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He called me to share his pest management story. “My neighbor Mary had a squirrel living in her attic,” he said, “and since our local pest company (in Jacksonville, Illinois) doesn’t do animal control, I offered her a helping hand. When I got to her house, I checked the eaves, and quickly saw a hole you could throw a baseball through. I figured that’s how the squirrel was getting in. I wasn’t sure how to seal the hole, so I bought a can of that expanding foam at the hardware store, then pumped the whole kit and caboodle into the hole. That was a week ago and Mary hasn’t heard a peep since. Say, Mike, do you think I got the job done?”

“It’s a good thing you did the work during the day,” I said, “because the squirrel was likely outside foraging. It was probably a solitary male, because if you’d have sealed out a female with young to care for she would have chewed through that foam like a chainsaw through butter. If Mary hasn’t heard any noises in the attic, and the foam is undisturbed, you were likely successful. Call it beginner’s luck.”

“Well, great!” he said with touch of braggadocio in his voice.

So, who is this mystery man? He’s the one who taught me how to ride a bike, catch a fish, and hit a baseball. Why didn’t he call me before starting the job? I suppose he wanted to remain a heroic father figure in my eyes, and the best way to appear heroic to an animal control professional is to successfully complete an animal control job.

I tip my Home Defenders hat to Dad. Without asking for anyone’s help, he went to the aid of a damsel in distress, thought up a plan, scaled a ladder, executed his plan, and saved the day.

Just like heroes do.

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Good morning, sports fans, this is Mike Greensmith on ESPN. Today my message is simple: thank you NFL draft—you’re the only thing we have to talk about. With me are Bobby “Basher” Jones and Chad Wentworth III. Gentlemen, give me your draft predictions.

Basher: I predict that number one pick Joe Burrow will be out of the league in three years, but… he’ll break the gender barrier and be the first man to win the Miss America contest in 2024. 

Chad: That’s ridiculous, Basher! Men are banned from the Miss America contest… look, it’s right here in the rule book.

Basher: You just carry around the Miss America rule book, bro?

Chad: It’s called being prepared, Basher! And I predict that the winner of the 2024 Miss America contest will be Zazza Zubozizz of Belize and she’ll break the alphabet barrier and be the first Miss America with seven Z’s in her name.

Basher: You just made that up because I mentioned Miss America first. 

Hey, man, let’s talk about real sports where grown men punch each other in the face and stomp on throats. 

Chad: So, you don’t consider fencing a real sport?

Basher: Do grown men smash each other in the face and stomp on throats?

Chad: They fight with swords, like musketeers—the original macho men.

Basher: Those guys that wear yoga tights and curly mustaches? Come on, man! (The arguing continues for two more hours.)

Mike: OK, gentlemen, that’s all the time we have today. And, as long as we’re making predictions, I predict that later today the entire United States will be plunged into a massive sinkhole, and, furthermore, LeBron James will fly around the globe à la Superman, dive into the earth, do a Euro step past molten lava, and lift the U.S. back into place… as the crowd goes wild! We’ll see you folks tomorrow when we’ll completely ignore today’s predictions and come up with new ones. Oh, and don’t panic during the sinkhole event, LeBron is on his way. Have a pleasant day.

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Good morning, sports fans, this is Mark Greensmith live on ESPN. After months without sports, we’ve run out of things to talk about, but today we feature a fiery debate between football legends linebacker Bobby “Basher” Jones and former Ivy League quarterback Chad Wentworth III. Question: Who would win a race up a tree: legendary running back Jim Brown or a raccoon with a sprained ankle?

Basher: Is this a cedar tree or an oak? Cause oak branches are twisty and that might change the dynamo.

Mark: I’m assuming you meant “dynamic.” Let’s call it a cedar.

Basher: No disrespect to Jim Brown, but even a tri-legged raccoon would would race up that tree lickety-quick like an bat outta Bill Belichick’s butt… unless Jim were wearing special “raccoon claw gloves.” 

Chad: Your English is making my head spin, Basher. I’m calling an audible: Omaha, Omaha—proper English, please—hut, hut!

Basher: You call out my English again, Chad, and I’ll squash you like a Monday morning pimple.

Chad: That’s not even a thing, bro. 

Basher: The hell it ain’t… it’s when you drink too much beer on the weekend and you wake up Monday morning in an Appalachian outhouse and your face is covered in pimples.

Chad: That may not be acne, Basher, but, anyway, what’s your underlying theory of spatial dynamics? I did major in physics at Yale, you know. 

Basher: Well, Chad, I majored in common-damn-sense at the university of kiss-my-ass and my underlying theory is raccoons are built to climb trees and humans are built to pick up stuff that falls from trees.

Chad: Jim Brown would race up that tree with the winged feet of Hermes, the Greek god of travel. (Two hours pass.)

Mark: OK, we’re out of time—thank God! Tune in tomorrow to learn: would legendary pillager Attila the Hun excel at boxing or ice hockey. Until then… please come back, sports, anything…  North Korean ping-pong… anything but the WNBA and whooooaaaaa, I’m just kidding, ladies. 

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Governor’s spokesperson: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Fresh off his humanitarian aid sabbatical, may I present the governor of our great state:

“Well, hello, everybody. Wow, you all look younger—how did you do that? Anyway, we’re turning the corner on this pandemic and the polls are looking good, so… regarding my previous press conference. It turns out I accidentally overdosed on cough syrup and my brain went full lollapalooza… darned codeine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we need to get some political guts and outlaw that brain numbing scourge!”

“Also, it appears I called the great folks of this state ‘bozos.’ There’s a simple explanation because moments before my press conference I gave a pep talk to out-of-work Bozo the Clown imitators and I honestly forgot who I was talking to. And if anyone doesn’t believe in supporting hard-working, blue-collar men and women who slip on banana peels, well, you need to recalibrate your moral compass!”

“Regarding my comment that I own a palatial chateau in France purchased under a fake name, well, I misspoke. In fact, my wife and I own a small chalet that we bought in her maiden name. It seems that… it’s against the law for a standing United States governor to buy property in France… the law is written in scratchy old medieval French so there’s no point looking it up. Geez, France, I know you have a storied history, but get with the 21st Century!”

“In closing, friends, our noble American ancestors not only cherished freedom, truth, and love of God and country. No, they cherished the greatest gift a human can bestow upon another: the gift of forgiveness. Thank you, and hang in there, everybody, we’re almost over the hump. Peace out and stay gorgeous, California.”

Spokesperson: Thank you, Mr. Governor. We’ll see you folks tomorrow for the governor’s special pep talk: “Forty ways to have fun when the stay-at-home order is lifted.” Goodbye, please stay home… and remember the good times to come.

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Governor’s spokesperson: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. May I present the governor for his daily COVID-19 briefing:

“Well, this coronavirus thing is going in the crapper and the latest polls make it clear that unless this virus takes a U-turn into outer space every elected official on earth is getting booted out of office.” (The governor pulls a bottle out of his pocket and takes a swig.) 

“Hell, our ancestors got on covered wagons and headed west and fought Apaches and scarlet fever and typhoid and God knows what else. A hundred stinking years later, a flu bug goes around and people rush to Costco and hoard paper towels. Mankind has gotten a little soft, huh?”

“I miss… (holding back tears)… I miss the days of unexplored lands, when maps were forged with old-fashioned guts. I miss the days when men wore bears skins and faced the savage unknown and fought cougars and sang bawdy songs and slept to the roar of stormy rivers.” 

“These days, we sit behind computers and book flights and wear puffy jackets and fasten our seat belts and order the tofu salad and we dare call that adventure. Don’t forget your hand sanitizer!” 

“So, you’re going to vote me out of office, huh? Well, I’ll get the last laugh, because I own a chateau on the French Riviera and I’ll be lounging on a beach flanked by babes while you bozos are scrounging for toilet paper. And you won’t find me because I bought it under a fake name and it’s all legal—rank hath its privileges, baby.”

“Good luck with your next governor… last week she was selling doggy diapers on eBay. I’m sure she’ll hold down the fort while civilization falls apart. Adios, suckers, I am out of here.”

Governor’s spokesperson: Uh, thank you, Mr. Governor for that inspirational talk. Please check back tomorrow, folks, when the governor will speak on the theme “Our future together shines brightly.” Oh, and no questions today. Goodbye, stay safe, and please, stay home.

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Writing these articles is a real mind trip. Every week I write words and every week you readers bring those words to life inside your head. So, in some sense, you have a little storyteller rooting around your brain. But, please,  don’t let that stop you from reading. I’m as harmless as a dormouse.

Anyway, I’ve got ants on my brain this week, and with the spring invasion in full swing, let’s go over the three major mountain home invading ants:

Carpenter Ants—Big, black, wood-destroying ants that make small piles of grainy sawdust. They don’t eat wood, as some people think, but rather bore tunnels. Their presence often indicates excessive moisture in walls.

Velvety Tree Ants—Small black ants that trail from old trees into your home. Like carpenter ants, they tunnel in wood, leaving lots of fine powdery sawdust If you see a large pile of fine sawdust in your home, they’re the culprits.

Odorous House Ants—These are the ants most likely to get into sugary foods or meats, so be on the lookout. Many infestations start with a few scouts snooping around, and if you can smash them in time, you might avoid an invasion. Otherwise call us Home Defenders right away.

As long as I’m still inside your head, do you mind if I take a look around? OK, thanks. Wow, it’s like a giant warehouse in here… there are stacks and stacks of memories and some of them have been rubbed out for some reason. Oh, look… it’s the chamber of your most secret desire. I think I’ll just mosey in… don’t worry, we’ve known each other for years, I won’t judge… it’s coming into focus now… oh, what a radiant sight! I’ve dropped to my knees. It smells like a field of fresh lavender and I want it more than anything in the whole wide world. After all, what sane person wouldn’t cherish a mountain of gleaming white toilet paper!

This coronavirus thing has gotten way out of control.

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Governor’s spokesperson: “Good morning, TV viewers and members of the press. May I present the governor of California.”

“Thanks, Rick. After consulting with the esteemed Dr. Fauci—Billy Bob Fauci from Tru TV’s hit show Hollywood Horse Doctor—as well as pundits from the pest control industry, I have decided to issue a stay-in-nest order for all rats, mice, and ants. Unlike my stay-at-home order for humans, this mandate shall be enforced—by firing squad. Hey pests, stay the bleep out of our stored foods. I hope this warning is as stark as the toilet paper aisle…”

Wouldn’t it be great, readers, if an act of law could stop pests from munching on our stored foods. It can’t, so here’s what you can do for yourself:

>>Cut tree branches. Both ants and rodents use tree branches as a highway into your home. If you can’t afford to hire a professional, buy a trimmer at the hardware store. Remember my motto: Cut that limb, or your home is a jungle gym! 

>>Seal openings. Grab a flashlight, go into your buildup—during the daytime—and turn off the lights. Look for daylight coming through openings, then seal those openings with a sealant like Big Stretch. If the openings are large, use that polyurethane foam sold at hardware stores. It’s better than nothing. If your buildup is a low crawl space, walk the exterior foundation of your home and seal every opening you can find. Tip: overkill is better than underkill.

>>Call us for help. With spring weather and ant invasions just around the corner, now is a great time to get on a monthly or quarterly service. If you’ve lost your job due to the coronavirus lockdown, call our office and we’ll work out a payment plan. 

Finally, I know crazy is the new normal, but if any lunatic is planning to line blindfolded mice against a wall and start blasting… please keep my name out of it.

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I’ve done it. I’ve finally found a place free from the coronavirus crisis and it’s smack dab in the haunts of the Wolfman himself. Crazy times, indeed.

I left my home in Arrowhead last week to check on my Big Bear cabin and, as I pulled up my driveway, I was thrilled to see that the snowstorm in Arrowhead had given way to sunshine. After giving the cabin a once-over, I hiked up the nearby forest road as my truck keys, attached to my belt hook, jingle-jangled away. Suddenly, I heard the familiar bark of a dog around a bend in the road. 

Soon I was giving Sasha, the neighbor’s dog, a big helping of affection. I hadn’t seen her for months and she let out a mournful cry of joy. I then headed to her home as her mate, Gator, joined us. Their owner, Bob, was chopping wood. “Hey, Mike, long time no see.” he said, as Sasha and Gator wrestled nearby. 

“They were born on an Indian reservation.” he recalled. “They had Indian names, but my wife and I couldn’t pronounce them.” I didn’t bother to ask Bob about it. He’s a storyteller and I’m a born listener.

“Have I ever told you that Lon Chaney—the original Wolfman—had a cabin up the road…” 

Suddenly, Sasha and Gator bolted into the forest. “They’re going off to explore,” Paul said. I listened to his stories for awhile, then it was time to head back to my office in Arrowhead—back to snow and fog and COVID-19 news. Blah.

I’ll have to stay near my office—we’re open for business—as this drama plays out, but, soon enough, I’ll be back. Sasha will be sitting by the side of the road, listening for the jingle-jangle of my keys. She’ll get her usual helping of affection, then I’ll hit the hiking trail, beyond the lair of the Wolfman, beyond the year 2020, up to the blessed backcountry… where a veteran hiker like me doesn’t need any darned toilet paper! 

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“Come gather round people wherever you roam/And admit that the waters around you have grown.” —Bob Dylan

For the first few days of the coronavirus crisis, I was in a mild state of shock, and I dealt with the stress mostly by cracking jokes. Yesterday, though, the cobwebs in my head cleared, and here’s what I expect in the coming weeks.

Doctors and nurses are on the front lines of this pandemic and they’ll rightly be called heroes, but we working people—plumbers, electricians, roofers, heating guys, exterminators and so on—will be the unsung army that keeps the water flowing, the heat blowing, and the lights glowing. Just as importantly, we’ll keep rodents and ants out of your stored foods.

We home care professionals are set to be a vital link to the outside world for many homebound people. Personally, I won’t use this opportunity to point the finger of blame or ride the high horse. This COVID-19 crisis is unique in world history, it’s evolving every day, and hindsight is 20/20. True professionals—especially during times of crisis—avoid pettiness and stay focused on the fact that every human being on earth, one way or the other, is soon to suffer.

We skilled working people—masters at innovation and adaption—need to quickly adapt to the new world that’s forming in front of our eyes. We keep the wheels of life spinning, regardless of what’s happening in the world outside our work trucks. I’m happy to be a simple working man.

The word “hero” is overused, but these days, when no superstar athletes are sinking three-pointers or hitting home runs, I’m willing to use that word to describe the guy who hurries to my home and unclogs my toilet or fixes my leaky roof. As for you professional athletes, sitting idle on the sidelines… no offense guys, but, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, “Please get out of the way if you can’t lend your hand/Cause the heroes they are a-changing.

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I’ve always been fascinated by Mother Nature’s deadliest creatures. When I was a boy, I loved sharks, snakes, tigers—the more fearsome, the better. My tastes are more genteel now, tempered by the sands of time and tide. Here’s some beneficial mountain bugs you’ll be happy to see:

Snakeflies—These sleek flying insects prey on your most hated plant pests, such as aphids. With their slightly raised head, they have an almost regal bearing. When I find one at home, I gently escort it outside.

Jumping Spiders—These critters are the adorable Koala bears of the bug world. Instead of munching on eucalyptus leaves, they happily devour pests, such as flies and mosquitoes. If you want a treat, google “images of jumping spiders.”

Beeflies—They have the head of a fly and the body of a bee, sans stinger. I first saw them as a rookie on a pest job, hovering nearby, watching me work. There’s little scientific info about them, and that just makes them more intriguing.

Lady Bugs—Who doesn’t love a brightly colored bug that devours aphids? Could a Hollywood designer have done a better job of creating that distinctive look? Lady bugs are as cute as a bug’s ear, as old-timers used to say.

Looking over my list… wow, I guess Father Time is winning his war on my virility. Excuse me, readers, I need a moment to myself. (From sharks to lady bugs, Mike—what happened to you, man? You need to get your butt to the doctor’s office and get a shot of bull testosterone. Now! Hey, listen up, big guy: what would your childhood hero, Evel Knieval, think of the man you’ve become? Yeah, the truth hurts, but you need to hear it. Now, ingest it, digest it, and arrest it. And get back to your readers.)

Anyway, folks, good luck fighting those aphids, and if they become a problem, call Home Defenders for a free evaluation. (Or blast the bastards to hell with a flame thrower!… sorry, my testosterone shot just kicked in.)