“Those darn mice!” I thought, looking over the dead mice in my mousetraps. “Don’t they ever give up?”
Though I was glad to be catching mice and keeping my customer happy, I was one frustrated pest professional. Not only was I crawling on my belly in a dark, soggy crawlspace, but to get to my traps I had to squeeze through a little plywood door that was partially blocked by fragile sprinkler lines. I had been catching mice for a week, and was hoping to see an end to the carnage, but the critters just kept coming. I dabbed fresh peanut butter on the triggers, reset the traps, and crawled back out to the blessed California sunshine.
Back in my work truck, a question popped into my head: why do mice, with their tiny brains, present such a challenge to humankind? There’s many reasons, but let’s focus on one.
Whenever I see a mouse, the first thing I notice is how healthy it looks. Its fur is perfect—no white hairs around the muzzle, no receding hairline, no patchy fur. Mice breed quickly and die young, so they’re always in the prime of life, speeding through their days with the effervescent energy of youth. Battling them keeps me young too. Thank you, mice. Thank you, homeowners.
If you see signs of mice—like little black droppings—or hear tell-tale scratching sounds, call us Home Defenders and we’ll get them out with the powerful energy of professional expertise. We’ll find their entry holes and seal them as tight as Mason jars at grandma’s house. Guaranteed!
We long-lived humans will continue inventing new traps and gadgets to control mice, but they will always remain forever young, energetic, and beautiful. I call that poetic justice. (I also call that job security.) Have a young and beautiful week, everyone!
It happened to me on Highway 18 at 50 miles per hour. I was in my work truck driving to my next appointment when a big wasp appeared from out of nowhere and started going berserk inside the cab. After years of working with wasps I knew it wouldn’t bother me, so I calmly rolled down a window and let it fly to freedom. As I thought over the minor event, I realized that my job as a pest professional has given me many subtle superpowers. Here’s more:
>> I can don a bulky bee suit, climb a ladder thirty feet up to an eave and exterminate a swarming wasp nest. (Another superpower: convincing one of my workers that doing it for me will be super fun.)
>> I can fearlessly squirm through crawl spaces teeming with black widows, rats, and the occasional mother raccoon protecting her young. (Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be roadkill.)
>> I can tell if the filter on my handheld sprayer is clogged just from the shape of the spray pattern. (Try to control your excitement, ladies.)
>> I can get sprayed by a skunk and keep on working like nothing happened. (But only after cussing up a storm.)
>> I can put a stepladder in a bedroom closet, contort myself around the Christmas decorations on the shelf while simultaneously pulling myself up into the attic… all without breaking a single Santa figurine. (Reality check: I broke a few glass ball ornaments learning that skill.)
>> I can see an adorable flying squirrel in an attic without once breaking professional concentration by exclaiming: “Ahh, he’s so cute!” (“That’s the greatest superpower ever!” says a guy with unicorn posters on his bedroom walls.)
>> I can rescue a super cute baby raccoon trapped in a wall void. (For the record, ladies, I do not have unicorn posters on my bedroom walls… kitten posters rule!)
So, that’s my list. When you need a superhero, I’m only a phone call away. Have a super cute week, everyone!
I love dirt paths. As a rookie bug guy, every three months I would perform a pest service at a vacation cabin where the parking spot was over a hundred feet from the front door. To get to the cabin, you had to walk a dirt path. I loved walking that path, Hudson sprayer in hand, and I could picture the owners driving up from Orange County, parking in their spot, then walking the path, groceries in hand, to their mountain retreat. I bet they felt instant relaxation the second their feet hit dirt.
For me, dirt paths tap into a primal need to be in touch with the earth. When I hike on a forest path, my head clears, my worries fade away, and I feel rejuvenated. For a small business owner navigating the mine fields of California’s rules and regulations, anything that brings peace of mind without the use of alcohol, drugs, or weird stuff involving leather, is a lifesaver.
I’ve only gotten lost on a forest path one time, and I’ll never forget it. I was on vacation in Southern India, hiking on a path in the Annapurna Forest near the village of Bommayarpalayam (pronounced: bom-ah-yar-pah-lah-yom). I went off trail for about fifty feet to investigate a large Tamarind tree that had blown down during Cyclone Vardah. After satisfying my curiosity, I headed back the way I came, but I just couldn’t find that path. I was lost in a sea of thick, thorny undergrowth. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going, I had no cell phone, and Southern India is home to king cobras, vipers, and venomous spiders. I was familiar with the grid-like network of paths surrounding the forest, so I trudged in one direction—toward the morning sun—until I reached a path. My legs looked like they had been flogged by Blackbeard, but I was never so thrilled to be back on a lifesaving dirt path.
One final thought: if you’re lucky enough to be fascinated by dirt, you’re very rarely bored in life. Have a cobra free week, everyone!
I was reading a news network’s internet page where thousands of people were sounding off on a controversial political story when a light bulb went off in my head: the key to attracting readers is to get political. Why didn’t I think of that before? Here are three political views that will get your blood boiling—making me the most talked about business owner on the mountain. Get ready to get angry!
Controversy #1: I think Congress should pass a law requiring all children wear dog collars. Why? Why not? They’re kids—they have no right to vote, why should they have a right to roam the streets dog collar free? What kind of collars? Oh, nylon, leather… though the metal-studded ones that pit-bulls wear shall be deemed acceptable. Hey parents, are you angry? Of course you are—now climb to the mountaintop and cry out loud!
Controversy #2: I believe we need a law that prohibits women from driving after 10 p.m. Come on, ladies, it’s for your own good—all the pervs come out at night. Think of all the money society will save not having to prosecute pervs. Are you mad as hornets, ladies? Of course you are! It’s the most sexist law ever. You are woman let me hear you roar!
Controversy #3: I strongly feel that we should pass a law requiring blue-eyed people pay a supplemental income tax to compensate for all the advantages society bestows on them. Right Paul Newman? Right Frank Sinatra? Have you ever heard of “Ol’ Green Eyes?” Nope, because people don’t like folks with green eyes. Get tweeting, people. Get angry!
Well, that should increase my readership, and if not… I advocate a law that requires elderly people wear clothes made entirely of bubble wrap. Think of all the money society will save in broken bone surgeries. Have an angry week, everyone!
By the age of twelve I felt I had mastered most of life’s important do’s and don’ts and I mostly stopped listening to adults giving out warnings. I did, however, make exceptions. I remember the day on our grandparent’s Illinois farm when my brother Dave and I told Grandpa we were going back to Bear Crick to hunt crawdads. To get there we would walk across the cow pasture. “Listen boys,” he said with a deadly serious expression, “I moved the bull into the pasture yesterday and never turn your back on a bull—you may never know what hit you.” Minutes later we climbed the rusty barbed wire fence and jumped into the cow pasture. Walking toward Bear Crick, I kept my eyes locked on that bull. He was the most powerful animal I had ever seen and I had no doubt he could end my life in an instant. When it came to matters of life and death, grandpa knew best.
Since I don’t like being on the receiving end of do’s and don’ts, I avoid giving them out. When homeowners need help, one call brings us Home Defenders to their rescue. But, once in a while I give out a warning: Listen folks, never let branches touch your home. Ants live in trees and branches are their highways to the land of milk and honey and fried chicken. I’ve treated thousands of houses and sometimes the only way to eliminate ants—despite my arsenal of 21st century pest products—is to grab my ladder, climb up to the roof and cut branches. If you can’t safely cut your own, I recommend calling a professional tree trimmer. The sooner the better.
Lastly, if I come to your home and see branches touching your roof, well… I recommend that you stay away from cow pastures. Have a safe, tree trimming week, everyone!
I recently completed a one-month personal experiment where I avoided forms of entertainment that were created after 1945—that benchmark year when our nervous, frenetic world was born in a mushroom cloud. I came up with the idea after reading a 1950s essay by E.B. White (Stuart Little) decrying modern media and entertainment. (Ironically, Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols had just been born.)
Abandoning Rock & Roll, I embraced Classical music, both Western and Indian. (Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s The Valley Recalls was mygo-to Indian classical piece.) I watched little TV, reading books instead. I dusted off my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes and rooted for Holmes and Watson as they battled the villainous Dr. Moriarty in 1890s London. Speaking of villains, I sat on the edge of my easy chair as Dr. Petrie and Nayland Smith matched wits against Dr. Fu-Manchu. Fu-Manchu! There’s an evil genius to haunt your dreams. I also sailed on a schooner to Treasure Island with young Jim Hawley and Long John Silver in search of buried pirate treasure. Shiver me timbers, indeed!
I cheated a little. I watched some Dodgers games, turning off the TV during commercials, and I listened to Friday Night Blues on Big Bear’s radio station, KBHR. DJ Rick tells good stories and a little bit of Blues never hurt anyone.
Result: I felt more relaxed during my pre-atomic month; I went to bed in a calm state of mind and slept well. Also, I had more patience with tedious activities, like yoga. Normally I hate doing yoga, but it at least it became more tolerable. Did I have more energy? I didn’t notice, but when the month ended, I listened to Social Distortion’s hard-rocking White Light, White Heat, White Trash and when the last track came to a crashing finale, I felt exhausted. Conclusion: Rock music doesn’t give energy, but rather drains it. Have a calm week, everyone, secure in the knowledge that the fiendish Dr. Fu-Manchu is finally vanquished forever. (Though The Bomb lives on.)
“Do you guys treat bed bugs?” An Airbnb owner called me recently, saying one of his tenants had woken in the morning with itchy red marks on her arms and legs. She blamed bed bugs. Many people think the blood-sucking insects don’t live on the mountain, but we do see them every so often. I remember one bed bug customer who told me that his daughter had a drug problem and she would hang out at a drug house for days, then come home. Well, that’s one way bed bugs can infest a mountain cabin.
I sent my manager, Gil, to the Airbnb, but he found no bed bugs. So, what could have caused the red marks? There can be many causes, such as mites, or a rash, or a reaction to a poisonous plant and so on. In my experience, one of the most common causes of red marks on skin is an allergic reaction to laundry detergent, especially natural ones made with flower extracts. Sleeping with your skin pressed against flowers may sound romantic, but every rose has its (itchy) thorns.
The word “natural” is vague and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that something is safe. Having a big boulder fall on your head is a natural experience, as is being stung by a nest of yellow-jackets. Now, I’ve been stung by a nest of yellow-jackets—while walking on the big hollow log they called home—and I can confirm reports that it is, indeed, a 100% natural experience… a very painful, potentially deadly, natural experience.
I’m not knocking natural products, but I do recommend buying the unscented, hypoallergenic kind. If you find red marks on your skin, I recommend you call your doctor. If you see ants, spiders or rodents, I recommend calling us. If you see a big boulder teetering on a ledge, I recommend running. Have a safe and natural week, everyone!
It’s spring and that means it’s time for my annual “You might be getting old” test. Ready? So, you might just be getting old if…
>> … your favorite part of the day is that glorious after lunch nap. (My score: Fail. I’m grumpy if I don’t get my nap.)
>> … you eat a modest slice of pizza and you’re not hungry again for eight hours. (My score: Fail, darn it.)
>> … you can sit through all nine innings of an excruciatingly boring baseball game, second-guessing the manager’s decisions all the way. (My score: Pass!)
>> … you tacked a list of foods you can’t eat any more to your fridge. (My lists: foods that cause kidney stones and acid reflux.)
>> … you’ve run the gamut of being stressed about having a few gray hairs, to being worried that you’ll soon be completely gray, to being absolutely thrilled that you still have hair. (I still have hair and that’s all I care about.)
>> … you haven’t said “mind over matter” ever since getting out of that easy chair ain’t so easy any more. (Fail. My torn meniscus sees to that.)
>> … you’ve come to hate thinking “It’s been years since I’ve…” because that now means “It’s been decades since I’ve…” (Who knew decades could fly by so fast.)
>> … though you enjoy incredible health that would be the envy of people half your age… people half your age are starting to have health issues. (My score: It’s a draw. For now.)
>> … you’ve made peace with the shocking realization that you’re no longer an oldish young person, but rather a youngish old person. (I realized I was a youngish old man on August 16, 2017 at 9:23 a.m.)
Well, I failed, but I hope you passed. If you didn’t, don’t worry, I’m still your friendly neighborhood pest professional and I’ll always love you just the way you are… as long you pay your bill. Have a mind over matter week, everybody!