Saturday, August 15, 2009

Williston, VT

It's 11 o'clock, and I'm sitting in the comfortable darkness, listening to the crickets and frogs and other chirpy creatures whose names I don't yet know. It's been a sticky day, filled with humid air and over-ripe vegetables from the garden, the kids briefly content to sit in front of a movie with smoothies in hand before leaving for camp, the cats mostly content to lay low, and the rabbit alternating her long naps with brief, aerobatic maneuverings before flopping back down under her favorite chair.

Last night, a grey squirrel got caught in the trap that hangs outside the near corner of my cabin, his neck entrapped between the thinly rusting bars, his feet braced -or stuck- against the bottom of the wire and spring device. I thought the quick, infrequent sound of his struggling was the wind, or some tromping animal among the woods, and stayed half-focused on my book for longer than I care to admit, before curiosity led me outside to find him, curled and dangling, tail hanging, from my eaves.

Unsure if he was dead, I threw a pebble high against the wall, near his head, but he didn't move. I watched his still form for a moment, then went to find my landlord and tell him that the trap (installed to stop the pesky red squirrels from continuing to nest in and chew through the boards above my loft bed) had finally netted something. (We had the trap put up at the beginning of summer, when the red squirrels left off cavorting on the corrugated tin roof and began gnawing through the insulation, doing their best to join the rabbit and me inside. The first night after the man came to hang it, I came home to find the trap, sprung and broken on the forest floor, and the squirrels, gleeful and gloating, mere inches above my bed, judging from the sounds of their fervored scrabbling. I took to sticking dropperfuls of peppermint oil through the cracks in the ceiling and hammering epithets and warnings back at them with my fists, but the invasion continued.)

Now that the trap had finally worked, I thought we should cut the squirrel down and eat it; the least we could do to make use of its now-lifeless body, but Richard reminded me of the rat poison he'd thrown in when the first trap didn't work, so I left it there, a grim warning to the other four-leggeds until the pest control man could come to take it down.

That is, I left it there until early this afternoon, when after yet another brief bit of noise from the eaves, I went outside and saw its tail sinking down, and its chest moving, and realized with sinking heart that it - no, he, for in life creatures claim gender as no food-corpse does - was a) still alive, and b) in need of swift removal. So.

There followed a sweaty, ridiculous twenty minutes involving: an expandable ladder, 2 pairs of ski-gloves, an old sweatshirt, a crowbar, two humans, and one very scared, very trapped, and suddenly very alert squirrel. Fortunately for the squirrel, the angle of the trap meant that I couldn't snap his neck (my original plan), and doubly fortunate, it also meant that somehow he wasn't noticeably injured by the trap, only stuck like a kid with her head caught between two fence posts. Though, when the trap finally released, he landed with a thump on the ground before scuttling under the cabin and then away through the bushes.

Richard returned with the rat poison, we dusted our sweaty selves off, and I returned the ladder and went back inside to contemplate the bizarre and seemingly vain exercise we'd all been through. Perhaps it'll serve as a warning to the other squirrels, or perhaps they'll go back inside, eat the poison, and die that way (probably a quicker way to go, if today's efforts were any sign). I just hope that the pest control man returns quickly enough to cover the hole, before somebody dies and stinks inside the walls.

And, as I finish writing this, the strong stench of skunk comes in thickly through the open window. Ah, nature. Time to close up shop, admit my not-so-lofty position among the local critters of Vermont, and go to bed.

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