Did you ever think you were going crazy? That’s the difference between people who are genuinely crazy and those that aren’t; people who are literally insane would never even admit, insinuate or question even the remote possibility that they’re nuts. On the surface life looks copasetic. Behind the curtain everything’s tenuously held together with duct tape and glue. Early this summer, I definitely thought I was going crazy. But I learned something important about parenting: If your kid ever tells you that they hear scratching sounds coming from the attic of your house, listen up.
If you’re anything like me, a random comment of that sort from your own offspring warrants an ambivalent “oh that’s interesting” or an obligatory head pat, maybe even a call to a child psychologist. But when the noises from the attic get louder and louder, and more frequent, and your kid tells you he can hear scratching in the ceiling above his bed, even with headphones on, there may be something to it.
I feared the Semple insanity gene had infected his fragile eggshell mind at a regrettably early age. If someone starts going crazy in middle age, that’s entirely understandable. After years and years of living in Aspen, raising kids, owning your own businesses, customer service, battling addictions, chasing the tail of fitness, working outside doing manual labor, skiing at high altitude, hiking the bowl a thousand times, getting your face blown off on the ridge and having your brain cooked by direct sunlight like a poached egg, crazy is completely plausible. It’s more of a miracle actually if you aren’t.
It’s probably a harmless little mouse, I told myself. I set a trap in his closet with peanut butter. Done. Situation handled. Only no mouse, and the scratching got increasingly louder. Then one day, a large rotund raccoon was spotted in the yard. This is bad. I love animals, but when you live in the middle of a field, wildlife often leans upon your dwelling like a crutch of shelter and protection. I got out a ladder and climbed onto the roof only to discover in horror that a raccoon had violently ripped its way into our house through a soffit roof vent.
If you ever see a raccoon anywhere near your house call Pitkin County Animal Control immediately. It’s way more common than you’d think, raccoons breaking into people’s houses and setting up shop. Shop for what? To have babies. That’s what they do — they break into your house, find a secluded, warm, protected area and have babies. It’s funny and cute, and then it becomes disgusting and unbearably loud. Oh yeah, and their nests stink.
A quick call to a local trapper was the first chapter of the docudrama. They started with the most disgusting smelling “scent balls” placed in the attic that the raccoon seemed perfectly OK with. This stuff is called “raccoon eviction paste.” You put it on cotton balls and place it strategically. I’ve heard of eviction notices, but eviction paste? That’s a first. It smells like cougar testicles or some other revolting odor that sends an olfactory shot across the bow that danger is near — split. After a week of the stink, nothing. It backfired and drove the raccoons even deeper into the ceiling structure.
Phase two: time to set a trap. Three days and a can of tuna fish later, we had a live, hissing female raccoon in a trap right outside our bedroom. Only there was one problem; she was visibly skinnier than before. Her babies were still in our ceiling. Talk about stressful, knowing that there were motherless children in our attic. We had to release her. Not only that, but the thought of eating tuna fish has since been ruined for me.
I tried everything to get them out, went full Gitmo — sprayed bleach, cayenne pepper, put lights up there, even banged on the ceiling and put a speaker in the hole with one of my favorite bands “Ratt” cranked to 11. This was my big chance to prove to my wife what a culturally important, significant, relevant band Ratt really was. Instead of fleeing, they danced. Turns out, raccoons love Ratt. Who knew?
An elaborate trap system was rigged right outside the port of raccoon entry and it netted a mother raccoon and one of her screeching babies. The other three were running around on the roof screaming bloody murder. What a horror show. The trapper rushed over and scooped them all up and disappeared into the night. You’ve met trappers before, right? For all I know those raccoons ended up downvalley in a gumbo.