Every fall, as the temperatures start to drop, uninvited guests show up at El Rancho Elliott. Mice, in particular, decide it’s oh so much more pleasant inside the walls of our house than outside in the freezing cold. As a result, I thought it unremarkable when my wife announced, “I think there’s something in the ceiling over the upstairs bathroom.”
“It’s probably a mouse,” I said absentmindedly while pecking away at an assignment. “I think it’s bigger than a mouse,” she said. “Maybe you should come up here and have a listen.” I trudged upstairs and stuck my head in the bathroom. It sounded like Seal Team Six was conducting combat drills overhead.
Outwardly, I tried to sound casual: “Yeah, it sounds bigger than your average mouse. I’ll take a look.” Inwardly, I was flipping out. It sounded waaaay bigger than your average mouse. Standing on a chair, I pushed up through the attic hatch and shined a flashlight into the darkness. There, just under the edge of the roofline, was the culprit: a squirrel. Not just any squirrel, mind you, but a highly successful squirrel, judging from the plumpness of his physique and his glossy coat.
As I trained the flashlight in his direction, Mr. Bushytail stopped what he was doing and looked at me. I gave him my best Clint Eastwood “this attic ain’t big enough for both of us” stare and slowly retreated back down through the hatch, pulling the cover firmly in place behind me. My mind was racing. Clearly this squirrel needed a pneumatically-induced “retirement.” Getting an air rifle through that 2’ x 2’ hatch with me would be too cumbersome. At the same time, I didn’t want to take the chance of wounding the squirrel and having it go berserk in the attic. Finally, I chose my .177 caliber Beeman P1 air pistol and loaded it with Gamo Raptor PBA ammo. Even though the distance was less than a dozen feet, I wanted a flat trajectory and excellent penetration. I pushed my way back through the attic hatch and flipped on the flashlight. The squirrel was gone. Now what?
I carefully surveyed the attic in the flashlight’s glare. The squirrel had, indeed, left the building. Good . . . but how was he getting in? Standing in front of the house, I could see that a small piece of the aluminum on the overhang of the bathroom roof had pulled loose. A few minutes later, with the help of a ladder and my son holding it steady, I could see how the squirrel had managed it. The aluminum was springy. Somehow Mr. Bushytail had discovered he could pull it down a little, slide in, and the aluminum would return nearly all the way to its original position. Our unwanted furry guest was clearly planning to make a winter of it. Already there was a sizable stash of edibles to see him through. I could imagine him chatting up the lady squirrels: “Why don’t you come over, babe? I got a heated condo over the Elliott’s bathroom. On Tuesday nights, we can listen to the latest episode of NCIS.” I tacked the aluminum back into place, called the guy who could repair the underlying wood that had rotted, and prayed that my lick-and-a-promise patch job would hold until a “real” repair could be completed.
There were no noises in the attic that night, but the following day when I stepped out the front door, headed to the mailbox, I heard a noise overhead. There was Mr. Bushytail, trying to “pick the lock” on his pad. Clearly, he hadn’t taken the hint. I would have to take sterner measures. So I kept the P1 close at hand while attending to my writing chores. Finally, I caught him part way up the spruce tree by our bird feeder. I flipped on the red dot and ranged the distance at about seven yards. I gripped the pistol tightly with my right hand, pulling it back into the web between my thumb and forefinger. I wrapped the fingers of my left hand over the middle, ring, and little fingers of my trigger hand. (Unlike some folks, who allow springer air pistols to freely recoil, I clamp mine in a Ninja death grip.) I extended both arms to form a triangle with my chest. I placed the red dot over center mass, eased the first stage out of the trigger, and squeezed a bit more. The P1 bucked in my hands, and the squirrel dropped like a stone. I suspect he was on his way to that Big Oak Forest in the sky before he hit the ground.
And since then, there have been no more noises in the attic.