Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

I take my duties as the designated defender of home and hearth seriously.

I don’t own weapons, although I don’t have any problems with people who do — figuring Second Amendment supporters can’t get there without supporting the First. As long as they don’t start selling guns at Safeway, I’m fine. I imagine purchasing a gun in the quick check line might cause almost as much of a delay as buying a pack of cigarettes.

Instead of modern armaments, I rely on my wits.

It’s easy enough when we’re talking about your garden-variety thieves and home-invader types. Good locks and exterior lighting go a long ways against these people. It’s more of a challenge against advanced foes — raccoons and rats.

I knew enough to not post the “Mission Accomplished” banner on the front porch, but last fall I felt pretty good. I’d terminated a number of rats with Extreme Prejudice (brand name of the snap traps) and my system of strategically placed ammonia-soaked tennis balls had discouraged raccoon traffic.

We made it through the peak “move in” season — late fall when temperatures drop and critters look for warmer habitat — without a scratch or scritch or any indication of unwanted guests. Then one night there was a noise, sounding a lot like heavy scrapes, claws perhaps, either in the walls or on the roof. Was it above the bedroom or bathroom? It’s an old house and sometimes noises echo and bounce about and are hard to pin down.

When situations like this arise I Take Matters Into My Own Hands. I don’t convene a family meeting, whine about it or ask for guidance. I act and act decisively. I don’t tell anyone about it to protect them from any undue stress or fear, and just in case it all goes horribly wrong. If that happens, I don’t need the second guessing.

I kind of know things about rodents and raccoons — the way that opposing forces know each other’s tendencies. I’d effectively closed off all possible rodent entry ways along the foundation and exterior walls. I was confident because late last summer I’d found the spot I’d missed in the past years. It was cleverly concealed by some weeds and wind-blown fast-food wrappers.

I was standing outside the house, thinking and staring up into the cold winter sky when it occurred to me: the roof. Somehow they were getting in through the roof.

The roof is a big place so I commenced a painstaking, visual grid search. I abandoned that when I noticed the only possible entry was the bathroom vent extruding from the roof. Accessing the roof meant climbing a ladder. It’s scientific fact that leading cause of death, disfigurement and painful ouchies for men my age (late stages of 54) is falling off a ladder. There should be huge warning stickers on anything beyond a step stool, and it should also be included on the warning labels of beer bottles just to play it safe.

I had to use a step ladder, but it’s a really tall step ladder — reaching a height best described as “death defying.” I got on the roof and inspected the vent. There was the possibility of a slim opening between the vent and the metal roof. It was minute but I’d heard stories about 20-pound rats getting through 1-millimeter openings. There was no fur or rat hair along the edges. I thought about swabbing it for DNA but even if I marked it “urgent,” it takes the state crime lab months to get back to me, even though I sign each request form, “Gil Grissom.”

I did what any man would do. I duct-taped along the edges of the vent. And then, I pulled out one of my rat traps, baited it with the insides of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and set it up on the back of the vent. If a rat did try to access through the vent, instead of skinning itself alive to squeeze through the gap, it would gorge itself on the candy goodness.

Weeks went by without hearing any noise. The trap remained perched in position so I determined my efforts a success. Then one night I heard the noise again. But this time something clicked in my mind. I went upstairs and looked in on Aidan in his room. He was absentmindedly banging his hand against his bedroom wall. I walked back downstairs and listened.

I kept this discovery to myself in case I needed to use it later. Next time I will place a large rat trap in Aidan’s room. That should solve the problem.

Contact assistant editor Michael Gallagher at mgallagher@kvnews.com.

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