” we cooed and promised to buy take out wherever Emily wanted when we were done.
She was already going to NW for a training run for her adventure to rerun the whole length of Forest Park (and earn her second Forest Park Marathon t-shirt!), so I asked if she wanted to help me secure our contractor friend/future homebuilder John’s Homefront on Sunday before our last service at The Foam Cave. I was pleased that she agreed, because I needed the ladder for that exclusion scene too.
On Sunday, Emily met me in NW at John and Amy’s home. The first thing I said was…
STORYSOLD: I stepped in poop. And I don’t think it was dog poop.
EMILY: Gross! You do smell like poop.
STORYSOLD: Thank you for loving our human Jake. Poop is an constant occupational hazard…but human poop on the side of the street in NW is a new one.
EMILY: Don’t you have a change of clothes?
We thought about that one for a moment. Then, when we’d secured John’s home (after many, many years of rats running in his basement), we stripped off our shitty pants in John’s basement and changed into our new jumpsuit.
Naturally I had to explain that whole story to Erin when we arrived on set at The Foam Cave.
I was so, so happy to have a Safety Officiant in my supporting cast that day. I’m fearless, but not that fearless…
Sure enough, our squirrel friend hadn’t breached my exclusion work, but the asshole was well on his way to carving a brand new hole. An hour of ladder wrangling later, I’d blocked off the ledge with two large pieces of expanded aluminum. Next I filled The Foam Cave with more foam from inside, and then I met Erin at the door. After a nice chat about something I can’t recall, Erin asked, “What do I owe you for today’s service?”
STORYSOLD: Well as we see it…you contacted us looking for someone with a ladder to close off that entry hole. I convinced you it could be done from inside, which turned out not to be true.
ERIN: Yeah, but you had to buy a new ladder…?
STORYSOLD: I would have bought that ladder at some point anyway. So no worries! I figure today’s service did what I should have done in the first place.
ERIN: Thank you for your integrity. I’ll be sure to tell my neighbors about your service if it comes up.
And service story we call The Foam Cave ended with our human and his partner Farmer Emily enjoying Mexican food at a food cart near their home. Clearly the moral of this adventure is: HOMEOWNER’S BEWARE: NEO-NEANDERTHAL PHET SQUIRRELS ARE BUILDING FOAM CAVES IN N PORTLAND!
And like most Assholes they don’t adjust well to change.