Saturday, June 1, 2013

Marmot Tales

I wish someone had followed me around with a video camera yesterday.  Since that was not the case, I will describe the circus that was my yesterday afternoon. 

To briefly recap:  A week earlier, while driving my van through town, only for the sake of letting it run after sitting for a month, I discovered a marmot in the engine compartment after pulling over because smoke was billowing from the hood.  After an unsuccessful, hour-long, attempt by an animal control officer, I took his advice and left my vehicle with three Pine-sol-soaked rags surrounding the critter.  The next day I returned to find no trace of the marmot and stupidly removed the rags and took some pictures of the damage in order to get some advice on further action because the van wouldn't start. 

So, yesterday, six days after initially leaving my van in a neighborhood in South Lake Tahoe (7-ish miles from where I currently live), I return to my van to attempt to fix the damage caused by the marmot a week earlier.

I’m ready to get in there and remove a severed tube and take it to an auto parts shop, and then try to replace it myself.  However, when I open the hood, there are mounds of marmot poop everywhere…and two little black eyes tucked way back in the engine compartment, starring back at me.

“Shit.”  Now what.  I hesitate to call animal control, because they were pretty useless a week earlier.  I pull off the engine cover, which is the center console inside the van, to get a better perspective.

“Shit.”  There is way more damage than a week ago.  Now all the spark plugs are completely chewed apart. 

During this time, I am talking to the marmot.  I beg it to leave, as I prepare my marmot-fighting stick, a five-foot piece of pvc, which normally serves as a toy staff and is wrapped in colorful electrical tape much like a hula-hoop.  I duct tape a pine-sol-soaked rag, to one end.  After 45 minutes of poking the marmot with this stick, only to have it chirp at me, I give up and call animal control. 

A different animal control officer shows up and I give him the run-down.  He first tries to mace the marmot.  The marmot is unaffected by the mace, but the officer and I both have to run away as I suddenly feel the mace in the back of my throat and gasp to find air.

"Ya know, Miss, there isn't like a manual for this or anything."
For the next hour we work together to try nudge the marmot into his leash.  The officer is approaching it from the hood and I go between the engine compartment, from the passenger’s seat, and underneath the van.  Throughout the hour, we have several close attempts.  So far, I have been pretty timid, as this animal has gnarly claws and teeth.  Each time I nudge the thing and feel the resistance, I shriek and pull back the stick.  After a while, however, I am getting very impatient and I start to aggressively prod the marmot with my rainbow stick.  I am dressed in bike shorts and a headlamp and frantically jumping between my two spots.  No one driving by can resist slowing down to watch this circus act.  This whole time, the marmot is chirping really loudly, but holding its ground, refusing to just run away, which it has a clear path to do. 

Throughout our struggle, the conversation between the officer and I, is mostly just strategizing.  He seems very serious.  “Ya know, Miss, there isn't like a manual for this or anything,” he says to me. 

I nod.  And we keep trying. 

After a few more attempts, he looks at me and says, still completely serious, “this is feeling a little too much like the gopher on Caddy Shack.  But don’t worry, I am completely dedicated to getting this animal out of your vehicle.  I can see you are out of options.”

                                                                A little too real for me.

“Thanks, I really appreciate it,” I reply, holding back the uncontrollable laughter that is bubbling to the surface.  He is killing me.  He is so dry, I cannot decipher if he is trying to be funny.

Finally we get the marmot in perfect place.  It is trapped between my stick and has its head half through the leash.  The officer pulls the leash shut and has it.  A chaotic struggle ensues as I try to push it with my rainbow stick, the officer pulling, and the marmot’s sharp paws, clawing desperately for something to hold onto.  I’m yelling encouraging words at the officer as he attempts to, what looks like, pull a large, squirming fish out of water.  Finally it clears the hood and, I see the animal flying through the air, still in the leash.  As the marmot hits the ground, about 10 yards from the van, the officer, reflexively lets go of the leash, afraid that he is going to break it's neck.

“Noooooo,” I shout, as we watch the animal run to the back of the van and disappear up a rear wheel.

I’m nearly in tears.  The officer is apologizing and feeling like a complete failure.  We can’t see the creature.  He is not up in the engine, but we know he is somewhere up in the bottom of the van.  The officer continues to apologize and is visibly disappointed in himself.  He leaves, telling me to call back, if I spot it again. 

I decide to just go ahead and call the tow-truck.  I know the shop does not want the animal there, but I can’t see the marmot and I am running out of time. (It is getting late and I want my van off the streets as it has already been here a week and I will probably not have another opportunity to deal with it until next weekend.  By that time the marmot may completely destroy the van.)

So, I call road-side assistance, and tell the operator the deal.  She is laughing so hard, she cannot function.  Finally she pulls it together and a tow truck shows up after a bit.  I’m explaining the situation to the tow guy as he gets the van up on the platform.  As he is strapping the last wheel down, he jumps back.  The marmot is perched on the back axle.  The tow guy is very excited and starts taking pictures and video as tears of frustration well up in my eyes.  Shit, what should I do?  The guys at the shop are not going to be too happy about this.  The tow guy says we should just take it to the shop, which is only a block away.

I ride my bike over there and am explaining it to the shop guys as the truck pulls up. (I have already been to the shop earlier and explained the whole situation and told them I would be over once I got the marmot out.)

The circus continues inside the shop yard.  The van is still up on the platform and we can all clearly see the persistent little animal.  I go back to jabbing the marmot with my rainbow stick, now not holding back at all.  The tow guy and one of the shop guys each take turns with the stick.  The marmot, of course, does not budge.  Others gather around to watch.  The owner of the shop comes over with a hose and blasts the marmot off the axle.  The marmot falls off and is running towards the engine.  I head it off, screaming and waving the stick at it.  The marmot jumps off the platform and I try to chase it out of the yard.  It gets blocked out by a fence and runs up a truck in an adjacent business’s parking lot.  I briefly try to find it, convinced that the pest will find my van again.  I can’t locate it.  I return to the excited crowd and there is flurry of activity with other customers, including two of my co-workers, who show up, to pick up a car.  I, now, feel like a completely, crazed lunatic. As I explain my situation to them, I am armed with the rainbow stick, fully clothed in bike garb and have my eyes glued to the truck, where I last saw the marmot. 

The marmot does not show its face the rest of my time there.  I fill out the necessary paperwork and apologize to the guys for bringing this critter into their shop.  They are very understanding and accustomed to dealing with animals.  I leave and ride home.  I start feeling guilty for being so mean to the marmot.  It clearly likes my van as much as I do, but I don’t think we can co-exist.  I wake up several times throughout the night haunted by the rodent.  God, I hope this where the story ends.  I haven’t heard from the shop yet.  

1 comment:

Katy McCullough said...

Fantastic storytelling - thanks for sharing Becky!