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.
Then pulled 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?