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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Where The Wild Things Were: The Second In A Series

When Rick and I went looking for our house, we had next to nothing for a downpayment. We knew we were looking at a major fixer-upper, but since Rick was a carpenter and could do pretty much anything, we were fine with Buying Neighborhood first and a House second. We found our teeny little story-and-a-half bungalow on a wonderful tree-lined street where our kids would attend the same schools their father did. Jared was only a few months old, and we lived in our apartment for a month while we got as much of the house ready as possible to move into.

It had been a rental for years and years, its landlord in Florida, its last inhabitants forcibly evicted. The place was a disaster, but it had beautiful woodwork and lots of potential. We worked hard getting things ready, and fought off an invasion of carpenter ants which came literally cascading out of the wall behind the bathtub. I never stomped so much or so hard in my life, screaming the whole time. That was almost a dealbreaker.

One afternoon, as we were sweating and working, we heard a strange tapping at one of the windows at the side of the fireplace. I walked over and was astounded to see a caricature of an old woman, hunched over her cane, standing in the driveway of the house next door. She had apparently banged on the window with her cane. As soon as she saw my face in the window, she squinted up at me and said something unintelligible.

"I'm sorry, but I didn't hear you. What did you say?" I raised my voice in case she had trouble hearing me. She took a wobbly step toward the edge of her driveway and fixed me with a severe look. "I said That's a bat house! You bought a bat house. You should have bought my house, but you bought a bat house. There's bats in that house. Shoulda bought my house."

I was so amazed that I almost shut the window and walked away, but St. Patsy didn't raise me that way. "We haven't come across any bats, but thank you," I said as politely as I could to this bizarre woman.  "And your house wasn't on the market when we were looking. It had a buyer at the time. Again, thanks for your concern." I walked away with what I hoped was a pleasant smile and wave, but she was unimpressed. "That's a bat house!" she said, decisively.

My memory fails me as to when the first bat appeared, but it was quite some time, and Mrs. Jessie had moved away by then, replaced by a couple our age. Jared was already upstairs in a Big Boy Bed, and his scared little cries on the monitor about something flying around up there woke me. Super Rick went galumphing up there in his underwear, and as soon as he told me it was a bat, I had a Bat House Flashback. I called up to Jared that it was "a nightbird who was lost" and that he had to get under his covers until Daddy said to come out; then I cowered downstairs with a sinking heart. Holy crap. What if we did have a bat house?

After wounding/stunning it with a tennis racket, Rick put it in a towel and took it right outside to beat it to death in the driveway. The neighbors, of course, came out to see What In The Hell Was Going On. From that moment on, Rick became known as Batman. And I was Mental Case. I could not stop thinking about Mrs. Jessie's dire pronouncement. We Had Bought A Bat House. My precious child lived in a Bat House. What kind of parents were we?

It seemed like once a week there was a bat incident, one even swooping down the steps and into the living room. Jared would run downstairs into our bedroom and he and I would tent up under the comforter, waiting to hear Rick come downstairs announcing, "Got it!" and listening for the inevitable applause from the neighbors (if it were not in the middle of the night). Rick had even taken to leaving a tennis racket and fishing net at the top of the steps, along with an old pillowcase--his BatKit. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I dismissed the idea that it was just wayward bats sneaking into the house. I had to admit that they were already there. It was time to call an exterminator and see what we were dealing with. It was either that or put our house on the market, something I had wailed more than a few times.

We were so strapped financially those early days! And we would not borrow money from family; I remember so many birthdays when Rick's gift from his grandparents was a car payment. But it was clear that we had to hire a professional for The Bat Problem or I was going to need another kind of expensive Professional Help.

Enter Critter Control, a pest control company who specialized in bat and raccoon problems, and whose name I found warmly reassuring. A sturdy, capable-looking gentleman went outside to have a look around, then went upstairs to inspect the crawlspaces after hearing my story. When he came downstairs, he spoke to me in the tone of a doctor who is about to break The Worst News Possible to a fragile patient. His eyes were doe-like, and his voice was like warm pancake syrup. "Ma'am, first of all, we're gonna be able to help you, no problem at all. We'll do what we need to today, and it won't take but a night or two, and everything will be taken care of. No more bats. And that's a guarantee." My eyes teared up immediately. The sense of relief I felt was immense and overwhelming. But he wasn't done. "Now, Ma'am, what you have up there, in your crawlspace--in a void wall--is a bat colony. And at dusk--"

And this is where I stopped him. I stopped him because I felt like I was going to throw up or faint or both. I had a colony. Of BATS. In my HOUSE. Right now up there and he was just standing there. I tried to remain calm as I formed my question. "When you say colony, what...how big...how many...?"

"Now, Ma'am, we don't want to get into specifics. We really truly don't. It doesn't matter. Because here's what we'll do...." And in very simple, clear language--with visuals--he explained to me exactly how he was going to turn My Bat House back into My House in just a day or two. In that lovely, hypnotic, Mrs. Butterworth voice. And I remember how I stood there, nodding and understanding and feeling relieved all over again. He was like...an Extermivangelist.

Just as he said, my bat problem disappeared immediately. Rick's tennis racket and fishing net could return to their original purposes, and the neighbors could find other forms of entertainment in the evenings and wee hours (although reenactments and Talking About It still provided plenty).

For those of you scoring at home, that's Us--2; Wildlife--0.

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17 comments:

  1. Oh, my heavens. A freakin' COLONY. I think I would have eaten rice and beans for months to pay for the Extermivangelist. And because I am probably an equal mix of neurotic and paranoid, my mind would have likely been jumping to other thoughts, such as... what evils lurk behind other walls? Mice, rats, squirrels, snakes... I bet there are one or two of those to come forth in future Critter & Varmint Tales.

    Sidebar Clink the Glass: Don’t know the guy, but there are too many like him rolling around shaking their fists and clamoring for “family values.” These are always like ones who end up being secret pedophiles, like, uh, his buddy Josh Duggar.

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    1. Ortizzle--Thank goodness the extermivangelist never told me the extent of the colony. I know I never would have gotten over it. It was the best money we ever spent for peace of mind and peaceful nights. I really have no idea why my wonderful little house is such a Wildlife Magnet, but it is and continues to be although not with Infestations like the bats.

      Sidebar: Read the "Raise the Glass" item, too, then. Fascinating short article on how the South skews the entire country.
      The more I read about Lincoln/the Civil War/Reconstruction period, the more I come to believe that "The Peculiar Institution" (slavery) really caused long-term. systemic cultural patterns in the South that we will continue to feel for generations to come. That one thing--so huge and vast--really did make it like a completely different country. And it still is because of cultural norms which remain so separate from the rest of the country. I'm fascinated.

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  2. Extermivangelist - ha! I love that! We need one of those for our bee problem at church (we have honeybees in the belfry and we do NOT want to kill them if we don't have to!). That is a great story - I love how Rick feels free to just head out in his underwear to solve any problem. And since he's a carpenter I'll bet the view was pretty good ;)

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    1. Bug--Rick has no shame, that's for sure. He's a tall, slim guy, and in his younger carpenter days, even more...taut. LOL. And who has time for pants when you're in hand-to-hand combat with wildlife? I gave up long ago trying to impress any social mores upon him.

      As to the Bees In Your Belfry--any local beekeepers would be thrilled to come and get them. They'll come and smoke them out--literally, I think--and give them a nice, new hive for a home. Maybe your congregation will get some free honey as a trade.

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  3. Hey, Bug, if you think Rick's view was pretty good, you should talk to the neighbors. In a critter emergency Rick doesn't always take the time to put his underwear on..Ask Mrs. Jessie...She knows...She has lured him out on the back deck with mice, crows and now bats...Next comes locusts..The whole neighborhood is waiting with bated breath for that one..... Stay tuned!

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    1. Nancy--Mrs. Jessie was our original (and thankfully short-lived) neighbor on that side. She sold to the couple our age, then they moved after several years to a bigger house in the neighborhood. Then came the next couple who divorced, then she remarried and they moved, and now another very young couple lives there. The neighbors on the other side have way more stamina.

      Now, locusts...holy crap. That's the One Thing we haven't had. Yet. Bite your tongue.

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  4. Sadly, Mother Nature bats last, (No pun initially intended, sometimes the unintentional ones are the best)

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    1. Sillyak-- ;-) Well, in this case, we did. We still live there, and we still have no bats. I am still a booster for Critter Control. Nice pun anyhow!

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  5. We had one bat who lived for a few years underneath our deck. I found him charming, but a whole colony would freak me out for years. What an amazing story, but I will admit to being a tad jealous… you had a neighbor who talked with you. That's not the done thing here in these parts!

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    1. Ally Bean--I know--a COLONY! The image made me sick. As to friendly neighbors, that, sadly, is a Thing Of The Past now. We are pretty much surrounded by strangers who don't have much interest in being on more than a "hi, how are you" basis before they hibernate. I miss the more jovial neighbors we once had, but neighborhoods change.

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  6. Ugh, bats. I've never had to cope with them. One under my deck, I could handle. A colony in the house would freak me the hell out.

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  7. This is the last I will say about Rick. I will use plane language and intend to hit the nail on the head about this. I think Rick is on the level but is not always square with us. He has his highs and Lowes and it doesn't auger well for him that I know he enjoys catching critters and putting the screws to them.He is a real router of mice and he knows we saw him shoot those crows and I heard he puts adze in the paper for bat removal services.

    Awl I want to do is hammer home my point..which is..Oh, forget it,it's too boring. So, before I go nuts and bolt for the door I really need a drink. "Bartender, bring me a screwdriver."

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    1. Nancy--Wow! Nailed it! ;->

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  8. Ew. My daughter had squirrels, but nothing like your experience.
    At the moment my porches are crawling with ants, and I am pouring poison everywhere.
    Will there be further instalments of Nance vs wildlife? Hoping! And I do wish we lived next door for the scenery, at the very least.

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    1. Mary G--Oh, we have ants here and there every summer. Aren't they a pain?

      Yes, I'll present a few more of our Wildlife Adventures, I suppose. Not sure if I'll make them each into a separate post or what. Imagine living next door to the Dept.! Are you sure you could possibly manage it all? ;-)

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Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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