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Boy, birds sure have fun flying in the sky, don’t they? What a life.

I’m on vacation in Yosemite National Park, taking a break from catching rats and removing dead raccoons from crawl spaces. I’m sitting on a sandy beach at Mirror Lake, watching two ravens fly high in the sky, riding the thermals. They’re playing a game where they glide effortlessly for a short spell, then fold their wings and dive bomb at a high speed, only to spread their wings and slowly circle back to where they started. After one bird finishes, the other follows. As far as I can tell, the pair are playing just for the fun of it. The simple pleasures in life are best.

As I look at the faces of the people around me, I see I’m the only one enjoying the poor man’s show of aeronautic mastery. Oh well, there are lots of grand sights in Yosemite, there’s no denying that.

Speaking of birds, do you know which ones do the most damage to mountain homes? Most homeowners know that woodpeckers are public enemy number one. If the flying hammer drills are targeting your home, call us today and we’ll find a solution to the noise pollution. The sooner you act, the better. A stitch in time saves nine—or a thousand!

Birds aren’t the only creatures wired for play. For there’s a rat catcher sitting on a sandy beach in Yosemite, wondering how he can use this raven sighting in his next article. Writing from scratch, just for fun, he starts with the opening line, then moves to the body of the work. That’s easy, because it’s all about the birds. Gaining steam, he dive bombs through the ad, then thinks up the closing paragraph that ties it all together. Basking in the glow and riding the thermals, the title just pops into his head out of the clear blue sky. She’s a winner, as usual. The best things in life are free.

Just ask any rich man.

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I just received an email from a reader commenting on my recent adventure dragging a dead raccoon from a crawl space. He wanted more stories about my “real man job.” Your wish is my command.

Just weeks ago, I had to exterminate a yellow jacket nest in a home’s wall void. My workers usually do that, but the customer needed help ASAP and my guys were booked. I asked my pest manager Gilberto for the power duster with the six-foot extension we use to inject insecticide dust into wall voids. He said it was broken. 

“How do you get rid of wasps?” I asked. “We just put on a bee suit and inject wasp freeze right into the entry hole,” he said nonchalantly.

“Don’t they attack you?” I asked. “Sure,” he answered, “but the suit protects us.”

“That’s still nuts!” I said. “What if they somehow get into the suit?”

Having no other options, I borrowed Gilberto’s suit. Arriving at the home, I saw yellow jackets going in and out of a marble sized woodpecker hole twelve feet up on the exterior siding. I nervously donned the clunky suit, grabbed a can of wasp freeze, then set up my ladder. “This is crazy!” I thought.

But the time had come. I climbed the ladder and jammed the wasp freeze into the hole and let ‘er rip. Sure enough, a few guardian wasps had seen me climbing the ladder and went on the attack. Then more wasps returning from the field joined the fray—I could hear their “thump-thump-thump” as they probed the suit for a flaw. My heart was racing. I quickly finished the job and hurried down the ladder—four out of five doctors recommend not fighting wasps while on a ladder. But the suit had worked. Whew!

I’ve never considered my work to be a “real man job,” but I appreciate the thought. This is your local manly guy, signing off and on his way to order a new power duster with the six-foot extension!

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Shh, readers, can I please have quiet… I’m hiking on a trail, eyeball to eyeball with a very cute animal and I don’t want to scare her off. She’s perched on a dogwood branch five feet from my face, looking right at me… her eyes are hypnotic… now she’s swiveling her head to the right, something has evidently caught her eye… she doesn’t seem afraid… seconds are ticking by but time is standing still… I hope she stays… now she’s turning her head back to me… our eyes are locked again. Hello, gorgeous. Oh no, she just flew off. Her wings didn’t make a sound. Whoooaahhh, today’s my lucky day!

It’s sundown and I’m on a trail behind Rim High School. I had just entered a low canopy of dogwood trees when I saw the flutter of wings over my left shoulder. I saw the silhouette of a bird landing on a branch in front of me and voila, there she was, resplendent as Marilyn Monroe at the Oscars. 

Ladies and gentlemen, she’s the femme fatale of the forest, may I present the pygmy owl. (Hold the applause please, she might come back.)

Hey homeowners, are pygmy owls and other predators not keeping your home rodent free? Then call us Home Defenders and we’ll swoop over for a free evaluation. Sure, we’re a team of butt ugly bug guys, but in our line of work, beauty doesn’t matter—we’re just good at what we do. (“Hey, man, speak for yourself!” say my employees.)

Well, that was a fun sighting—only in the mountains. I’ll be hiking in Big Bear tomorrow and who knows what I’ll see. And if you thought I drew out the suspense today, wait until I see a mountain lion. That’ll be a two-part article! (Unless he eats me for dinner.)

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What’s it like getting a dead raccoon from a crawl space? Nasty, very nasty.  

A customer called me, saying, “Mike, there’s a horrendous odor in my home. Help!” I jumped in my truck, dreading what I’d find. Arriving at the cabin, I saw the crawl space door hanging loosely by one hinge. Well, so much for all those articles I’ve written imploring people to check for openings around their home’s foundation. I put on a respirator, grabbed a flashlight, plastic trash bag and a small shovel, and headed into the crawl space.

Lying on my belly, I twisted and contorted my way into the low labyrinth of heating ducts and big rocks, kicking up dust in my wake. Halfway through, I slipped off my respirator and sniffed the air. The smell was stronger. I lifted my head to put the respirator back on and impaled my skull on a nail sticking through the subfloor. Ouch! Good thing my tetanus shots are up to date. Inching to the farthest corner of the crawl space—thanks, Murphy’s Law—I finally saw it. Lady luck was on my side. In some sense.

But the dead animal, host to hundreds of maggots, wasn’t leaving without a fight. Still lying on my belly, I used my left hand for balance while I used my right to shovel the decaying animal into the plastic bag. That’s harder than it sounds, but maybe that sounds hard enough. As I got the corpse on the shovel, even wearing my respirator, the stench was intense. Miraculously, I managed to wedge the animal into the bag. Mission accomplished! I would have breathed a sigh of relief, but I was holding my breath.

Ten grueling minutes later, dragging my prize behind, I crawled back into the California sunshine. Thankfully, no one saw me gagging and coughing up dust. I was just doing my job, defending homes from Mother Nature’s army of furry invaders. I was just a professional exterminator.

That’s a good thing to be.

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(Due to space constraints, we now join this “mind trip” already in progress.) Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mike Nolan and I’ll be your captain on this journey to the center of creative mind.  We’re almost ready to get going, so please fasten your crash harnesses and put on your oxygen masks. While you’re waiting, here are some common questions about the trip:

>>What do I need for this conceptual journey? All you need is my book, A Rat Catcher’s Guide to Creative Inspiration.

>>What will we find at the center of creative mind? Well, it’s a world that changes constantly, but here’s what I expect we’ll see: mice eat cats as bats play along; nectar gathers bees in clouds of birdsong. Adults lie low, children hold the power—they go to bed at such ungodly hours! Pleasure is forever, while pain is unknown. (Except in the wheat fields, where sweet corn is grown.) There’s ginger bee stingers, and burgundy bird calls—imagine the circus, the madness of it all!

>>What if I get lost in your neural clusters and can’t find my way back to my own? Don’t worry, at the end of the book I lay down a path, much like the Yellow Brick Road, so you’ll have no trouble finding your back way home. (Warning: keep moving, don’t dawdle in the wheat fields.)

  What folks are saying about the book:

  • If you’ve ever wanted to see what happens when a man doggedly insists on marching to the beat of his own drum, then read this book —Popular Fads and Trends Blogzine
  • I say, this book makes a fine coaster for a cup of tea, which may be an Assam of India, or perhaps a Darjeeling, which is equally lovely, if I may say so myself —The March Hare (overheard talking to Alice)

A Rat Catcher’s Guide to Creative Inspiration is available on Amazon. Creative inspiration is available wherever children play.