My wife says I screamed that Tuesday afternoon in March. Maybe so, I hate rodents. Especially the ones that move quickly. But I prefer to think of what I did as bellowing – not screaming. That sounds more manly.
It all started with a call to my cell phone. I was in Davenport, about 20 minutes away from my rural home.
I had been in the big city to participate in a ribbon-cutting at a car wash. I’m one of the DavenportOne Diplomats. You know, the people in the red jackets who serve as greeters at special events and cut red ribbons at grand openings.
I answered the cell phone, and the voice on the other end was that of my son, Dane. He was home on spring break from the University of Iowa.
Dane is a rather laid-back kid who doesn’t get excited much about anything unless it’s a new CD or a tune he’s taught himself to play on his guitar or that moronic show, “Southpark,” on cable.
But there was a hint of excitement in his voice this time.
“Hello,” I said, after switching on the cell phone.
“Dad. This is Dane.” His voice is unmistakable, but he always says that when he calls.
“Hi, Dane,” I answered.
“Where are you?” he asked.
“In Davenport, but I’m headed home,” I replied.
“There’s a squirrel in the house,” he said.
“What? Are you sure? Where is he? What’s he doing?”
“He’s just sitting there looking at me.”
Dane had been viewing TV in our living room, he told me later. He had heard some noises elsewhere and looked to his right at the French doors separating our living room and dining room. There, sitting up on its hind legs watching him through a pane of glass, was a black squirrel.
“What should I do?” Dane asked.
I thought for a moment. Then it came to me. My wife will know what to do!
“Is Mom home?” I asked, my fingers crossed.
“No,” he said.
I thought a moment more.
“OK,” I said. “You’ve got to try to get him out of there. Squirrels can climb curtains and rip them to shreds. Get something to prop the front screen door open. Then try to chase the squirrel out.”
It was a good plan, but I knew the odds of it working were remote.
But Dane said, “OK.”
“I’m on my way,” I said, as I switched off the phone and pressed a little heavier on the accelerator.
My mind was racing. I pictured our drapes and upholstered furniture shredded to pieces. “Who can I call to help Dane until I get there?” I wondered.
Then it hit me. My wife works just 10 minutes from home. I picked up the phone and called her.
“Can you go home right away?” I asked. “There’s a squirrel in the house, and Dane needs help. I’m headed home from Davenport.”
“I’ll leave right away,” she said.
That’s one of the things I love about Sherry. When something needs doing, she pitches right in and does it. No whining.
Her favorite slogan is Nike’s “Just do it.” And those are the words she lives by.
I think it comes from being raised on a farm. Sherry’s not afraid of a little work or a little dirt – or a little squirrel.
When I pulled into our driveway, the front door was still propped open. I hoped to find my wife and son sipping on Cokes and laughing about the now-ended ordeal.
But the ordeal had not ended. They were conducting a room-by-room search. My son was carrying a quilt, somewhat like a bullfighter carries a red piece of cloth.
“You gonna warm him up if he’s cold?” I asked him jokingly.
He wasn’t amused. He’d been on Squirrel Patrol 20 minutes and counting.
My wife was carrying a fishing net and had an intense look in her eyes, like a determined cop on the trail of a fugitive.
As for me, I immediately remembered the Chevy Chase movie where a squirrel leaps out of a Christmas tree and digs its claws into Clark W. Griswold’s chest. So I went and got a broom – for protection more than for any other reason.
The three of us searched the basement. Then the second floor. As they headed back to the first level, I lagged behind. I thought their searches had been too superficial.
I even opened some closed bedroom doors and checked out the rooms.
“Think about it,” my wife yelled on her way down the steps. “Why are you looking in those bedrooms? The squirrel can’t open doors.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said and headed downstairs.
As I approached the kitchen, its door slammed shut.
“Don’t come in,” my son yelled. “We found him.”
There was a commotion in a distant corner, and I slipped into the kitchen. The squirrel was running along the tops of the cupboards and my wife was on a chair trying to net him like a fighting catfish.
My son was standing 5 feet away watching all of this, holding his quilt.
“You don’t need my help,” I said as I passed through the kitchen. “I’ll hold the back door open for you.”
Moments later, they had him. He had gone into a corner. My wife had gotten him in the net, and my son had thrown the quilt over the top of it so the squirrel couldn’t get out.
As the three of them – Sherry, Dane and the squirrel – paraded by me near the back door, the squirrel started going wild in that net, doing flips.
I think he was looking at my chest, just hoping he could dig his claws into it.
And I couldn’t help it, I screamed. I mean bellowed.
Copyright April 25, 2001. This “Everyday People” column appeared in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.