Monday, March 12, 2012

Things that go bump in the night

A few nights back we were sitting in the lounge watching TV when there were sounds of movement from our fireplace.  Scratching and scurrying.  We’ve got a fireplace with an old cast iron insert and a flue door that closes in the summer  months.  Being the Adelaide Hills and with the cooler night time temperatures I dismissed it as being a mouse.  Happens every year – until it gets cool enough to light the fire – they don’t hang around for long then!  Not a big fan of mice; they’re dirty, smelly, diseased little creatures that shit everywhere!  They make me feel unclean.  My dogs love them – it’s the Jack Russell instinct.

Same noise happened the next night too, and the one after that.  I was about to put a packet of Ratsac on my list of essential purchases on my next shopping trip.

But last night was different.  The scratching and scurrying gave way to a chirping and squeaking.  A pang of guilt swept over me.  It must be a bird stuck in the chimney!  I didn’t care when it was a mouse – I figured you got in, you can get out (those things can squeeze through some crazy gaps!).  But a bird?  What if it has a broken wing?  What if it’s in pain?

Not having a torch I used the next best thing and grabbed my phone (thanks for the flashlight app!).  I pushed open the little cast iron door in the fireplace and shone the light in.  Staring back at me from the darkness was this:

A ring-tail possum!  Poor little bugger must have been running across our roof, lost his balance and fallen down the chimney.  And I’d ignored him for days!

Being the manly man that I am I instantly jumped into action mode.  I closed the flue door, and got prepared for battle.  I knew I had to get him out but I wasn’t just going to stick my hand in there and pull.  Have you seen what a possum can do to a man?  They’re savage little bastards when backed into a corner!  I pictured claws, razor sharp teeth and shredded flesh.  I quickly donned two long sleeve tshirts, a hoodie, two pairs of trackies, my hiking boots and a pair of riggers gloves.  I moved the leather lounge out of the room – I had this image of an hysterical possum getting out of my grasp, swinging from the curtains and tearing strips off my furniture as retaliation for my ignoring his plight.

Meanwhile, my better half has calmly rung the lovely volunteers at Native Fauna Rescue SA.  If you don’t know about them you should look them up, and if you’re an animal lover with some space in your home and free time on your hands you should consider volunteering.  We were referred to a local volunteer who was only too happy to come out and assist with the rescue.  Only problem was they had just had a call from another person who had just found a koala which had been hit by a car – obviously a life and death situation.  They would come out and assist us later in the night – they estimated around midnight!

We decided to chance opening the chimney flue door and bribing the possum with fruit.  I opened the front door of the house and we sat quietly in the corner waiting for any sign of movement.  After about 20 minutes a little furry face appeared, and my possum friend crawled out into the fireplace and onto the lounge room floor.  He looked at us and we looked at him.  I was still picturing an episode of “When Animals Attack”, or the scene from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation when a psychotic squirrel launches itself from the Christmas Tree.  But our friendly possum only wanted one thing – freedom.  Without a wave goodbye, he sauntered casually to the front door, onto our driveway and up the nearest tree.  And we haven’t seen him since.

It was a different way to spend a Sunday night!  Much better than watching TV.  It gave us a story to tell and my wife got yet another opportunity to laugh at my calmness under pressure!  Gotta love living in the Adelaide Hills!

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