Nothing says I love you like your darling dog bringing you a deer leg. I looked out our living room picture window and saw Norbert trotting up from the woods. He was awkwardly carrying a log that was too big for him up the hill. So cute. But then I looked a little closer at the oddly shaped log. I wondered what he could’ve gotten in to in the short time he was outside. It was brisk and there was a dusting of snow on the ground, so I threw on my new Ugg boots to check. When he met me at the bottom of our deck stairs, I screamed. It was a deer leg. A disgusting, bloody, rotting deer leg. Hoof and all. He dropped it at my boots, licked his chops, wagged his tail and looked at me with those big loving brown eyes of his like, “I thought you’d like it mama.” Normally, I would go get Kurtis. That’s what Kurtis is for. I make the dinners, he handles the deer carcasses. You know, each marriage has those unspoken agreements. Here’s the problem, Kurtis wasn’t there. He was working and wasn’t going to be home for a month.
I had a few options. First, leave it. But who wants a rotting deer leg on their patio? What better way to attract the animals from the woods—coyotes, raccoons, mountain lions, tigers and bears. I actually envisioned an eagle swooping down to snag it. No, leaving it there wasn’t an option. I could call someone. My dad would’ve helped or maybe a neighbor? “Hi John, it’s Lauren. I have a deer leg over here. Haha, no not for dinner. Could you come get it for me?”
Kurtis had taken a new job and I was bound and determined to survive without him. I could do this. I was a brave little toaster. So, I went and got Kurtis’s work gloves he kept in the garage. They were a few sizes too big and awkward but I was able to manage. Throwing up in my mouth as I caught the lovely scent of the rotting leg, I picked it up by the hoof—which was hanging on by some sort of…ligament? I’m not a doctor. Maybe it was a tendon. Aren’t those the same? I hope you aren’t eating. Anyway, I picked it up and carefully walked it back down the hill and gave it a huge heave-ho side throw into the woods. Bits of rotting meat flew off the leg into the air. I’m pretty sure some landed in my hair. Norbert started to bolt after it. Sweet, mom wants to play fetch with my new stick. NO! I grabbed him as he was about to charge and back into the house we went. Traumatized.
Isn’t it lovely that happened when Kurtis was gone? What were the chances? Turns out, chances were pretty freaking good because that wasn’t the fist incident. It’s turned into a running joke in our family that while Kurtis is here, nothing happens. When he’s gone, random, weird annoying incident after incident —usually animal related—happens. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but I’m a bit of a city girl. I don’t love getting dirty. I don’t like dead things. Mice, snakes, bugs in general scare me. Sometimes I think it is God playing jokes on me. Like, this is good for you Lauren, here’s a deer leg, a mouse, snakeskin and all sorts of fun things. I’d love to say this was the only time it happened, but alas, it was just the beginning.
Not long after that, spring thaw hit Dubuque. The ground was soft and you could tell that life was gearing up for a new spring season. I was out front one day walking some trimmings to dump into our woods. I was proud as punch to be doing yard work. I’m not a fan. I would rather clean the inside of my house ten times over than do yard work but darn it, I was going to get this yard whipped into shape. As I was walking down the hill, something caught my eye on the ground. I sidestepped over to it and almost dropped my armful of clippings. It was a pterodactoyl skeleton. At least that’s what I thought it was. This thing was scary as heck, huge and perfectly in tact. Wings, beak, talons. Right there in my front yard. Guess what? Kurtis wasn’t there. What does one do with the remains of a dinosaur? I didn’t want to keep this thing in the front yard because given our past deer leg episode, Norbert would likely bring me a wing or gnaw on the bones. So I put on my big girl panties and went to work.
I went back to the garage and grabbed Kurtis’s handy-dandy gloves again–still stained from the deer leg–and switched from sneakers to my wellies. I also found a shovel and traipsed back outside. I bravely faced the skeleton with my shovel and tried to scoop it up as if sliding my spatula under the most perfectly formed pancake for a flip. Unfortunately, the head fell off, so I had to make two trips to the woods. I often wonder what the neighbors thought. There I was in my boots and oversized gloves screaming “ew, ew, ew,” as I delicately carried a dead eagle carcass out in front of me and flung it into my back woods.
It was late summer. The days were getting shorter and there was that crisp whisper of fall in the air. I came home from my Wednesday night tennis drill, parked my Yukon in the garage and went inside to chat with my auntie, who had watched the girls while I played. Dusk turned into evening and auntie went to leave. I opened the door to my garage and there my worst nightmare became a reality. I saw something sliding across my garage floor in the silhouette of an “s.” I slammed my door and went running back into the house. The range of emotions I was experiencing is hard to describe. Tears welled in my eyes while I simultaneously wanted to jump out of my skin. Bear with me on this. Snakes terrify me more than anything in the world. I mean terrify. I’ve been afraid of them my whole life—from teeny tiny ones to big ones that could swallow me whole.
At the ripe age of ten, I heard that the best way to beat a fear is to face it. I was so committed to beating my debilitating fear of snakes that I began checking out every book available at the library on snakes. I’d love to say it worked but, quite frankly, that piece of advice was absolute rubbish. I think my fear tripled after reading up on all the different species and looking at picture after picture of their disgusting, devilish faces. I hate them. Straight up.
Previously, I had only encountered them in museums. Today, there was one in my garage. My knight in shining armor, who would totally understand my panic, was gone. So there I was with a snake in the garage and no one to get rid of it. I wouldn’t be able to go into the garage ever again if there was even a millimicron of a chance that the snake was still in there. The only way I would ever be able to step foot in there again was knowing that it was dead. Who could I call though? Not Ghostbusters. Auntie wouldn’t help and on top of that, she loves every stinking animal that walks the earth. My parents were gone, so my only option I could think of was my neighbor. I texted him a desperate 911 asking if he would come help me with the snake. He didn’t hesitate and even brought his son to help.
They came up with a shovel ready to tackle the problem. I had kept the garage door open but after a twenty minute sweep of the area they told me it wasn’t in there anymore. Lies. Snakes are terrible, rotten, sneaky creatures and I knew that little bugger was still in there. Auntie was still around too chanting out every two seconds, “if you catch it don’t you kill it!” So I sent her home. I didn’t need that negativity at the moment. I could tell my neighbor and his son were over the situation. They came, they helped as best they could, they likely thought I was a little crazy because I was freaking out like a sketching addict and it was getting late. I could tell they were going to leave me. They were going to leave me with the sneaky snake that I knew was still in my garage. It would probably get into my house and slither into my boot so that one day I’d put it on and it would be there to terrify my and give me a heart attack. It’s not crazy. I’ve seen stories on that.
Resigned, I thanked them and went to grab my keys out of the car. As I did, the rotten terrible beast of a snake slithered out towards me. Michael Jordan’s vertical had nothing on me that night. Screaming, jumping, running, possibly wetting my pants a little, I went flying from the garage. Luckily, they were only halfway up the driveway. They came back and my neighbors in shining armor smoked it. Yes, I know snakes kill mice. Yes, word on the street is they are good for your yard. No, it wasn’t an endangered species. No, I didn’t tell auntie we killed it.
I’ve mentioned this before and I will say it again. In my book of life, a good snake is a dead snake. I never felt so relieved. While I was sure it was about eight feet long when I initially saw it, turns out is was possibly a foot in length.
Needless to say, after cleaning the blood off the garage floor and dispensing of the guilty party, my heroes left. I’m pretty sure I followed them the whole way home with tears of joy streaming down my face as I thanked them. I called Kurtis to let him know what happened and then proceeded to yell at him for not being here for me in my most desperate time of need. He asked why I left the garage door open.
I would like to say I slept better knowing it was dead, but to add insult to injury, within the next two weeks the girls and I found three sheds in the yard. One was intertwined in the back steps leading up to our deck and I was positive I had a colony living in our stone wall. I imagined them plotting against me and watching me daily. Did I mention I have a wild imagination?
That winter we had a mice. Get off your high horses people I hear you—you shouldn’t have killed the snake. He would’ve helped with the mice. Serves you right for killing the snake. Yea, yea, I get it and you’re probably right. I’m still happy it died.
Have I mentioned yet that we practically live on a farm? We have woods all around the back of our home and a creek running in the back. It’s out a bit from town, so as you can tell from what you’ve read so far, we get critters. The mice moved into our comfy cozy garage for the winter and then the little buggers tried to take it a step further and move into the house.
After a mouse interrupted my homemade peierogie making near Christmas—Kurtis was home thank goodness—he started setting traps for them. Traps are good. Catching mice is good. Dead mice in traps are good when your husband is home. Not as good when he’s gone. My poor dad became my go-to for coming out, disposing of the mice and then re-setting the traps. Here’s how my winter went. I’d be running a business meeting and SNAP. Dead mouse. That lipstick color looks great on you Fern and SNAP. Dead mouse. Sunday dinners with the family? Yes, the buns are homemade and SNAP. Dead mouse. To help with my anxiety of it all I pretended they were Gus Gus and Jacque. Just sweet little friends that meant no harm. I mean, I killed them but the thought helped. At one point when I was yelling at Kurtis on the phone…again…he kindly told me this is farm living and to get used to it. Soon after we moved to Texas.
Let me just say there were incidents in Texas as well, but luckily, Kurtis was always around. A rattlesnake to my left as I went to let one of my consultants in at the front gate sent me flying back to our apartment (in my director suit and heels) screaming for Kurtis. A tarantula we named Tito who visited on the daily. Cockroaches the size of my lipstick that came out to join us for evening cocktails on the porch. A mockingbird that lived outside our window and sang from midnight until four in the morning. But I’ll save those stories for another post.
I was well aware that moving back to my farm meant I would likely encounter some more fun-filled events. Kurtis was again working a hitch two on and two off, but I was hoping this time my luck would change. I mean, he spent almost four months home before he started his new gig and nothing. Absolutely nothing. We power washed the exterior and no snakes came flying out of the stone wall I dreaded. No sheds. No mice. The only incident was when a snake apparently crawled across our patio on a sunny afternoon when the girls and their nanny were out back. They named him Fred. I pretended it didn’t happen. Denial is a beautiful thing. In the meantime, we also got three little kitties. These garage/outdoor cats, contrary to what my girls say, were brought into the family solely to kill mice. I was feeling pretty good about it all.
Naturally, the week before Kurtis left, karma reared its ugly head. Kurtis killed two mice with his flip flop (not even kidding, he’s a beast). First, one was running around down behind our bar. WACK. Second, Hadley came running out of her room screaming. WACK. The kitties mutilated one in the garage and left it for us and then literally the day before he left, double SNAP, SNAP. The Mary Poppins in me thought, perfect, they all were handled before he left, so now we won’t have problems. Dad was onboard to help with any caught in traps again, too.
About a week after Kurtis left, I had put the girls to bed, shut off Hadley’s light and was walking into the hall when I heard a sound no mother alone in her house with her babies wants to hear. It was a strange, scratching, something alive kind of sound that alerts you to the fact that you are not alone like you thought. The fight or flight adrenaline hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in the back corner of our basement with two babes in rooms to my right, precious cargo upstairs sleeping and a presumed intruder between me and the staircase to her.
I stood paralyzed in the hallway. The sound was coming from the family room in front of me. I had nothing to grab at the moment but thought about using a lamp. My phone was upstairs to call for help. Suck it up Lauren and face it was my last thought before forcing myself to move. I took a few cautious steps toward the sound, fully prepared to see a hooded man standing in the living room. As I turned the corner…nothing. Then the sound again, but this time behind me. It was the creepiest sound. A scratching, tapping, fluttering sound. But it was impossible to place. It was right out of Hill House but I knew it wasn’t a ghost. A thought occurred to me…a raccoon had gotten in the house. Some crazy sized critter had gotten into the house and was stuck.
By now the girls were on to me because I was pacing the hallway. I told them to get upstairs fast. I wasn’t prepared to take on a raccoon so I was right up behind them. Memories of the time a chipmunk got into my parents’ house and the time a bat fell from a tree onto my shoulder suddenly flooded my memory (no, I’m serious).
Once I was upstairs I grabbed my phone and called Kurtis. He didn’t believe me and basically told me I was crazy. Maybe I was? I stood at the top of my staircase listening. Nope. Not crazy. It was still down there. I was fully prepared for a raccoon to come walking down the hallway. Do you know how mean they are? Likely rabid, too. I called my mom and dad. I mean, what else do you do? I will say this. At thirty five, I still call my mom and dad an awful lot for help. Anyway, they were next on my people to call after Kurtis, who was worthless in this situation and, quite frankly, ticking me off. I asked both mom and dad to come–dad for brute force and mom for brains. So, at around 9:30pm, when they were likely settled in for Chicago Fire, they came rolling out.
I waited at the top of the stairs and continued to hear the strange, very much alive, sound. When mom and dad showed up I couldn’t help by laugh. Apparently, I may have eggagerated the situation. My dad was in long pants and boots wielding an axe, butcher knife, a lob wedge, two putters and a big can of Raid bug spray. Mom came in her jammies. The sound had stopped (of course) but after a few walk-throughs we picked it up again. Mom and I and the girls stayed upstairs while my dad went room by room with his putter and bug spray. Door slowly opening. Door closed. Opening. Closed.
At one point he came up as confused as I was. He had heard it and he too thought it was moving around but then it would be gone. We started knocking on walls and low and behold, after much trial and error decided that it was, you guessed it, a mouse…in the wall. Can I just say something? My house is pretty nice. It was just recently gutted top to bottom. How a mouse was now living in my wall was beyond me and beyond annoying.
Dad started talking about cutting a hole in the wall and setting a trap to get it but I was over there like, oh hell no. We just got the place put back together after the reno and the last thing I wanted to do was start punching holes in it again. My animal loving daughters and mother came downstairs and were horrified at this poor darling mouse stuck in the wall. The girls named it, tapped the wall for it and then told it good night and went to bed happy as can be about the whole adventure and their new friend. I wanted it dead. After chatting with Kurtis, we decided to let it go for the night. As cruel as it sounds, it would eventually wear itself out and die. I was worried about the smell of rotting mouse but we figured we’d deal with that if and when it happened. The next day, nothing–no sound, no movement. Quite honestly, nothing ever since. To this day it’s a mystery. Did Squeaks get out? Is Squeaks lying there rotting? Not too sure.
There are more. I’m sure there will be more, too. But just when you think I’m out here with it all together living life on a perfectly staged farm, remember these disasters and know that you couldn’t be more wrong. When I introduced this blog I told you about my gong show dumpster fire moments and my friends, these are just the tip of the iceberg.