“Wow, they’ve certainly been busy!”
My neighbor and I stood side by side with our necks careened back, staring up at the south face of my house. Scattered throughout the cedar shakes along the periphery there appeared a string of holes expertly drilled into the wood—the work of a woodpecker, most certainly.
“You said you heard him drumming on the side of the house?”
I nodded my head. “Sometimes it’s so loud I have to stop working in the upstairs office—I can’t concentrate. Do you have any idea why a woodpecker would attack a house?”
“Could be searching for bugs,” my neighbor mumbled, as he scraped away the sandy soil at the foundation. “Don’t see any evidence of that here. Then too, woodpeckers are territorial—they mark their territory by drilling holes, the same way that dogs urinate.”
“What can I do about it?”
My neighbor, formerly a pest control specialist, shrugged his shoulders. “You could hang up a few aluminum pie pans with some string. They make a racket when the wind blows and keep the birds away. Trouble is, that doesn’t always work.
“You could shoot them with a pellet gun. Technically, that’s illegal—you’d have to get a federal permit to do that. One big headache, let me tell you.
“You could also go up to the hardware store and buy a spring-loaded rat trap. Bait it with suet and nail it to the side of the house. When the bird comes to peck at the suet—bingo! Adios, problem.”
“Wouldn’t I need a permit to do that as well?”
“There’s no law against setting out rat traps,” my neighbor said with a wink.
My neighbor had stopped by to borrow my Have-A-Heart trap so he could capture a stray cat. I handed it down to him from the shelf in my garage before retiring to my rocking chair to consider my options.
That afternoon from my front porch perch I watched the season change. The fire bushes along the driveway had begun to blush. Tall maples on our street were turning orange and gold. Blackbirds gathered in the tops of the old ash trees. Overhead, hawks sailed high on the air currents along the eastern flyway.
I went to bed uneasy that night, wrestling with a decision.
I remembered when my third grade teacher used to read us from a chapter book entitled Rabbit Hill, by Robert Lawson. The narrative was told from the perspective of the animals that inhabited the grounds of an abandoned Connecticut country estate. At some point new folks move into the house on the hill. Animal lovers at heart, they put out food for the birds, squirrels and rabbits. When the moles tunnel beneath the expanse of lawn, the owner instructs his hired man to roll the mounds flat instead of killing the tiny creatures. But none of these animals did damage to the old foursquare house.
The next day I wandered out into the yard and looked up at the damaged shakes. I knew what I had to do.
The following Wednesday afternoon I drove to the hardware store and browsed the aisles, looking for the paraphernalia I would need. I paid cash at the checkout counter and threw the brown paper bag into the back of my station wagon.
Back home, I pulled up the garage door and found the aluminum extension ladder buried beneath the workbench. I manhandled it across the yard and leaned it up against the south side of the house. I ratcheted up the extension, gathered my tools and ascended the ladder to the top of the second story to begin my work.
It didn’t take as long as I had imagined. Satisfied, I dropped the ladder down and stowed it back in the garage. I returned the tools to their place above the workbench in the basement and strode into the kitchen to wash up.
“So, you made your decision?” my wife asked.
I nodded my head.
“There will be plenty of time to prime and paint the putty,” I said. “If that doesn’t fix things, I suppose I can always hang out some aluminum pie pans.”