My dad, Charles Stone, had a tender heart when it came to wildlife, with a few notable exceptions. Water snakes were quickly dispatched in the spring, before they had a chance to frighten guests. But Dad could not bring himself to harm most living creatures, and he respected them. He once decided to join his friend hunting and shot a magnificent buck on his first day out. He felt so bad about it that he sold the gun and swore off hunting forever. Some creatures still found a way to irritate him, though, and a few managed to get the upper hand. The following are a few vignettes about some of his more notable brushes with the local wildlife.
Dad was extremely adept at orienting guests and making them feel at home immediately. During one introduction, he entered the cabin before the new renter and immediately spied a problem. Calmly sitting on the couch, as if waiting for someone to hand him the TV remote, was a bat. Dad grabbed the animal, held it behind his back, and, continued the orientation seamlessly, never showing distress that the terrified bat was biting his hand. In professional salesman fashion, he continued his presentation. When he got to the porch, he picked his moment, when the customer was looking the other way and flung the relieved bat out the back door. The renter remained completely unaware of the interloper. All chimneys were immediately cleaned, cleared of other bat occupants and fitted with guards to prevent a recurrence. I shudder now to think of the risk he took of rabies exposure, but in his mind, nothing was more important that the satisfaction of a renter.
Speaking of orientations, another important one was water safety and handling an outboard motor. Having retrieved boats that ended up across the lake and repaired more than a few mistreated outboards, he delivered a stern briefing to new motor renters, especially kids. The Weiss brothers were on the receiving end of one of these. They were told about the laws regarding life preservers, shown the proper way to operate the motor and told to NEVER stand up in the boat while the motor was running. They solemnly promised to comply. To their astonishment, a few hours later they saw a boat coming full throttle, with the occupant standing and wildly swinging a broom at the stubborn flock of Canadian geese guilty of pooping on the beach. “Is that Mr. Stone?” gasped one of them to their mother, before collapsing in laughter. It took a while for them to take Dad seriously again.
At another introduction to the camp, the interior orientation went smoothly. Dad and the new prospective renter then moved to the outside. As if on cue, a chipmunk scampered out to them and went up on his hind legs to beg for a peanut. “Oh, I don’t like mice!” said the lady, who blanched and promptly left. Timing is everything.
One spring, Dad discovered, to his horror, that porcupines had found a way into the storehouse and partied hard all winter, filling up his boats with debris and poop. An appropriate sized Havahart trap was purchased and set overnight. The next day, the trap was sprung, but the occupant was not the offending porcupine. Contentedly eating the delicious food in the trap was a skunk. So, how to get Pepe Le Pew out without upsetting him too badly? Dad tried to put more food outside the trap and then ever so carefully opened the trap doors. The skunk went out for the food, collected it and promptly brought it back in his new home, springing the doors shut again. This was not going to be easy. It took several nerve-wracking tries, placing the food further and further away so that the trap could be closed before Pepe could get back inside. Finally Dad succeeded in closing the skunk out. Disappointed that his new condo was not going to work out, but not so upset as to resort to chemical warfare, the skunk ambled back into the woods.
Dad backed out of the driveway in the truck one morning, got a few hundred yards down the road and the cab started to quickly fill with black smoke. He managed to pull the truck over and got out safely. A fire was burning under the hood. The fire dept. was called, the fire extinguished and the culprit was found to be a squirrel nest that had been built over the engine. Sadly, the baby squirrels were immolated in the fire. Dad managed to drive the truck to work later in the day. The mother squirrel quickly discovered the nest was gone and, enraged at the loss of her babies, jumped on the screen door of one of the camps and screamed. She continued jumping on the door and glaring inside intermittently for several days, rather unnerving the campers. We felt so bad for her. An enraged mama grizzly bear had nothing on her.
Dad was cutting down some dead trees at the camps late one fall and one of the workmen noticed some seeds spilling out from a hole in the trunk of one of the felled trees. A white footed mouse was spotted nearby, nervously watching. His pantry of seeds for the winter had just come crashing down and Dad knew that without it, he would not survive. Dad ordered his men to cut out that section of the tree and leave it for the mouse. So go the best laid plans of mice and men…