animal kingdom.

22Feb09

Your regularly scheduled post about the evolution of our “practice house” is being superceded tonight by a news flash: the critters are everywhere, and whenever you least expect it, the natural world is prone to pop into your day and remind you that humans are not the only critters out there, and we’re all just trying to figure out how to get by.

But before I get started on my story, I have a Rorschach test for you. What does the image below– a random assortment of ink spots– remind you of?

This week, I received an email (via my father) from my uncle, who lives in Stamford, Connecticut. It seems that he was going about his business, doing some work in his basement, when he got a phone call. The person at the other end of the phone line asked him if he lived on Rock Rimmon Road, and whether he’d seen a 200-pound chimpanzee running around. It turns out that my uncle has primates for neighbors, and that a chimpanzee that lived in the house next door, had a very bad day and brutally mauled a woman before being shot by the police. The incident turned into a bit of a major human-interest story, and hit all the major news outlets, including the BBC. The story got even more convoluted when the New York Post ran a cartoon depicting said chimpanzee, which many people interpreted to be a racist slur directed toward Obama. So, there you go: you’re innocently minding your own business, trying to get your overdue projects done (my uncle is an architect, therefore overdue projects are ever-present), and suddenly you’re interrupted by the animal kingdom taking over your neighborhood… and the international news… and the national political commentary.

This afternoon, I was laying the finish floor in our mini-home in the back yard with my father-in-law, while Luke worked on some wiring issues. He had stepped outside momentarily, and when he returned, he announced, “there’s something in our chimney.” He had apparently wandered into the “big house,” and heard some scratching noises emanating from the chimney of our wood stove. We assumed that it was probably a bird that had gotten trapped in the chimney– not such an uncommon occurrence. I went back to working, and Luke continued to wander around the property, involved in some project. After a while, he came back inside and said, “it’s a squirrel. I saw it inside the wood stove.” At which point, I became interested enough to forget about my Pergo-laying project, and go investigate. It turns out that, at some point, a squirrel was frolicking on the ridge of our roof– probably running along our power line, jumping into our spruce tree, and then taking a jaunt along the ridge. He evidently climbed a couple of feet higher than the ridge, onto the brick chimney, and from there another foot to the top of the stove pipe sticking out of the chimney. But the top of the stove pipe offers no play surface for squirrels– only a 25 foot drop straight down into a darkened squirrel hell. From there, it was a 90 degree turn and an 8 foot slide down into the wood stove’s upper flue chamber. From there, he could likely peer out the glass doors on the front of the wood stove, but the amusement park ride was pretty much over. He found that he could scramble his way back up the last 8 foot section of slanted pipe, but the 25 foot vertical drop was beyond the scrambling powers of even the most motivated squirrel (though he did manage to make his way several feet straight up, and hold on by his little squirrel-fingernail for a few minutes.)

Here is Luke, un-fastening the stove pipe, in order to deliver Mr. Sooty (as I like to call him) from his creosote chamber.

You can see that he’s armed with his DeWalt flashlight, and a stick, both of which he is preparing to point at our sooty intruder. At the moment that this picture was taken, the squirrel was trapped just inside the horizontal pipe that you can see sticking out of the top of the brick chimney. This is what a truly pissed off squirrel looks like:

It may be difficult to tell from the photo, but this is supposed to be a brown squirrel. But his trip through our chimney has rendered him rather blackened and he seemed to be doing a lot of wheezing. We tried to coax him into a bucket, but our attempts were unsuccessful, and he eventually ended up flying out of the chimney pipe and falling 8 feet to the floor below, creating a lovely Rorschach test pattern on our concrete floor. From there, it was pretty much the standard scene you might imagine when you’ve got a soot-covered, half-crazed animal running all over your cluttered job site, being chased by a girl with a 5-gallon bucket and an unnatural fear of rabies.

Eventually Mr. Sooty found his way to the opened door, and darted under the front porch, where he will hopefully recover some of his dignity and think twice before hopping onto any more chimneys.

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4 Responses to “animal kingdom.”

  1. Oh my goodness. I’m still laughing and laughing. Thank you for the most excellent visual.

  2. Hilarious post! You guys are making great progress on your mini-home. Sounds like it was a good idea and will take off some of the pressure to get the big house finished. Thank goodness we’re coming to the end of winter – it makes the endless amount of work that much more bearable! Good luck!

  3. 3 buzzardroost

    Oh, finally took the Rorschach Test. Looks like a puffed up Horned Cobra, and yes, she bites.

  4. 4 Charlie

    Cap that rascal! Tin chimney caps are cheap, and you don’t want to know what it’s like to have an animal dive down that pipe when the fire’s lit.

    You’d think even a dumb rodent wouldn’t jump into a smoking hot blind hole, but I guess if a great horned owl is after you’ll take any chance you can see… which can end up in a screaming, burning animal in the stove (don’t open the stove door until the screaming and rattling stops, or you’ll just make things worse).


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