May 8, 2008

Squirrels will make you nuts

Have you ever had squirrels in your garage?

Don't have squirrels in your garage.

I finally got a chance to get out and mow the yard today. A fine day; cool, sunny, and with a bit of a breeze. I'd been dreading doing it, but now I looked forward to it.

First I should mention that my mower has never failed to start after a few easy pulls... ever. Even the first try after a long winter. And I don't drain the tank every season or get new gas in the spring. Maybe I've just been lucky. But it's roared to life like a champ every single time for more years than I can remember.

So I go out and move a few things to get it out of the garage and stoop down to raise the garage door. It goes up about a foot and a half and clunk... it stops dead.

What the hell? I try to put it back down again so I can look through the windows and try to see what's hanging it up. But it only goes down about 6 inches! I pull it up, it stops dead. I push it down, it runs into something else.

Truly, it has never been asked more earnestly, what the hell??

So I raise it up until it stops again and pause to assess the situation.

I finally get down on my hands and knees on the concrete (in shorts, naturally) and try to smush myself under the gap and crank my neck around to see if there's anything up near the ceiling stopping the door.

I can't see anything obvious, so I push in a little more and then spy the problem.

The pull cord, the little thing that allows you to disengage the door from the electric door opener if you need to raise the door manually, has somehow been looped around the track on the ceiling, not once, but twice.

The sliding shuttle that the door opener chain attaches to to raise the door would only go back along the track so far before the cord would cinch tight around it and stop it dead.

Well, that explains the why, but how? How the hell did that cord get looped around there? Twice! It's hanging in the middle of the ceiling, for God's sake, with nothing around to climb to it.

But obviously I had to get all the way inside in order to un-mess it up. (somehow)

So in I crawl, my back scraping along the bottom of the door, only to notice that I'm crawling on my hands and bare knees through a mixture of charcoal briquettes and broken shards of glass.

Now short of burning coals, I highly recommend this mix for filthiness, pain, and minor flesh wounds if you're really looking for something to crawl over. To demonstrate their undying devotion, some may say they'd gladly crawl over such things on their hands and knees for the one they love. Me? I get to do it to open a garage door.

And the more I peered into the gloom as my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I could see that squirrels had literally shredded, gnawed, and pretty much knocked down everything remotely possible, including a box containing some old cocktail glasses that were in there for God knows what reason, as well as having completely chewed through a bag of charcoal and spewed the black dusty nuggets all over.

Not only that, but I could hear the furry devils scurrying around the far end of the garage. Damn their tiny hides!

Here I am, wedging my way under the garage door with my ass sticking out, (Neighbors across the street were out doing yard work, naturally.) beginning to sweat and trying to pick my way through the glass and charcoal, trying to get my body all the way inside while keeping blood loss to an acceptable level.

I finally squeezed in and was able to gingerly stand up as the destructive little rodents continued to scurry around unseen, wreaking their havoc. I looked around to find something I could reach the little pull cord with in order to untangle it, and luckily (my only spot of luck) found an old broom. As I was about to begin, I looked straight ahead and found myself eye-to-eye with one of the brown devils. It looked to be an adolescent from it's size, and was no doubt affiliated with some squirrel gang by the looks of him.

I made some sort of ridiculous noise to try to frighten it away, but as if sensing just how nonthreatening and impotent I was, he (or she) just continued to look past me as if I wasn't there. I muttered a few inspired oaths and proceeded to un-loop the pull cord.

Clearly, the damn rodents had somehow managed to climb up on the garage door track suspended from the middle of the ceiling, (HOW??!!) and had PURPOSELY batted the cord around until it was looped twice around the track, thus ensuring (or so they thought) that I couldn't get in. Well, they obviously didn't know who they were messing with, damn it.

I HOPED that untangling the cord had solved the problem, but the way things were going....

I pulled on the door and it glided all the way open. (Whoo hoo!) Things were looking up for the moment. I’d conquered the squirrels at their own game. Flush with pride and relief, I could now mow the damn grass.

No sooner had I got the door opened than another of the furry rats from hell appeared no more than a couple feet to my left. "GET OUT OF HERE!" I shouted in a hoarse whisper (no use having the neighbors hear me apparently standing alone yelling at inanimate objects, right?)

The stupid thing was literally sitting at the doorway of the garage, one leap and he'd be outside. I made a move towards it to finally drive him out, and what did it do?

It twisted around and jumped down a tiny gap between something and the garage door track and RAN BACK INTO THE GARAGE!

I mean, he was out in the open FOUR INCHES from being out the door, and he decided to double back. What is WITH these things? Every critter from a gnat to a moose runs for freedom when startled. Not the squirrels in my garage. Ridiculously dumb rodents doing all they can to frustrate me. It's MY garage, damn it, not theirs.

Well, to hell with them, I'd have to deal with them later. (I can't wait to see how THAT turns out.)

So after picking up the pieces of Styrofoam cooler and boxes they'd chewed to bits and trying to pick up the bigger shards of all the broken glasses, I managed to pull the mower outside.

Now, at last, I can at least get the yard mowed. No stinking squirrels are going to stop me, damn it.

I pushed in the choke and gave the starter cord a few pulls, and nothing. Well, it must be out of gas. I went to take off the gas cap and noticed that the hard plastic cap looked like a damn beaver (as opposed to a beaver dam) had been going at it! It had all sorts of scrapes and something had gnawed it almost completely through!! What kind of maniacs are these damn squirrels?

I looked the mower over and saw that they'd also gnawed on just about every plastic bit they could. Why in the world they'd do that, I'll never know. It's not like it was soft plastic, and they'd obviously spent hours chewing the hell out of it. I couldn't believe it.

But at least they hadn't damaged anything on the mower to the point it wouldn't work.

Now where did I put that gas can? Oh, there it is.

I looked down, and had to blink a few times. There was my red plastic gas can... with two big holes chewed in it! Yes, boys and girls, the squirrels had CHEWED TWO LARGE HOLES IN A GAS CAN WITH GAS IN IT.

If any naturalists can explain that one to me, I'm all ears.

One thing seems certain, squirrels must get off on gas. Either that or the one who chewed into the gas can was the squirrel equivalent of wildcatter and they'll soon be zooming around in little squirrel SUVs.

The hole above is the larger one and is big enough for them to climb through, though it would no doubt mean certain death.

There's another hole on the other side in nearly the same place that's a little smaller. Why in the hell would they spend all that effort to chew two holes, and one that big, in a gas can? Wouldn't you think the fumes would have knocked the damn thing out before they got that far? Very strange.

At this point I'm beginning to feel like I'm in a bad movie. My knee is bleeding and my hands and knees are black from charcoal, I'm sweating, and sincerely wondering if this is all really happening of if someone is going to pop out with a video camera and announce it's all a big joke as the squirrels emerge grinning to be revealed as trained participants in the ruse.

At this stage I was pretty determined to get the damn grass mowed, since it was apparent that someone was REALLY trying to make it difficult and I tend to take that as a challenge.

So I began to pour gas into the mower's tank, and of course, the largest hole in the gas can was situated where the gas would pour out of it before it came out the spout.

No problem. I just tried to hold the palm of my hand over the ragged hole and pour carefully.

It worked. It worked in that much of the gas actually got into the tank. Of course, the rest drenched my hand and arm and pooled on the concrete. (I reminded myself that accidentally erupting in a fireball about then would really be pretty fitting, and to try not to do anything to help the comedy of errors along if I could avoid it.)

Now... at last, can I mow the damn grass? Never have I had to work so hard to be able to do work that I really hate to do.

So I opened the little gas valve on the gas line, pushed the choke in, and pulled.

And pulled.

And pulled.

And pulled.

Then stopped.

Then pulled again.

And again

And again... and well, you get the picture. I yanked the HELL out of the thing, and nothing. Not a sputter, not a belch, nothing.

Gas was fairly streaming out of the little gas valve, which I didn't like, but oh well. I'd live with it if it would just start like it ALWAYS has in the past.

But after a while of yanking like a madman, I realized that this year would be different (as if that wasn't already quite clear.)

I checked the spark plug wire, which I knew wasn't the problem, but couldn't think of anything else. It wasn't loose. I pulled out the choke in case it was flooded and pulled and pulled. Nope, no luck.

Maybe..... the spark plug had finally fouled? Could be. I sure didn't have any other bright ideas.

As luck (yes, there's a little luck in this) would have it, I'd bought a spark plug for the mower like about 8 years ago, and the truly miraculous part was, I still knew exactly where it was!

I fetched it and then went to grab my socket wrench set. I was almost positive it had a spark plug socket (a deeper socket to reach over the insulator on the plug).

I knew where that was too. Or I thought I did.

Long story longer, I spend a very long half hour searching for the damn socket set in several places and never did find it. So I dug out an array of unsuitable tools and hoped one would work. I had a little crescent wrench, channel lock pliers, and a pair of small vice grip pliers.

Again, I got a little lucky and was able to loosen the old plug with the channel locks, and man was it crudded up with gunk. Maybe I was on to something after all?
But then I noticed that the new plug didn't look like the old one, and was a different part number. But the new one said it was for small engines... Oh what the hell.

I put the new one in, even though I didn't have a gap tool to set the gap (and I had no clue what the gap was supposed to be anyway. Maybe the new one was set close enough.)

The new one went in easily and I snugged it up and then went to try to start it filled with the audacity of hope.

You can pretty much finish the story by now, can't you? I mean, of course it didn't start. Of course I stood there yanking on it as if it would roar to life on the 74th pull when it hadn't done anything on any of the previous 73.

I checked the engine a little closer to see if the squirrels had eaten through the spark plug wire, but couldn't detect any damage.

My only conclusion was that maybe the gas was bad? (the thought crossed my mind that the squirrels had probably thought it would be funny if they peed in it.)

But this means I have to somehow get the gas out of the (now full) tank, and I don't have any bright ideas on how to do that short of trying to siphon it. And I also haven't a clue what to do with it once I get it out. You can't just dump gas down the nearest drain, you can't take it back to the gas station, and you can't put it in a jar and store it, and it can't be good to just throw on the ground somewhere. What the hell do you do with it? With gas prices what they are, maybe I could give it to someone as a gift?

And so it goes. My grass is getting longer as we speak. The mower sits like a useless carcass. The squirrels are still in the garage no doubt, tearing to shreds everything they can get their little beaver-like teeth into, and I still have no clue why my mower won't start.

Maybe the squirrels ate the carburetor?


At 5/08/2008 10:35 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

Solely on getting the tree rats out of your garage, there are several commercial products that emit sound that repels them. used to sell the gizmo and I guess a farm/home store or TSC might have one.

When I had a similar problem, it took about three days and they self-deported. Of course, I no longer have the gizmo to tell you the brand name or bandwidth or any of that useful stuff.

I guess blog material is where you find it. Funny narrative.

Continued success.

At 5/08/2008 10:45 PM, Anonymous nooncat said...

Your life is rich and full, I must say. ;)

At 5/09/2008 6:46 AM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope, could those have been Republican squirrels that you pissed off? Ya gotta be careful these days... ya never know what others might be thinking.

Two - well, maybe three things: First, you do realize that the squirrels who took up residence in your garage will probably return. The little critters have a memory of how to get into a place they've inhabited. Years ago the same squirrel kept returning to my mother's kitchen until we get a cage trap and released him about five miles away.

Second, I'm assuming you didn't put any gas treatment in the tank last fall and the gas is now shellaced. Empty the tank, put in a fresh, correct spark plug, and assuming the squirrel didn't eat anything, it should start right up.

Third, while not totally environmentally correct, an easy way to get rid of old gas is to burn it. Pour some on concrete or gravel and light it. It will burn quickly and what hydrocarbons you release to the environment will not be enough to alter the global warming situation. (Or, pour it in a shallow pan and let it evaporate. This might take several such "treatments," but at least it will be gone. Think gas station overruns.)

At 5/10/2008 4:46 PM, Blogger Cal Skinner said...

There must be an anti-squirrel web site this should be posted on.

At 5/10/2008 5:51 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


In a certain respect, I've always considered TID an "anti-squirrel" site. ha!

At 5/10/2008 5:54 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


Yeah, I'll have to find some way to pursuede them to take up a new hang-out.

I'll tackle that soon.

On the mower front, took the damn thing down to a small engine shop and the guy sprayed starter fluid in the carburator and it fired right up.

He checked and it had a strong spark, so that wasn't it. I guess it was just old/bad gas. As long as it was there, I had him change the oil and take out the old gas and put in some new.

It now runs like a champ, thankfully.

At 5/10/2008 5:55 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

And P.S. Sorry if getting away from the political circus threw anyone for a loop.

At 5/10/2008 6:04 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

You're right as rain on all accounts.

As I noted above, it turned out that it was indeed (apparently) just bad gas. This has never happened to me before, even though I leave gas in it over winters and always just use the same gas that sat in the can over winter as well.

It's always worked fine, so I've never bothered with gas stabilizers or draining the tank/carb, etc.

But I guess it finally caught up with me.

And you know, I thought the same thing about getting rid of the gas... just pouring it on some concrete and tossing a match.

I don't think the neighorhood would appreciate a spectacle like that though.... it's a good amount of gas.

I suppose I'm just going to go the evaporation route, though I'm not sure I'll pour it out on concrete to speed the process. I'm just leaving the can outside and with the holes in it, hoping it will evaporate eventually, and hopefully before anyone or anything accidentally ignites it and ... well, I don't even want to think about it.

For that matter, the thought just occurred to me that I could probably just add it to my car's gas tank. I doubt that small amount (about a half gallon) of bad gas would do any damage when mixed with several gallons of fresh gas.

And with the squirrels, I'm sure you're correct. I have a good idea how they're getting in, and can seal it off. BUT... I just want to make sure they're gone before I do. I don't savor the idea of sealing in a bunch of baby (or grown) squirrels to go crazy and starve and tear even more stuff up trying to escape.

The thought even crossed my mind of just putting the mower in there and letting it run with the garage door closed for a while.... kind of like Auschwitz for squirrels.

Not sure I have the heart to do that though. ha!

Thanks for the tips.

At 5/12/2008 6:19 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

This may be the cure for what ails you.

All you have to do is find the adopt-a-serval hotline.

Continued Success.


At 5/13/2008 6:26 AM, Anonymous yinn said...

What a funny story! I will never have a story like that, what with owning an electric mower.

At 5/13/2008 11:42 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...


Hmmmmm. Maybe there's a "serval-for-hire" biz out there?

Some strange cat from Africa shows up at a local bar and demands half the money up front?

Worth checking into.

At 5/13/2008 11:47 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Yin, don't speak so soon.

Couldn't you have a rather shocking tale to tell when your run over your own extension cord, as I'm sure I'd do within weeks?

My neighbor used to have an electric mower. I enjoyed the quiet, but pitied him wrangling the 100ft or longer cord all over the yard.

This was a guy who was your classic yard freak too, used to mow his yard about twice or more a week. He needed to, because he dumped so much fertilizer on it that it grew about a foot a week.

That was fine with me, except that he'd always get some of his chemicals over onto about two or three yards of my property, and that grass would grow like mad.

I could easily mow my runty yard every week or less, were it not for the mutant super-grass over next to his yard, which would be about a foot and a half tall by the time the rest of my yard needed mowing.

At 5/15/2008 3:31 PM, Blogger tiz said...

I haven't mowed yet. I won't until Obama is declared the nominee. That and my grass really sucks.

At the risk of sounding like a Republican, BB Guns are good squirrel deterrents. At least the old kind never killed them (the BBs will bounce off if you use a lower power) and it made them go away.

At 5/16/2008 8:08 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I have the perfect BB gun for that too, if I could ever dig it up. It was so weak that you could fire it and literally watch the BB fall to the ground about 60 yds away.

But I'm not sure that,

A. I could ever hit the devils. Too many damn places for them to duck behind.

B. Even if I did ping them, that they'd have the sense to get the hell out of my garage. They'd probably just burrow in deeper somewhere to lick their wounds. ha!

At 5/17/2008 2:12 PM, Blogger Dusty said...

Sweet Jaysus, I have experienced many of the same horror stories regarding squirrels and/or roof rats.

But at least you made it humorous..snort!


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