The Great Raccoon Massacre - Part 1

Have you ever been roped into something you didn't want to do?

I like to twist an arm now and again. I love to encourage (push) others to join me on projects or adventures. I have several friends who've reluctantly agreed to walk with me, only to find themselves a few miles away from where we started and too tired to walk back. On the other side of the equation, I’m fairly skilled at saying no or simply sliding past situations that don’t necessarily require my involvement.

I try to practice essentialism and I try to remember my capacity. These are all fancy ways of saying: I'm trying not to get burned out or overcommitted. All this to say, I'm pretty good at saying no to things that seem wonky to me.


Then, there was the great rooftop raccoon massacre where I tried my best to not get involved.

Like a great cosmic force or unavoidable gravity, I was drawn in, recruited, and maybe even forced to be involved in something I never intended and actively tried to avoid.

Let me explain.

It began with hiring someone to paint my house. It was simple. My entire role? Write one check when the house was painted.

For almost 15 years, we owned a house on a small chunk of property that we shared with my folks on the outskirts of town. Living in the central valley of California, we were treated annually to the dust from harvesting the endless acres of almonds that surrounded our country home. For two months every fall, a large brown cloud of fog settled on our home like a tan blanket.

So, when it became time to paint our house, we targeted the summer season. Our contractor wisely suggested that we begin with a thorough power-washing. This would remove the powder coat of almond dust from the previous season’s harvest that was still clinging to the wooden sides of our home. The contractor's estimate: power-washing would take less than a day.

We made it until noon before I received the first text message. As he was on the roof, he noticed that the high pressure jet of water was not only removing the almond dust, but blew through the existing paint and vaporized the wooden facade of the chimney that hid the ACTUAL stainless steel chimney tube extending through the shingles of our roof. Apparently the flashing around the chimney allowed rain water to pool and dry rot had extended into the wooden facade and structure of the chimney.

Our simple power-washing did not have the intended results we had hoped for. Instead of leading to house painting like we had planned, we had now begun a new project: Chimney Construction. Our contractor assured us that this was a minor delay and he would quickly demo and rebuild the chimney. He wrapped up his work for the day and promised to come back the next day with chimney building supplies. We'd be back on track in no time. The contractor's new estimate: two days of chimney construction.

When I came home from work, it looked like our chimney had exploded. Six feet of wooden siding had been removed with shredded insulation clinging to the existing framework. I was tempted to climb up and look at the damage, but since we were enjoying a California summer heat wave, I decided to stay off the roof and instead chose to join the family for an evening swim.

The next day was extremely hot and I assumed the afternoon heat on the roof would slow down construction. I was not surprised when the first text message came through to my phone around lunch time.

"There is something alive in your chimney!"

"What do you mean 'something alive'," I texted back.

When my phone rang, I should have anticipated that this was escalating to a "more than a text message" situation. My contractor explained that when he was working on the chimney he heard a noise from the dark hole alongside the chimney tube. He wasn't sure what it was, but when he looked through the roof and into the space alongside the chimney tube with his flashlight, he could see "eyes staring back" at him. His best assumption was that it was a possum and informed me that until I removed the animal from the chimney hole, he'd have to stop construction, thus halting our power-washing, and our original goal: House Painting.

My dear reader, I'd like you to pay attention to this point in the story. This is where it all begins. This is the moment where I really stopped being an observational check-writer. This is the point in the story where the rope grabs the main character's foot and pulls him overboard. This is the moment where Alice is asked to take a pill or Frodo is asked to accept the ring from Gandalf. This is the point of no return.

Our simple house painting project that had become a chimney construction project had now made another turn into the dark dark land of animal extrication. It would have been better to simply walk away. Unfortunately, I chose to keep going.

Knowing that my current project was at a standstill. I quickly considered my options. It was Thursday afternoon and I had a hole in my roof with half of my chimney facade destroyed. I now (apparently) also had a living animal in my roof, rafters, or chimney. I parenthetically say apparently, because this part of the story was not super clear to me. What was clear was that I needed to extract the animal before proceeding any further with chimney repair, power washing, and house painting.

Apparently, I needed an exterminator.

My first phone call was to the pest control company who cared for my property. I'm not an expert on pest control and I do not pretend to know what they do to "control" pests, but I distinctly remember the truck they drove had images of spiders, flying-insects and some form of a mammal painted on the side. It may have been a rat or a mouse, but I remember it was more than a bug.

I did my best to explain the situation and my pest specialist was quick to inform me "they do not DO animals." I asked him about the images on the side of his trucks: "Didn't I see a picture of an animal on the side of your truck?"
His reply was: "Yeah, we used to do mice and rats. We don't do rats anymore. We don't do animals. Just bugs."
I asked him for advice and he began to ask me several questions that I did not actually have the answer for: What type of animal was it? Where was it located? How big was it? How far into the roof was it located? How did it get in there? How long has it been there? Is it alive?

It was at this point that I realized I was not only hooked, but horribly uninformed and ridiculously ill-prepared to even consider my own involvement. He also began to worry me with some of his questions. Was it alive? The thought of a decaying animal wedged in the rafters between my roof and living room suddenly motivated me.

Oh yeah. Did I mention that I own a dental practice and this was all happening in and around my regularly scheduled patients? I decided to take a break from off-site animal extraction and wait until I could get home and reassess the situation.


When I got back home, I decided to climb up on the roof and assess the situation. I called my contractor and asked him what I should do to see the animal. He mentioned that I should pull back the plastic construction sheeting on the side of the chimney and then look down the space near the chimney tube with a flashlight. I should see a pair of eyes looking back at me in the dark.

It was easily 110 degrees when I climbed on the roof in the early evening heat of California's Central Valley. I could barely kneel on the shingles as I perched myself on the edge of the roof. This was a precarious location and I could barely see anything inside the chimney space, but then for just a moment I saw a pair of glowing eyes between the rafters and the 2x4s of our chimney/roof/living room ceiling. I had no idea what type of animal it was, but my best guess was that it was about 5 or 6 feet down the hole.

As if this is not super clear by this point in the story: This was no longer a job for a dentist. This job required a professional. The only problem was that I didn't know any professional chimney/roof animal experts. I was melting on the roof. It was almost 6PM and this problem would need to be solved tomorrow.

(To Be Continued)

Quietly making noise,