My name is Wilderness Security Guide, and I’m Storysold’s Environmental Control Operator in charge of evicting and excluding skunks from the homes of our paying customers. The service story you’re about to read was a huge personal victory for me in more ways that one.
As some of you may already know, I’m a live action character from The Living City. That’s my origin story. In The Living City, I didn’t merely seek to control my wild creature friends. I worked hard to engage their live action stories and develop what I called “economic bailouts” or “outs” that brought about environmentally profitable endings to toxic/bankrupt/unhealthy/irresponsible storylines. Most famously, I worked with my friends (human and animal alike) to produce The Earth Show’s first ever “bio-friendly new war effort,” which successfully neutralized a hostile invasion without having to trap and kill them like pests. There’s no easy way to explain that storyline. It’s fiction built in a bubble world made of fiction, but I think it’s worth mentioning now because today I saw that fiction, which began some 20 years ago, in The Action of this story…
The Epic Skunk Adventure began in April 2021 when Mark contacted Storysold about evicting some skunks from his rental house in Corbett. Days later, I met his tenant Sue. She had a lot to say about the skunks who’d been living and “blowing up” the unfinished basement of her home, but the story that I later mythologized was the one where her coworkers teased her about smoking weed. “I don’t smoke dope!” Sue would protest. “I have skunks that live in my basement!”
The easy answer was to blame Mark the Evil Mustache Twirling Slumlord would was too cheap to provide pest control for his tenants. And I almost swallowed that story after meeting Sue, until I remembered that mustaches were cool these days…and decided to hear Mark’s side of the story. For many years, Mark had been doing what nearly every wildlife operator would have done if they’d been hired for the job. He had a whole process for it. He’d trap the skunks, and then drown them in a large barrel of water. Or he’d shoot them. For all you city folks, this is The Standard Operating Procedure for the majority of famers, ranchers, and homesteaders in the more rural parts of Oregon like Corbett. The only difference between what Mark was doing and the way most licensed wildlife operators go about controlling skunks is that most operators use gas chambers to kill the skunks they trap. Some wildlife control company calling itself “Squash” or “Squish” (or some weird shit like that) shoots the wildlife they trap onsite, which is all very normal and legal.
It’s easy to say that Mark just wasn’t heroic enough to kill all the bad guys and deliver a happy ending to his tenant Sue, but he did more than simply trap and kill skunks in his attempt to clear his rental. He hired a youth to pound rebar every inch or so all the way around the home. And still the skunks found their way in.
For those of you who only know about skunks from Disney movies, you might not know that skunks are diggers. In fact, I list digging as one of their many superpowers. If I had to choose between a skunk and a Norway/sewer rat (particularly a mother) to engage in a “digging war” I would choose the rat every time. Rats are amazing diggers, but skunks make their living in the dirt, digging up flower beds in search of grubs and other bugs to feast on.
Before I became Storysold, I’d never heard of any professionals evicting and excluding skunks. In The Industry, I was employed by wildlife operators like Pioneer Pest Management (now Purcor) to trap and kill skunks; and then (only after the bad guys were all dead) present my customer with a proposal for exclusion. I didn’t tell Mark this at the time, but before he called I’d successfully ended many squirrel eviction and exclusions (and a few raccoon), but only one successful skunk eviction/exclusion. And that was from a shed in a service story that was more about squirrels than it was skunks. Nevertheless, undaunted, I wrote up my action and proposal. What Mark needed was a brand new Homefront, which would extend the shallow foundation of his rental and keep the skunks from digging in. I was surprised he agreed.
My plan included a lot of digging, so I recruited some help. After asking around, I found a willing digger in Aidan. He was the teenage son of Mary, a former classmate and customer of mine. And honestly, I took one look at Aiden and I thought, “Oh wow, a gentle wind could blow this kid away. No way he’s going to be any help!” But Mary said he was a hard worker, and I knew a mother’s recommendation was worth that of 3 employers, so I asked him to join my adventure.
And so began our first epic skunk adventure, trenching around Mark’s rental on a sunny day in April. Eight hours later, we had trenched 3/4 the way around the structure and installed the wire mesh. Once again, I was reminded that I should never judge a book by its cover. Aiden kicked ass. When Mark arrived to survey the work and I finally called “cut” for the day’s production, Aiden quietly flopped down on the lawn, faced the sky, shut his eyes, and took a well-deserved rest at the end of a long day.
Sue seemed happy when, a week or two later, the skunks had all exited out of the one way door I built for their eviction. I liked Sue a lot. She’d been living with the skunks for so long she knew better than to be too optimistic.
STORYSOLD: How about we celebrate in a year when your new Homefront is still secure after the testing time of winter?
SUE: Sounds good. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
And she did. Four months later, for whatever reason, the skunks began to test our Homefront again. When I responded to Sue’s call and inspected her Homefront I found serious starters holes all the way around the structure. And one place where I could almost see the unfinished basement again, but no breaches.
Our one year celebration date is still on its way, but it’s been eight months without a breach…
That’s how I thought this service story was going to end. Then Mark called again. After a nice chat he asked me to take over the pest control duties at his other 3 properties in Corbett. Understandably he said he was getting tired of paying for the industry classic run-around-the-house-to-freshen-the-bait-in-the-rodent-boxes service story of some other local generic pest control company. He didn’t mention anything about skunks. He said the property across the street from Sue’s had a lot of open entry holes for rodents to get in, but they generally had it under control.
Enthusiastically, I spent a day meeting Mark’s tenants and inspecting his properties. They were a great mix of people. I enjoyed meeting the folks living in a duplex on Larch Mt. road two houses down from the Airbnb I’d been trapping mice at since 2019 (see Hagrid’s Cabin), but they didn’t appear to have any immediate needs. The real show was the properties across the street from Sue’s home. They were 1) a warehouse rented by an amiable small businesswoman named Kathy; and 2) a home rented by Sarah and her family. The first thing I noticed was all the add-on structures. The house had an add-on kitchen and dining room and an add-on shed. The backside of the warehouse was an add-on office space. And these structures that had been added onto the original construction over the years were mostly built on pillars, meaning there was even less Homefront to block The Urban Wilderness out than the shallow foundation at Sue’s home.
To make it more fun, these add-on structures were all joined in the middle by an old deck…
Oh and there was another deck added to Sarah’s add-on kitchen and dining room…
ME (WILDERNESS SECURITY GUIDE): What do you think team?
PREDATOR: Well, at least if we can’t exclude all these add on structures and decks…we can do a really good job of trapping the rats and mice.
ME: Huh, let’s get Kathy and Sarah’s story first before we jump to conclusions. Then we can freak out.
Minutes later, I was standing in Sarah’s kitchen smelling skunk.
STORYSOLD: Is that skunk I smell?
SARAH: Oh yeah, they’ve been here for years…
At first I entertained the notion that the skunks only blew up Sarah’s house because they felt the presence of a predator, but no. The story that unfolded from Sarah and her husband was that they’ve been trapping and killing skunks for as long as they’ve rented there…something like five years.
BOOKMAKER: Fuck! You have to be kidding me!
ME: Keep it down. Sarah’s kids are trying to sleep.
BOOKMAKER: You know as well as I do that I’m not activating our human’s vocal cords.
ME: Yeah, well I can feel it. And I’m sure Sarah can feel it too.
BOOKMAKER: What!? You want me to play my part and project confidence for our customers at all times like the industry heroes do?
ME: No I don’t expect you to play that tired old righteous role…but try not to lose your shit. We got this.
BOOKMAKER: “We got this?” You have to be kidding me. Did you catch the part where she said how long they’ve been trapping and killing skunks?
ME: Yes, Asshole, I did. Now shut your cake hole and follow me. I have a plan.
BOOKMAKER: Come on Predator. Back me on this one. I get that our eviction and exclusion storyline has been successful, but The Whole World and All Its Heroes can’t be wrong! Real American Heroes throughout the ages have trapped and killed bad guys for a reason. That’s why they all have enough money to buy more guns and super clean 80s style monster trucks.
ME: What are you driving at here?
BOOKMAKER: Don’t play dumb Guide. You know as well as I do that humans love their heroes for making their sacrificial offerings. And it doesn’t matter if war and pest control as they stand today are horrible rituals with no lasting, measurable, profitable environmental outcomes. You can tell humans that trapping and killing rats, or terrorists, only makes them stronger in the long run. You can tell humans that its more profitable to hit the pestilence head on, and try to change the bad guys’ infested characters by making radical changes to their environments. You can tell humans that all day long, and they will only make the blank face look, or shake their heads sadly and say it’s “not realistic.”
ME: Yeah so. We’re Storysold. We’re not in business to support Sarah’s reality. Mark hired us to reimagine and redraw the lines of his Homefront, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
There was a long pause, and then Predator broke the silence.
PREDATOR: I don’t know about you, but it’s mid winter and I’m burned out from all the crawlspaces. A few days of digging with headphones on doesn’t sound too bad.
ME: That’s the spirt! What about you Asshole? Can you find a silver lining here?
BOOKMAKER: Yeah okay. BUT I want at least a day to write this service story if we win…
ME: Done and done 🙂
Day one of the eviction and exclusion began with a text from Kathy.
KATHY: Hey Jake, we have 30 mile an hour winds here in Corbett. I you were planning to be outside it might make it a little difficult. Just a heads up.
STORYSOLD: Yikes! We’ll see how it goes. Be there soon.
Kathy was right. The wind was no joke. We bundled our human host up in 3 layers plus a windbreaker and our guy was still cold. To make matters worse, half way through the exclusion of Sarah’s back deck, they lost power and had to start up their generator. That meant no more headphones. The good news was, we finished the exclusion of the deck that day…
And we unearthed the reason why they were digging under the deck to begin with…
I returned a few days later to do the exclusion around the warehouse and install the one way door. This time we brought along some help. Our human’s old friend of over thirty years, Amy!, was unemployed and looking for some cash. Her name is Amy! with an exclamation point, because that’s how we say her name. Our human has an adventurous spirit for sure, but Amy! is a walking talking interjection of life. So many good adventure stories: Like the time we egged our high school English teachers house, or the time we rode the Greyhound to Vegas and terrorized the casino folks with her fake ID, or time our human took her to The Marine Corps Ball (as a friend) and she spent the evening arguing politics with an old master sergeant, or the time we worked at Signal Mt. Lodge in The Tetons and thru-hiked the Teton Crest Trail, or the time we ran from Mt. Rainier to the ocean with a relay team of badasses like Farmer Emily, Grant the Spartan, Master Freddy, Lance Romance, and Super Mom Liz, or the time we spent in Corbett arguing the pros and cons of owning pets and domestication in general (as usual) as we worked to exclude a team of skunks from Sarah’s home. It felt so good to dust off some of our human’s old Marine age vocabulary.
AMY!: How are we going to get these cute little fuckers out of here?
STORYSOLD: How the fuck do I know? I thought you were the boss here…?
AMY: I can’t believe people kill skunks. What Assholes! I mean they’re just doing their thing. You know?
And that’s how our human and Amy talked while they buttoned up what they thought were the last of the entry holes. I hate to admit it, but I know our human host well enough now. My live action character has a lot of Amy in her. Amy has a wildness to her that makes you look around when you’re talking to her, just to make sure there’s no sheltered youths or republicans present to offend when she launches her next explicative-riddled narrative. It’s never the cursing that makes us do a head check. It’s the conversations Amy and I get in. They’re enough to make even the most neophilic rat run screaming for the comfort of his old rat hole.
That day Amy and I left Mark’s property feeling confident we’d nailed it. Less than 24 hours later we received the following text…
SARAH: Good morning Jake. I wanted to let you know the skunks sprayed last night. Our upstairs and downstairs and kitchen all stink!
STORYSOLD: Thanks for letting me know. It usually takes them a little while to figure the doors out. If it doesn’t get better by tomorrow I’ll swing by and wire the doors open to make it really clear to them where the exit is.
Later that night, we received another text from Sarah…
SARAH: The skunks are back at it tonight. I can smell it more in the twins room.
STORYSOLD: I’ll be by tomorrow afternoon.
SARAH: Ok thank you
The next day, after inspecting our new Homefront, I sent Sarah this report…
STORYSOLD: Well that answers my question. I’m not going to be able to keep them out without trenching around all the add-on structures. For now I wired the doors open. I’ll be back within the week to do the next round of trenching.
SARAH: Oh dang!! Did they dig holes?
Not only did they dig 3 new holes, they chewed the hell out of the rotted openings in the deck. I was impressed with how much work they put in. They must have been super pissed! I could feel the anger as I stood there and realized all the work that went into making the new entry holes.
Here’s how I informed Amy of our loss…
STORYSOLD (mid conversation): Oh and WE GOT OUR ASSES HANDED TO US BY A BUNCH OF SKUNKS!!!
AMY: Nooo…are they stuck down there?
STORYSOLD: No they dug under the add on foundations, plus 2 weak spots in our work. BASTARDS!
AMY: Whoa! Well now you know where! It’s a puzzle that lasts a while [insert our laughing emoji here]
STORYSOLD: Honestly I’m impressed. Now I have to do some more digging…
AMY: If you need help let me know!
And so began the next round of exclusion work. Our human and his friend were both happy it was warmer and less windy. After some debate on just how much digging needed to be done, we decided that we needed to trench and install a mesh barrier along the sides of every structure that didn’t have a classic foundation. Thankfully, with Amy’s help, that didn’t take as long as we thought it would…
STORYSOLD: What do you think? Should we wire the door open for a few days and let them get used to using it this time?
AMY: Yeah, there’s no rush. Maybe we can put out some food to show them the way?
So that’s exactly what we did. We now only had one one way door, which we wired open. Then we set a can of cat food in it like a last meal. After all, that had been their territory for a very, very long time. It’s never easy for any creature to leave their home and begin again anew.
I waited three days before I returned to inspect our new Homefront. I didn’t see any new holes, so I cut the zip tie and activated the one way door. Then I held my breath.
HERE’S THE EMAIL I WROTE MARK A MONTH LATER:
So if you’re reading this service story and there’s no next chapter with the word “breach” in the title, then you can bet that our human, Amy, Mark, Sarah, Husband, The Twins, and Sue are all doing a little victory dance.
The real question remains, what is the guy living in the double wide across the street (next to Sue’s) who’s been named in the feeding the skunks going to do?
We hope, for his sake, he’s watched enough Disney to want to live with them too.
UPDATES ON THE ACTION
After a month or so, Sarah sent us the following text…
SARAH: Look what’s in our back yard. We haven’t smelt skunk. It went under the shed.
STORYSOLD: Freaking hell! Looks like the shed is next on the list
SARAH: Yes definitely!
A week later we were relieved when we returned to inspect Sarah’s and Sue’s new reenforced “wilderness proof” Homefronts and found no new tunnels or breaches. The shed was already on the list from the beginning. Waiting to exclude it was us being overly optimistic about the habits of our wild creature friends.
No matter, we’re good at digging too. In less than 2 hours, we installed a mesh barrier on 2 sides of the shed. The other side was blocked with stones and a fence, which left the back open to the neighbor’s yard…
SARAH: Glad you put up the mesh. The skunks dug all around the shed last night.
STORYSOLD: Any signs of breaches?
SARAH: I don’t see any on the front and sides. I will have to look on the back side.
STORYSOLD: That’s good. I only did 2 sides in the hope of keeping them out of your yard. The other 2 sides may happen too depending on what happens next
SARAH: Ok I will go out in a few and look around the back
STORYSOLD: I’m pretty sure they have easy access to the neighbor’s yard behind you, so don’t bother checking…
SARAH: Ok, do you think they go under the shed?
STORYSOLD: Not sure