Suburban St.Louis isn’t exactly the wilderness, so I’m constantly amazed by the sheer number of animal species trying to get into my house, eat my house, eat me and/or crap all over everything. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m in Australia and have to fight off three venomous snakes, two poisonous spiders and a marsupial before breakfast, so excuse me if I sound like a pussy to any antipodeans out there. It’s just the sheer volume of the intrusions that’s getting old.
While woodpeckers and termites eat your house, the deer will eat everything outside your house. Your garden is just an extended deer buffet. “Deer resistant” plants simply mean that the deer don’t eat them first but save them for dessert. And to add insult to injury they run out in front of your car in the evening with their white arses flashing, just daring you to run them down and send your car to the shop for expensive repairs.
If you sit outside and try to enjoy your plants in the few days before they get eaten you’d better do it in the evening so that the St.Louis summer heat and humidity doesn’t kill you. Unfortunately that’s when the mosquitoes come out and feast on your blood. I have a bat that lives under the deck and passes the time converting mosquitoes into a neat pile of bat shit. Unfortunately it might also carry rabies, so it’s kind of a death-sentence-in-waiting in my garden. Every so often you get a plague of some other plant-eating bastard pest. We had bagworms a few years ago which meant millions of caterpillars in silken bags hanging in the trees and eating all the leaves, before falling all over the deck and drive where they’d get walked into the house on your shoes. Nearly killed my trees – the only consolation was that if you stepped on them their entire insides would shoot out of their arse in a very satisfactory green spurt.
Bagworms won’t eat your grass, however, so instead I have moles to take care of fucking up my lawn. I have hunted them with a pitchfork and speared one, pulling its twitching carcass from the earth. This can make you feel guilty for a bit, but then another one moves in and continues turning your lawn into dust, so the sympathy tends to run short quickly. Then when I’m cutting the crap lawn I have to worry about a cloud of yellowjackets rising up from a hole in the ground and proceeding to sting me all over. Running into the house while performing a spastic dance to swat away all the insects while clawing off clothes to expose the ones stinging you from the inside really does wonders for your man-image.
Squirrels eat all the bird food that you put out to bribe the birds not to eat your house. Then they shit on your deck, dig up your plant pots and try to burrow into your walls. I once had a flying squirrel, a noctural bastard that invades your attic, usually in families of eight or more. The advice from the experts was not to try and trap it, because I wouldn’t be able to, but to call in an exterminator. I caught mine in a rat trap baited with peanut butter before it moved its family in, but it had already deposited enough shit in one corner to fertilize a golf course. It was, however, satisfying to carry its corpse to the trash can knowing that I would no longer be woken up at three in the morning by its scratching and running around.
Of course there are numerous bugs, mostly dead by the time I see them, but as the next periodic spraying by the pest controller gets closer there tend to be more live ones. Giant orange centipedes were the latest bathroom delight. We also had a couple of lizards – how the fuck do they get in the house? Obviously the bugs are a real draw, and I had half a mind to leave the lizards so they’d keep the bugs down but one more shriek from Mrs. Bison as a blue/green lizard crawled from the vent by her chair was enough to peruade me to evict them. She occasionally screams at other animals, but the best by far was a black and yellow salamander that crawled on her hand while she was planting daffodil bulbs. I thought she’d been stabbed!
Outside there are countless rabbits and chipmunks, as well as a raccoon that visits in the evening and climbs up to steal the bird food. These things are mostly harmless though. The coyote that came up into the garden a few weeks ago wasn’t – it looked ready to carry off a small child. Bastard mangy thing with yellow eyes, much bigger than I’d thought.
My favorite animal though is the venomous copperhead that took up residence last year in a patch of compost in my yard. It has everything I look for in a pet – it looks good, needs no care and maintenance and it won’t destroy my house. Just have to remember not to step on it…
Copyright 2007 Edward Bison