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Redheads have staying power

Marcy O’Brien

I recently read that redheads will not exist by the end of this century. Holy Clairol!

The story went on to say that between one and two percent of the world’s population is redheaded.

Well, if the current world population is approximately 7.7 billion, let’s say that 1.5% of that number is 115,000,000, give or take a few hundred thousand. It doesn’t sound like a species heading for the extinction list to me.

My mother was a redhead (she only gave me auburn highlights, not the real deal). My sister-in-law, Barbara, has spiked red hair, my cousin, Jeanne, has a thick red mane and my local Titian-haired friends include Susan, Jean, Peggy, and Melissa – all smart, feisty women. I never seem to use the word feisty without referring to a redhead.

Dictionary.com’s first definition of feisty is “full of animation, energy or courage; spirited; spunky; plucky.” Yup, that defines all the ladies I mentioned.

And then there are the second and third definitions which are also spot-on – for another group of redheads that have invaded my world. The dictionary continues the definition of feisty with “ill-tempered; pugnacious; troublesome; difficult,”

This alternate group of redheads – the rodent type – has bushy tails and yes, in my recent wars with the red squirrel invasion, I have found them to perfectly fit those secondary definitions of feisty – with special emphasis on the troublesome and difficult. Combine those traits with native cunning, speed and agility and the battle lines are drawn.

Back in May, I wrote about red squirrels in a column titled the Springtime Invasion. We had eliminated two very daring red squirrels – by this I mean they were actively present in our front hall and den. We were proud of ourselves for eliminating the problem.

But upon returning from our vacation, we began hearing busy little devils in the walls and ceilings. At first, it was the usual scratching. Within a week I was sure the animal was larger than a mouse. Four legs rapidly running across the ceiling while dragging at least a bowling ball became our nightly background noise. I said to Dear Richard, “A mouse or a chipmunk can’t drag a bowling ball. It’s at least a ferret – may be a raccoon.” His withering look indicated he didn’t agree. He was pretty sure it was either another red squirrel or a chipmunk.

Poor Finian, our vigilant cat, was helplessly staring at the ceiling or stretching up against the walls. He was also frustrated.

We called for help but struck out with the exterminator crowd. “We don’t do large animal extractions.” So then the war was on – time to buy traps.

Dear Richard bought a Have-a-Heart type trap for a live catch. I made him promise to drive any captured detainee to Punxsutawney, the minimum distance for release. I felt sure the trap was big enough for both the raccoon and his bowling ball. But it didn’t work.

Richard’s research had convinced him that not just peanut butter but also whole peanuts, in the shell, were the favored gourmet lure to trap our fugitives. He peanut- buttered the trip lever then strewed whole peanuts in the far end.

The first morning the trap was empty. No critters, no peanut butter, no peanuts in the shell. Same story the second morning. They came, they sniffed, they ate, they left. Seems the critters (by now we had determined there were at least two) were actually too small to trigger the trap. Our capture weapon was too big for the job.

We found an old heavy-duty rat trap we had used on chipmunks during last summer’s backyard infestation. This black contraption works like an alligator’s jaw – one snap, and you have a two-piece chipmunk. Although it is a dire treatment, we were desperate. By now we were weeks into living with scratching, running feet and dragged bowling balls. Richard baited it with Jif.

Ta-da! The next morning, Monday, the trap contained the stiff remains of a red squirrel. And on Tuesday. And again Wednesday. Was it an entire platoon?

All this time I’ve been worried about their eating our wiring and I’m left wondering how much damage this family has already done.

The two in the hallway last spring must have been the parents. I’m thinking these are their kids. My reasoning is that now we still have continuing activity but they are too lightweight to trigger the alligator trap – maybe we’re dealing with the grandkids. On Thursday and Friday, the next two mornings, the traps were still set but the Jif was gone.

In desperation, Richard bought the rat-sized version of the old standby – the little wooden mousetrap. He set the hair-trigger trap after baiting it with Jif. I had noticed at breakfast that our peanut butter supply was diminishing rapidly.

This morning the trap was sprung – and 100% Jif-free. There’s no peanut allergy in this group of redheads.

If the dabs of peanut butter would keep the critters from eating our wiring, insulation, and sheetrock, I probably would not mind adding more peanut products to our food budget. But there are no guarantees in a battle this intense. I want it over before the snow flies and they begin moving furniture in up there.

Richard planned to search for peanut butter coupons. Fuggedaboudit. At the rate these redheads are eating, I’m thinking we should switch to a house brand.

The saga continues…

Marcy O’Brien is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. She can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.

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