Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pest Control

The place that my husband, Bev, and I call home is a farmhouse out in the country that we’ve lived in for the past 19 years. The house actually qualifies as a heritage home since it was built over 150 years ago. It’s a house that has character as a number of visitors over the years have pointed out. I have to agree that the tall ceilings, deep windowsills and spacious hallway give it a certain flair. The house doesn’t belong to us but we’ve always considered ourselves blessed to have the opportunity to live here. I do have to admit that there are a few quirks that go along with living in a home of such a venerable age. To say that it is well ventilated would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions.

A number of years ago a study was done to determine the efficiency of the heating systems in the various houses managed by the university. On the appointed day a massive fan was installed and sealed into our open front door. It was designed to suck air out of the house to lower the air pressure inside and determine how airtight it might be. It was an impossible task because as fast as the air was sucked out it was replaced by a constant and substantial inflow from nearly every direction. Curtains billowed in front of tightly shut windows while doors trembled on their hinges in the breeze. To open any one of the kitchen cupboards that sat against an outside wall was to be blasted by a veritable windstorm blowing out from among the canned goods. Even the plaster walls seemed to be oozing air. In the end they gave it up and concluded that at the very least we didn’t need to worry about being asphyxiated in our sleep by carbon monoxide poisoning. We resigned ourselves to wrapping up in comforters to watch television and occasionally wearing knee high felt boot liners around the house in winter.

The other problem with living in a house with more than its fair share of cracks and holes is that we have to deal with the pests that manage to find their way inside. Every spring and fall we have an influx of cluster flies that gives me a deep appreciation for what the Egyptians must have endured during the plagues of the Exodus. The first snowfall generally heralds the entrance of a few field mice looking to get in out of the cold and occasionally we get a visitor of a more alarming sort.

Our daughter, Lauren, found herself stirring out of a restless sleep in the middle hours of a warm summer night the year she was 12 years old. She lay in bed wondering what could have wakened her, absently noting that the rhythmic whirring of the ceiling fan sounded a lot louder than it ought to. Her eyes snapped open completely when she belatedly remembered that there was no ceiling fan in her room. Something was flying in circles in the darkness above her head! What else could it be but a bat? She snatched the covers up over her head and called out softly in an attempt to attract our attention without alerting the winged intruder to her presence.

Back in our room, Bev raised himself up on one elbow and cocked his head to listen.

“What’s wrong,” I muttered.

He was already getting out of bed and pulling on some clothes. “I heard someone calling Daddy,” he whispered. “It had to be Lauren. I’ll just go check on her.”

In the meantime, Lauren was convinced that no one could have heard her feeble cry. She decided she couldn’t stay where she was so she gently rolled out from under the covers and off the edge of her bed to a prone position on the carpet. Bats were supposed to have excellent radar but she wasn’t about to stand up and risk a collision. She began a slow torturous crawl along the floor while the whirring continued unabated somewhere near the ceiling above her. She’d almost reached the door when Bev arrived and pushed it open. He looked down in astonishment as she scooted past his ankles and pulled the door shut behind her.

“There’s a bat flying around in there,” she gasped.

Bev grabbed a towel from the bathroom and stepped through the door into Lauren’s room closing it firmly behind him before flicking the light switch on. Sure enough, there was a bat flying circles around the room at just above head height. Bev stood watching long enough to see that its flight path never seemed to vary. He simply stepped in front of it on one of its crazy circuits and caught it in the folds of the towel. From there it was easy enough to carry it outside and set it free…a classic catch and release. Lauren was mightily relieved. Her Dad had proved to be a most effective air traffic controller when it came to bats and she returned to her bed surrounded by the blessed sounds of silence. Still, I think she spent the rest of the night with the lights on.

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