Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Of Moths and Madness

When the men in the white suits come for me with the strait jacket, tell them it was the moths that finally drove me over the edge.

I understand that country living includes critters. I’ve had a lifetime of grabbing grain cans only to have a mouse zip up my arm. I should have nerves of steel by now. South Dakota alone should have made me into Superwoman. I once crawled under a wooden granary to retrieve a litter of puppies with the full knowledge that the dog flushed rats out of the corn every morning. (I worried they might invade the house. My husband assured me they would much rather stay outside, where there was food.)

Thanks to the high water table and a sump hole inexplicably inserted on the high end of the basement floor, we occasionally had to prop open the window to run a hose out from the low end. One morning, I opened the basement door and came face to face with a possum on the landing. I’d never seen a possum before. I assumed it was a rat the size of a Chihuahua. Luckily, we’d been planning on knocking out that wall between the dining room and kitchen anyway.

And then there was the day I woke from a nap to the sound of skittering feet, and looked over to see a pocket gopher scaling my bedroom curtains.

Even the birds got in on the act. My living room door was two steps up from the ground, at the ideal level for sparrows to swoop into the house when I hit the electric garage door closer and scared them off the rails. I got be a real pro at herding them out the sliding glass doors with a broom and a minimal amount of splatter.

In Oregon, it was spiders. Big spiders, little spiders, white spiders, gray spiders. Black fuzzy jumping spiders that could leap from windowsill to toilet in a single bound. Nickel-sized brown spiders that lurked in my shower. Menacing black widow spiders that hid in the dark corners of my tack room.

But it’s the moths that are going to do me in.

The robins started it by chiseling a hole under the eaves of my kitchen roof. By the time I discovered their handiwork, it was too late to seal it up. They’d already built their nests. Call me soft-hearted. Or allergic to the smell of rotting eggs. I got used to the sound of scratching and cheeping above my table and sort of forgot about the hole.

Until the moths.

We came home after dark from a visit to the neighbors, switched on the living room light, and were engulfed in a blizzard of moths. Fluttering and flapping, smacking into lights and walls and ceilings and me. My son ran screaming to the bedroom and hid under the blankets. My husband and I armed ourselves with rolled up magazines and ran around flailing at the things until the floor was thick with casualties.

That was a week ago. Seven nights of terror. Every evening, as dusk falls, they begin to creep out of the cracks and crevices. They hunker along the top curves of the log beams in the living room, where swatting is nearly impossible. When you try, they hurl themselves at your head, tangle in your hair, dive down your collar. After the third time he watched me strip off my shirt and stomp it to death on the floor, my husband decided we needed a better weapon. Once he stopped laughing, of course.

Enter the ShopVac.

I now have a new bedtime routine. ShopVac wand in one hand, paperback book in the other to fend off frontal attacks, I prowl the house, looking for suspicious, wedge-shaped brown spots. It sucks them right off the ceiling beams with a satisfying thwip! And I’m getting better with practice. I can occasionally snatch one right out of the air. Makes me feel like Luke Skywalker, light saber at ready, saving the universe from Darth Vader’s evil minions.

I also have no cobwebs for the first time in living memory.

But the battle goes on. The enemy seems to have endless reinforcements. No matter how I scour the perimeter, a few slip past. I pick up a book from my nightstand and a moth blasts out in my face. I grab the dish towel from the rack and a moth shoots up my sleeve. Two nights in a row, just as I dozed off to sleep, I’ve been dive-bombed right there on my pillow.

We’re talking shriek and freak. Claw marks on the ceiling.

Now I lie here, barely able to close my eyes, heart leaping into my throat at every sound. I’m exhausted. Frazzled. Seriously considering a buzz cut.

Please, somebody, come and take me away.

17 comments:

Tawna Fenske said...

I'm going to make my husband read this when he gets home. In addition to having a passionate love for his ShopVac, he detests moths with every fiber of his being. He'll love this!

Thanks for the visual!

Tawna

Linda G. said...

Geez-Louise, I'm am freaking right with you, just reading this. Will they die with the first freeze, maybe? Even frigid temps are preferable to dive-bombing moths!

JeanLauzier said...

For me it's crickets. I don't know how they get in but they leave everyone alone but attack me. Then if we don't catch 'em they get right under my side of the bed and chirp all night. Sigh...

writermomof5 said...

I have to confess, I've never been attacked by moths but if I ever am, the shop vac idea is brilliant.

When we lived in Western Washington, we had wolf spiders the size of a quarter with legs. I was the resident spider-killer, until my mom brought me into the room to kill a big one in the corner. While I was debating which angle to take, the thing jumped at me. I swear that spider grew the size of a dinner plate. I squealed like a girl and threw the shoe. After that, my mom was on her own.

One winter night, I woke up to the sensation of somthing warm and soft in bed with me. We didn't have pets. I opened one eye to see, not a baby, but a young mouse curled up next to me. I had a brief thought of oh how cute before OMG it's a mouse took over. Fortunately, said mouse scampered away.

And possoms... possoms are only cute in Disney movies. Creatures of evil. Once had to go out to save my chickens from one that I swear was the size of beagle. I kept waiting for him to play dead. I think he was waiting for me to do the same.

Great post! (sorry for rambling) ; )

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Tawna: Still working on that video for you. Need a better camera for indoor, night time action of this caliber.

Linda: We had frost Monday morning. I think it scared more of them into the house.

Jean: Okay, one good thing about moths. They're pretty quiet.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

writermomof5: Ew. Just, ew. And on top of being scary ugly, possums carry rabies. Had an athlete who had to go through the whole shot series because he got bitten by one, then it got away so they couldn't test it.

Kait Nolan said...

In the house I grew up in, it was bats. The window sills were warped and the little buggers would get inside. One day (I was about 5), I went to my mom. "Mom there's a really big bug in the kitchen."

"Not now, honey."

"But MOOOOOM, it's a really REALLY big bug!"

She finally gave into my persistence and went into the kitchen, where she proceeded to shriek fit to wake the dead before recruiting my dad to dispose of the bat.

Trisha Leigh said...

Hahahaha, have you seen the movie Tommy Boy? David Spade's character spends an evening vacuuming moths in their hotel room - priceless.

Also, I think we need video of your evening ritual. :)

John Deere Tara said...

The Shop Vac is absolutely brilliant! I almost wish I had a few moths so that I had an excuse to play with my shop vac.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Trisha: How do I not remember that scene? Must watch next time Tommy Boy comes on.

Tara: My next book-- 101 uses for a Shop Vac.

Kait: I can only recall one bat encounter, in our attic when I was a kid. And you will notice snakes don't show up on my list of critters. Except for the one year in Texas, I've never lived where there was anything buy harmless little garden snakes, and hardly any of those.

Megan said...

Bahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

CKHB said...

I KNOW YOUR PAIN. It probably started with the pet finches. I think one or two always get in to find the bird seed, and then the breeding begins. We had moth problems off and on when we had parrots, but this year it's like nothing we've ever seen before.

WHILE WRITING THIS COMMENT I killed another 8 moths plus 3 of their hideous yellow blindly questing larvae. I have to climb on a kitchen stool to reach them, and carry around a baby wipe to get rid of the nasty stains their corpses leave behind. They hatch in waves, so there'll be no activity for a week or more, then HOLY CRAP you can't open a kitchen cabinet without being face-bombed.

And we live in an apartment.

How much is a ShopVac?

GroGrn said...

The moth horrors remind me of growing up with stink bugs in eastern Washington. They are apparently called Pine Seed Bugs, but we called them Stink Bugs for the room-emptying smells they punished you with for pestering or killing them.

They moved indoors in late fall by the zillions, especially loving well ventilated farm houses. Like moths, bright lights confused them. Most awful memories of them involved the light over the kitchen table and drunken, zinging bugs ending up in my hair.
They were best disposed of by very gently flushing them or dropping them in the fire. Very gently. You did not want to start the stink mechanism!

The moth stories brought back flashbacks of the horror, which I'd almost forgotten after leaving pine tree country for the prairie.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

GroGrn: The stink bugs must be a higher elevation thing, because we didn't have them in Hermiston. We did have earwigs. Eeuww.

GroGrn said...

They are a pine tree thing. I first experienced life without them on the Palouse. Still shuddering from the thought....

Kari Lynn Dell said...

GroGrn: That explains it. Unless it grew on sagebrush or greasewood, you didn't find it in Hermiston.

Posey said...

LOL Ah, the images in my head.