Service Story #234: The Adventures of Ratty Claws, Episode 2

Service Story #234: The Adventures of Ratty Claws, Episode 2

What do you do when Santa has a senior moment and accidentally drops an unwanted gift down your chimney?

Produced for Mary and Ian of Gresham, Oregon in late December 2020

I’m Wilderness Security Guide, the Environmental Control Operator for Storysold: Pest Control, and this is the story of my service…

In the years our human host Jake performed his duties as an employee of The Pest Control Industry he didn’t once save a squirrel that fell down a chimney.

Now that he’s free to host the business characters he believes to be the best, he’s engaged this squirrelly storyline 4 times. And that’s exactly what he told Mary and her son Ian when he arrived on scene.

“I’m 2 for 3 with this one,” I said as we gathered around Mary’s stove and studied Santa’s Little Lost One. “I got the second one in the trap, but it died before I got there. The last one was here in Gresham. It was a month ago or so, but that was real Christmas miracle. I lowered a live catch trap with some peanuts on a rope, down one of those double 2 story chimneys, and came back the next day. We were all grins when we released our guy back into the lady’s backyard.”

“I tried lassoing him,” Ian explained as he showed me his homemade squirrel wrangling device, “but he kept slipping out of the loop.”

I have to admit. I liked Ian immediately. He had the kind of grit it takes to save squirrels, and I respected that.

As we gathered around the stove I talked through my skillset of save-the-squirrels tricks and quickly realized that I was going to have to try something new. The live catch trap was a few inches too long to fit inside the stove and close the door like the SE Portland job. So I placed it in the open door, and used my environmental control skills to exclude the gaps around the trap.

“This will do nicely!” My eyes beamed a smile at Mary through my COVID mask as I walked back inside with my new action plan. “There’s a reason why I roll around Portland in a rat trap of a van with scraps of expanded aluminum, bungee cords, and salvaged pieces of old ductwork…”

After I set my trap, I rushed off to play catch-up with the rest of my day’s route. As I drove away, I felt a presence I hadn’t felt in a long time. I couldn’t identify the quiet snicker at first…

“What an idiot,” the voice said with a snicker. “I’d like you to note that you’ve never had a call where one of my kind has accidentally fallen down an open chimney. Not ever.”

“Ratty Claws!” I grinned. “Is that you?”

“The One and Only.

For those of you humans who missed, The Adventures of Ratty Claws, Episode 1 featuring Farmer Racheal, Evanshoe, and Master Freddy, Ratty is a non-deity deity who rules the roof rat wilderdom of N, SE, and NE Portland. Since that episode posted, however, I’ve catch his ratonauts in Milwaukie, Gladstone, and now parts of East Gresham.

“I see you’ve been staying busy these days Guide…” Ratty Claws continued. “…too busy to stop The Action and have a proper dialogue with your old friend Ratty Claws.”

“I know,” I sighed as we all noted Jake’s shaking leg and began to look for a COVID safe restroom. “As you can see..we, the live action characters of .Storysold: Pest Control have been running our human host at max capacity these days. These days, by the time we reach the end of the day’s work scenes, he has no time for proper plotting, character development, or even a few lines of dialogue with Pest Predator or me. That snake in the grass, Bookmaker Jake, has been monopolizing all his down time by feeding his old habit of watching bad action movies on The Fourth Wall.”

“Sounds like a personal problem,” Ratty Claws snickered again. “It can’t be going too poorly with your human. I’ve noticed your team has been able to prop up a number of solid new Homefronts…”

“Yes,” I agreed. “And we’ve been placing our offerings to test you after every ending of every exclusion.”

“That’s all good,” Ratty grinned like Nutcracker’s Old Drosselmayer, “but I’m not here to collect my offerings.”

Storysold: Pest Control (our whole business entity) did our best to process that thought, but we were having serious to major problems finding our human a proper COVID safe bathroom. Eventually we gave up trying to do it right, and prompted our human to dodge into an abandoned church parking lot, grab a Gatorade bottle, and urinate in the back of the van.

Minutes after he released his precious bodily fluids back to the universe, two things happened: 1) Mary called, and 2) I realized why we were dialoguing with Ratty Claws again.

Here’s the series of photos Mary texted:

In a dark enclosed space, it didn’t take Santa’s cute little Lost One to go for the peanuts and spring the trap…

“I think I Get It now,” I said after we herded Jake back on the road. “You’re here to spread some Christmas cheer.”

“Nailed it!” Old Ratty Claws boomed with laughter. “But what’s the punchline of our joke here?”

“I Get It alright,” I paused, “but I don’t want to be the lame one who explains it.”

“Don’t worry. It’d be my honor,” Ratty replied. “Rats gave up their efforts to fit in…trying to make humans happy a long time ago. I think our last attempt was the movie Willard, featuring the human host who played the father character in Back to The Future. It was a complete box-office flop.”

“OK,” I said, still unwilling to be The Guy that Explains the Joke. “Then explain it.”

Ratty Claws gave his audience a knowing chuckle, and a little “Ho, ho, ho,” and then suddenly steely-eyed he said, “Roof rats would never accidentally fall down an unexcluded chimney, because we’re not idiots. If and when you rat catchers catch us in the heat of The Action…we’re caught, like career criminals, with a full understanding of the consequences.”

“And how is that funny?”

“I don’t know,” Ratty said coolly. “Why don’t you ask your human ‘Why?’ Humans love to laugh at The Dumb and Dumber creatures who are weaker than they are…Our version of The Village Idiot is that squirrel you just saved.”

“I’m still on the edge of my seat waiting for the punchline…”

“Idiot squirrel suddenly feels a need to nest, sees a warm open hole, and then promptly falls into it,” Ratty Claws laughed like his sides were about to split. “And the humans call someone to save it!”

“Naturally,” I said, still getting it. “What’s wrong with that?”

“No one would ever save us if we fell down a chimney like Santa Clause.”

“Wait a minute!” I smiled like the Grinch. “You said you would never accidentally fall down a chimney. If that’s true, then you would never need someone to rescue you….”

“Oh! come on now Guide,” Ratty sighed. “Indulge me.”

“That’s a tall order Ratty,” I said mustering all my imagination. “If I have it right: you’re saying you want me to laugh at the idiot squirrel that falls down the chimney at the same time you want me to respect you for never falling down chimneys, and then simultaneously open a door to some Future Time Portal where I would feel sympathy, and love, and save you if you too happened to accidentally play the part of the idiot squirrel?”

“Yes,” Ratty Claws replied without missing a beat.

“Seriously?!” I cried as I did my best to keep my human on task.

“Yes, that’s it.”

“That’s the lamest joke ever!”

“Yeah,” Ratty laughed. “We learned it from watching The Fourth Wall of TV with you safe from our rat holes. None of us really Get It when you laugh at all the ‘idiot’ humans on your glowing boxes, but we do our best to fit in…”

It was then that the punchline hit me like a ton of bricks. “And that’s why we save the squirrels and kill the rats,” I said with a satisfied grin. “Your tales are simply a lot less cuter.”

Similar to those many risky, possibly harsh, or wild text/messages to one of your human relations…those last lines were met with 100% pure silence. I read Ratty’s reply like the natural predator I am:

As I read it, it was Ratty’s turn now. We were going to continue to Save The Squirrels!

Service Story #145: Hunting Rats Organically at Home

Service Story #145: Hunting Rats Organically at Home

SOME HUMANS GO HOME TO KIDS, CHORES, AND A DESK FULL OF BILLS. OUR HUMAN HOST AND FARMER EMILY HAVE BILLS TO PAY AND CHICKENS TO FEED WHEN THEY GET HOME, BUT THEY DON’T HAVE KIDS. THEY HAVE RATS AND VOLES TO HUNT IN THE OPEN FIELD…

In the days before STORYSOLD: Pest Control, after our humans’ adventure in Eastern Oregon where Emily became Farmer Emily and Jake learned to hate The Mental Health System, our humans moved to Gresham, Oregon so Emily could play a part in some of the most meaningful programs ever created by bureaucrats.

It’s run by The Generic Thing called “East Multnomah Soil Water and Conservation District”, and they called it, The Headwaters Farm Incubator Program. Patterned off successful local food source productions like Intervale in Vermont, Headwaters is the front line of the front line for protecting our land, water, and local food systems.

Where does our human fit into this picture? For a long time, Jake felt like a Groupie, an adoring, sort of dorky fan of the serious badasses who claim the title of “Local, Organic Farmer.” And being a fan was easy for Jake. Once of his favorite lines about Organic Farmers is, “Local food is the one common good that everyone can agree on. The God-fearing, gun-slinging, end-times preparing folks get local, small scale farming because the power to grow food ranks pretty high on The Strategic Guide to Surviving The Tribulation. And the Granola Crunchers agree with conservation and the importance of developing a sustainable, local food system on principle. It’s a social thing. Like church for people who hate church.”

Farming is not at all like society thinks. It’s not “unskilled labor.” It takes mad skills to be a farmer. Not only complex strategic planning skills, but raw energy sporty skills. It takes brains and brawn, and (in Jake’s humble opinion) Farmer Emily is the Micheal Jordan of Portland’s farm world. Brian and Mary of Wild Roots and Farmer Dan of Flying Coyote are close seconds, but Brian and Mary own a tractor and Dan talks too much to be A #1 Farmer of Portland.

All that’s to say, Jake didn’t fit in that picture at all. He would rather low crawl through a rat infested crawlspace than spend all day bending over to weed and harvest. That was until he found a niche in The Action that he could fill…

It wasn’t like we baited The District into hiring Wilderness Guide to catch rats on the farm. Emily played a role in Headwaters Farm Incubator Program for five years before she graduated and moved her farm to an adjacent property owned by The District, where she leased the land and subleased to other graduates like [Former] Farmer Rick and the always engaging non-English speaking farmers known lovingly as The Russians. Throughout that storyline, we saw the rat holes. We saw the rat droppings in the barn. We listened to the rat stories spun by farmers. But it wasn’t until we took over the on-site caretaker duties formerly dutied by Farmer Rick did we become acutely aware that we were living next to an infestation.

Since the beginning of The Headwaters program, Farmer Rick’s cats had been the only rodent control on the property. Most farmers at Headwaters believed in Mother Nature’s ability to balance the rodent population without any formal system of death-dealing devised by humans. They generally believed in the ragtag band of half-wild farm cats as long as they didn’t piss on the vegetables. They believed in the Great Horned Owls, weasels, coyotes, and hawks that thrived on the property. But, when Farmer Emily and Jake became the caretakers, The District decided to take the wild farm cats off that list. They didn’t want our wild creature friend, Pip the Evergreen Jungle Cat, to kill the songbirds. Which he would, without a doubt. Like a soldier or sportsman, Pip was well fed. He could kill all day everyday, because he didn’t kill to eat.

Like they say, “All an infestation needs to grow is for good rat catchers to do nothing.” We saw the rats running to and from the compost cart at the barn at night. We saw the fresh droppings in the barn. Yet we did nothing, because why? Honestly I think it was a perverse curiosity. How long could a group of organic farms go without developing an equally “organic” poison-free system of rodent control to draw The Magic Line between their crops and all the wild creatures that feed on it.

And we answered that question. Our rough estimate was “six years.” Good job owls! Good job snakes and weasels!

Our role as the official Organic Farm Rat Catcher was triggered by 2 events: a) Brian and Mary registering a formal complaint about the rats in the barn with The District, and b) the day Rowan (Headwaters’ Manager, Visionary, and Patron Saint) turned the compost pile and saw “fifty rats running from it.”

At first we asked Rowan for an official farm title, a honorary role to play in the development of our local food system, in exchange for our killing of the rats, but that didn’t happen. Instead we settled for an hourly wage and the challenge of killing rats in a barn and the open field without the use of rodenticides.

Here’s some highlights of our first epic rat hunt at home (we live next to that barn):

We quickly learned 2 things about farm rats: 1) they don’t give 2 shits about the fancy attractants we put on the triggers of our traps, because they LOVE ORGANIC VEGETABLES and the smart rats (yes smart, not mentally ill) feed on their favorite, familiar, comfort food source like drug addicts; and 2) there were some monsters living in our farm forest that could run through our standard factory made rat traps with the ease of squirrels.

To counter that, we stuffed fresh vegetables/compost (donated by the finest farmers in Portland) in live catch squirrel traps and buried them in the compost cart. This worked very well. Guide almost smiled when Farmer Justin texted us excitedly to report that we’d caught 3 rats at once!

As any rat catcher worth their salt knows, trapping rats without doing something to exclude them and or upend their happy environments is not smart. Our exclusion project at the barn produced one of the coolest “pest devices” Wilderness Guide has ever concocted:

How does one exclude a sliding barn door?

Hunting rats in my own backyard also gave me a chance to do some experimentation. The first “Action Cycler” didn’t do so well, but it spawned a similar chicken feed excluder that worked wonders for Donna in the Couve:

The “open field trapping” at the compost had some memorable moments. Until I finally caught him or her, one of the rats would greet us, at dusk, when I checked my traps. I’ve only met 2 vocal rats; both of which were wild farm rats. The first was my first catch at Headwaters. We named him “Tomato Badass” because he was caught raiding Farmer Emily’s tomatoes in the barn. Tomato Badass “barked” at us. He was definitely not contented by the security of a cage. The guy that greeted us at the compost pile didn’t bark. This rat “grunted” as it ran slowly away from its nest, baiting us to chase. Which we did, if only for a lark. The Grunt was one of our favorites. It was sad to see him go…

The trap that got him was no cheap industry special. It was a steel body trap with 2 springs. It was baited with a peanut and some leafy compost greens. Thanks to traps like this, I was finally nailing larger adult rats….instead of picking off juvenile after juvenile, litter after litter, like most industry rat techs do.

The First Rat Hunt at Home lasted from February to mid June 2020. The barn was the first to clear, sometime in early May. I knew it was clear once I began to catch mice and voles in my exterior traps; and discovered no hits on the free food I stocked in the Volehalla boxes set inside the barn. The compost pile took a while longer. I noticed my traps suddenly went very quiet in mid June, but it wasn’t until Rowan invited a pack of humans with rat hunting terriers to do a hunt on the farm did I know I’d won. The humans and their dogs had a good rep. They boasted that they’d killed as many as 60 rats at a chicken farm in once day! They roamed the farm in search of rats for hours. Rowan even turned the monster compost pile again, but the humans and their pack of employable terriers didn’t find a single rat. Not one.

Naturally, at the end of their hunt, I smiled at the domesticates and said, “Gee, that’s too bad. Maybe you’ll have better luck next time.” I can’t remember the last time I was so happy. It was a major victory. Tame creatures (especially lacky Disney dogs and Pet People) have no business hunting rats anyway. It’s an offense to the honor and wildness of rats.

When we finally nailed an ending to The Great Headwaters Rat Infestation, the final count was 56 rats and 84 mice.

R.I.P. Tomato Badass, Grunt, and The Monster who Rowan claimed “shook the barn” when it hit the barn door as it fled the wrath of the Headwaters Farmers. Your stories will be remembered. That’s what good rat catchers do best.

Service Story #89: The Chicken Loving Neighbor

Service Story #89: The Chicken Loving Neighbor

RATS DON’T RESPECT THE WALLS WE BUILD BETWEEN OUR HOMES. OFTEN ONE NEIGHBOR WILL SUPPLY THE FOOD SOURCE, WHILE THE OTHER SUPPLIES THE NEST. RATS LOVE THIS STORYLINE, BECAUSE THEY KNOW THERE ARE A LOT OF HUMANS WHO DON’T RESPECT THEIR NEIGHBORS…

PRODUCED FOR KIM P. OF SE PORTLAND

My name is Wilderness Security Guide. I’m the environmental control operator for Storysold: Pest Control in charge of rat hunting and exclusion, and this is the story of my service –

The Chicken Loving Neighbor is a classic, reoccurring character in rat stories. I can’t count how many times I delivered the bad news to humans like a doctor diagnosing disease. “Yes sir, I’m afraid it’s true…you have rats.” Only to hear the human say something like, “Well you know, our neighbor has chickens…” and that line is often followed by some kind of commentary about their neighbor’s cleanliness, or hoarding, or some other recognized social vice.

I love chickens. Unlike dogs or cats, they don’t usually service the emotional needs of their owners. Humans don’t subjugate chickens to help them score dates at city parks, overcome their fear of flying, or cope with an illness. Chickens work for a living, supplying their owners with food. I love chickens like their predators love them: for their eggs.

And that’s why I’ve always defended urban chicken owners. Nine times out of ten, I tactfully try to remind our patrons that the rats aren’t living in their neighbor’s crawlspace. I often say things like, “Most of the chicken owners I’ve caught rats for here in SE Portland (or wherever) are very responsible. They don’t leave their chicken food out all day and night for every rat in the neighborhood to feed on. They use timers, feeders, or at least keep an open space at their table to feed a rat catcher if they insist on throwing food at their chickens like Disney farmers.” I’m sympathetic to the Chicken Loving Neighbor. I know The Farm Dream is strong in the humans of Portland. We all want to feed chickens overhand like Laura Ingalls Wilder. I get it. I really do. I’ve never painted the Chicken Loving Neighbor as the villain, until I met this guy…

Permit me to set the scene. The landlord’s name was Kim. She rented a small house across the street from a city park in Woodstock. Kim wasn’t renting to strangers to make big money. She was renting to her younger sister and her fun-loving neohippie friends. The first thing Kim showed me was the basement. It was what they call a “dug out” basement, meaning it had walls but no full concrete, classic basement foundation. To make matters worse, the rats were nesting in between the ceiling joists and access the house through an inaccessible, narrow crawlspace like wilderness void. We could peer into the dark void through openings in the hot water heater/storage room, but the details of the space left a great deal to my imagination. In the small section I could see, I saw the bottom of the shallow footing the house rested on, and 2 rat-sized entry holes leading up to the backyard.

So naturally I asked to inspect the backyard. The story that followed went something like this:

“The house doesn’t have a backyard really,” Kim explained. “My neighbor’s property butts up against our back wall. I think there’s a few feet there that’s mine, but I’m not sure. We need permission to inspect it…”

“You need permission to inspect your backyard?”

“Well yeah,” Kim replied. “The only way to access it is through David’s yard.”

After Kim called her neighbor for permission, she told us the story of David’s chickens. Apparently this wasn’t their first go around about rats. Three years ago, David was feeding his chickens (and the rats in Kim’s house) in a pen that bordered Kim’s property. For whatever reason, somewhere along the way, David decided to stop raising chicken in that pen. But now the chickens were back, living in a small enclosed coop closer to David’s house. And so were the rats…

Kim had already consulted Vector Control. They supplied her with a few rodent boxes stocked with snap traps. They also recommended trenching and excluding along the back of the property to keep the feed-loving rats from burrowing into her basement to nest. She’d already caught at least six rats before I arrived on the scene.

David asked to speak with me when I was done inspecting the back of Kim’s property. I didn’t think anything of it, at first. I stepped onto David’s porch and knocked on his door feeling hopeful of gaining an ally in our fight to send clearer wilderness signals to the rats of SE Portland’s Woodstock neighborhood.

After a few words of greeting, I explained that I’d set some fishing traps under Kim’s ratty rain shield that was, at once, keeping water from flooding into her basement and providing the rats excellent harborage.

[ this is what it looked like after I tore off the torn old black plastic ]

What happened next truly took us by surprise…

“Did you put anything in my backyard that can hurt my pets?” David asked straightaway

“I’m not sure,” I replied thoughtfully. “That depends…”

“Yes, or no!” David barked suddenly. “Did you put anything in my backyard that can hurt my pets?”

“That depends…” I replied again.

We tried to explain, but David cut us off. “It’s a yes, or no answer…”

“I didn’t put any bait poison in your backyard if that’s what you mean?”

“Yes, or no!” the bearded, white, middle-aged man in puffy camouflage plants shot again. “I can’t stand it when guys like you can’t give a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.”

Even Bookmaker, who usually has a smart ass remark locked and loaded most of the time, was shocked by the neighbor’s demands. All I could think to say was the truth. “I’m trying to give a thoughtful answer…”

“Is it yes, or no?” David barked again.

I wasn’t trying to be an Asshole. I honestly had no idea if he thought rat traps, set in the open, were safe for his pets or not. Based on his dialogue, I was thinking “clearly he must rank high on The Psychopath Test,” which is a great book featuring an entire chapter about how much psychopaths love their pets. If he was in fact a psychopath, I definitely wanted to answer that question right. “Yes!” I’d say clear as multiple choice. “100% For sure. Undoubtedly, your cat might feel some kind of curious urge to put its paw in my rat trap…and if that happens it will cause your pet pain…so maybe I should put my traps in protective boxes, or put them somewhere extra safe?”

“Ok,” David agreed when he finally heard what I was saying. “I put traps in my coop all the time…”

And then came The Big But. “But,” David continued to hold his grip on our conversation. “I want you to let me know before you come…a few years ago a guy Kim hired did some work back there…and he trampled all my raspberries.”

Blink, blink. “Don’t worry sir,” I said, feeling like I’d somehow just been transported back to Age 18. “I work hard to do my best at all times for my customers. I will not trample your raspberries.”

One of the blessings and curses of playing our parts in a fully embodied business entity is, every so often, we get strong instinctive feelings. The employees and owners of classic, generic business entries rarely have strong feelings of these kinds, in the moment, because employees and owners are always so preoccupied with running their generically-engineered work programs. Here, the strong feeling we felt awaited until after we left David’s porch and took what social workers call a “self-managed time out” in our work van.

As usual, the feeling began as a sort of irreverent math exercise: 1) neighbor who feeds his chickens like Laura Ingles Wilder six inches from my customer’s foundation; 2) no more than 6 inches of foundational footing anywhere around the home; 3) almost zero access to the footing from the mini-crawlspace in full basement; 4) at least a 3 year history of rats (based on Kim’s last complain to Vector Control); 5) a cement walkway on one side of the house and a driveway on the other that limits access to foundation; 6) a sewer pipe that runs along the driveway directly into the unprotected basement; 7) other rat attractants everywhere in neighbor’s backyard like a bamboo forest, many unused items left outside/junk, raspberries, strawberries, and shrubbery; 8) a city park right across the street; and to top it off: 9) having to play nice with the Chicken Lover.

The strong feeling we felt next could be best described as “every instinct in Storysold: Pest Control’s fully embodied business entity all screaming ‘Hell no!’ at once.” No joke, we were a hair-trigger pull away from walking back into that house and telling Kim, very nicely, that she couldn’t pay us enough money to help her. Or, at least, pull The Classic Orkin Man Move: quote her so high she will tell us “No.” Then if she says “Yes”…set a few glue boards, catch a few rats, and wait patiently for her to cancel the service while we move ever onward “Westward ho!” to hustle the next maiden in crisis on our list.

That would have been the smart move for sure. Instead, I did what we at Storysold: Pest Control do best. We shit canned The Doom on our list and we asked ourselves The Question of Questions

“Will we want to write the story of this service when we reach The End?”

I love that question. The best stories are always performed first. And I was All In the moment I imagined our team sitting down with a beer to write that first scene with David on the front porch. I mean, seriously, most of the time the Chicken-Loving Neighbor is only a nuisance character like Nasty Antsis. How often does the Chicken Lover actually turn out to be a fully infested Asshole?

The answer was yes, we had to see Kim’s service story to The End. It was the scoop of a lifetime/literary gold in the making, and I wanted to be the rat catcher who owned this story with my actions, however it ended. Like a flashy car and a well groomed dog, I wanted this story, so I could bust it out every so often when a customer faces their back fence, peers over dramatically, and whispers the classic line, “My neighbor has chickens.”

That night, in our email proposal to Kim, we penned one of the craziest lines we’ve ever written:

“Hello Kimberly,” it began. “What I propose to sell you is an end to rodent activity in your home, whatever that takes to make happen.”

What followed that heroic line was a long list of actions for a plan that didn’t work. Not that we expected the plan to fall like proceeded widgets into line. Bookmaker reminded us that most seasoned writers know The Action always changes, by some measure, as soon as those words hit The Page. And I reminded him that most earth creatures don’t have the luxury of writing a first, second, or third draft for their Homefronts. If their well laid plans for marking their territorial lines fail as soon as The Action hits The Page, they become food for predators. Death is the final draft on earth.

And so The Line was drawn. What was it going to take to exclude Kim’s home?

WHAT FOLLOWS IS AN IMPERFECT TRANSLATION OF THE LANGUAGE OF ACTION BETWEEN OUR TEAM AND THE CHICKEN LOVING NEIGHBOR’S PET RAT POPULATION:

STORYSOLD (April 28th): remove the DYI black garbage bag rain shield, clean out all the rat hangouts, trench along the back wall deep enough to unearth the tunnels into Kim’s home, patch the entry holes with gravel and concrete, line the trench with hardware cloth, cover the trench with gravel and dirt, rebuild the rain shield with aluminum flashing and concrete blocks (placed high enough to let some air in and make it less of a little manmade wilderness ghetto), and then set a barrage of rat traps under the rain shield all along the back wall. Then I set some fishing traps and food attractants in the uncrawlable crawlspace via the storage room.

[ Ye Old Rat Hole ]

THE RATS: trip traps in crawlspace, get tail caught in Guide’s new big rat trap, and then die in Chicken Lover’s trap next door. David describes us as a “big one” and benevolently offers to let Storysold take credit for it.

STORYSOLD (May 6th): ask David permission to control his rats on Kim’s dime, clear a few dead dumb teens from Kim’s traps we set with birdseed, clear one very dead maggoty adult from storage room (it dragged itself out of the crawlspace, fell 4 feet, and died on the floor of the storage room), inspect Kim’s Homefront, discover that the front of the house is an open highway covered only by bark dust, pack the massive gap with hardware cloth and foam it, patch 2 entry holes on both sides of driveway, exclude the possible roof rat holes we marked on the first service (see below), and reset the traps.

THE RATS: dig out the side of the back trench from under the sidewalk, die in the traps we found there, and dig out the foamed entry hole under pipe leading from street to right of driveway and front door. Escape to freedom, eat trash, and salivate at the smell of the chicken feed David was, at that time, keeping in a stilted coop set closer to his house.

STORYSOLD (May 14th): ask David permission to control his rats on Kim’s dime, hop the fence to minimize chance of trampling beautiful but thorny raspberry bushes, clear the dumb teen rats from the traps, and reset the traps with birdseed and other rat attractants. Then reenforce the exclusion in front with concrete and gravel.

THE RATS: Dig out the back corner near sidewalk again. Die in traps Guide placed there. Escape to freedom. Salivate at the thought that the raspberries will be blooming soon.

STORYSOLD (May 22nd): ask David permission to control his rats on Kim’s dime, cheer aloud when Guide discovers that the back corner exclusion has held AND she bagged 2 adults and 2 dumb teens, and reset the traps with berry bait attractant, birdseed, peanut butter, and peanuts on the trigger of the new trap.

THE RATS: hang out in between the ceiling joists in basement room closest to driveway (and the sewer pipe coming in from the street), torture nice Neo-hippie renter (and his pet snake) with scampering at night.

STORYSOLD (June 5th): ask David permission to control his rats on Kim’s dime, check traps in uncrawlable crawlspace, puzzle over the fact that none of the traps have been tripped (or any free food taken) since the back corner exclusion has held strong, and then Guide went to check her traps in back and discovered! David had moved the chickens back to the larger coop set less than a foot from Kim’s Homefront. Kim reported that he had, at some point in the distant past, agreed to move them away from that coop to order to keep his pet rat population from burrowing into Kim’s basement.

The first thing Guide said when she saw it was, “Doesn’t he know rats will burrow and nest under the nearest possible rock, tree, or shallow basement footing to their food source! Like sports fans, rats hate having to leave their cosy armchairs, get up, and walk a long way to the way to the fridge to get their beers. The big difference is, sports fans don’t want to miss any of The Action when they’re away from their armchairs, while the rats are afraid of being caught by The Action of neighborhood predators when they leave their nests.”

THE RATS (from the ceiling void inside Kim’s house): sniff, sniff, “smells like chicken feed,” scamper, scamper to the foundation nearest the coop, dig, dig, dig, and dig under the concrete and hardware cloth until they pop from their new bolt hole near the coup, claws outstretched in the rain like Shawshank Redemption, and give thanks to the Chicken Lover for moving the fridge closer to their armchair. Like Momma Rat says, “Always remember, we rats aren’t meant to be caged.”

STORYSOLD (June 19th): ask David permission to control his rats on Kim’s dime, inspect Kim’s Homefront, foam and concrete new holes, reset the traps, and then stand dumbfounded for a long moment watching the chickens like I was watching sports on TV…

“There’s 3 new rat holes around Kim’s home,” Guide reported to our team.

“Yes you will discover that you were mistaken about a great many things young Wilderness Guide,” Bookmaker hissed like the Emperor on Star Wars. “Now witness the rat attracting power of this overfed and fully operational chicken coop.”

THE RATS: scamper, scamper, feed and breed all day long, “Game on!”

STORYSOLD (July 5th): ask David permission to control his rats on Kim’s dime, dig, dig, dig, follow new holes to source, discover large hole under concrete and hardware cloth leading straight into the ceiling joist void that leads to basement bedroom closest to driveway, rip out old Homefront, dig deeper, pour two large buckets of cement in hole, lay new hardware cloth, dump four more buckets of gravel, and then block the 2 of the 3 newly excluded holes with 12+ snap traps (the 3rd new hole reappeared in the middle of the coop).

THE RATS: dig, dig, dig around concrete and through gravel in back corner near sidewalk, die trying to redig the new holes next to the coop, and then settle back to life under the sidewalk.

KIM: Hi. Hope you had a great weekend. We got a big one in one of the traps. He drug himself with the trap out to the street. My neighbor [not David] threw him and the trap away. There might be a chance they are getting in along the cement slab driveway where the downspout is…I’ve hired an inside guy to remove the old insulation and get rid of any rat nests etc. above that basement room. So if that doesn’t get ride of them then I give up. I’ll have the whole freaking house torn down! Lol.

STORYSOLD (July 20th text to Kim): Well you just won 1st prize for most tenacious rat infestation since I started my business. They dug through my gravel and concrete in back next to the bamboo again. The one you found [in front of sidewalk leading to the front yard] was just a bolt hole [from the subterranean sidewalk lair]. I poured more gravel and cement, reset my traps, cleared the 2 you found and one in back next to chickens, and burrow baited the hole you found [in front of sidewalk] and covered it with a bag and dirt. The best news I have is, no new signs of tunneling around the coop. I’ll be back in a week or so for sure…

KIM: Wow! Okay and I feel like this is part when you need to start charging me. How much?

STORYSOLD: Yeah probably, but I did sign on for the duration. Let’s save your money for possible extreme exclusion plans like trying to actually exclude that side walkway ( I thought they would find that a long time ago) and possibly the catio side [with the drain pipe running to the street]. For now I’d like to keep trapping and see what happens next. I’m hooked. I can’t tell if it’s one old wily rat doing all the digging, or some new players who were drawn in by David’s move to, not so brightly, put the chickens back 6inches from your foundation. What is your estimated body count since I started?

KIM: Funny you mentioned David’s location of where the chickens are. A friend told me that’s it’s against city code for them to be closer than 15ft from a residence. Do you think I should call the city vector? They did tell me that after I’d done exclusion work, etc. and I’m still having problems that I should contact them. As for body count? Humm. How many months have you been trapping now and we are getting an average of 4 a week approx…

THE RATS: subterranean sidewalk rats eat bait and die, 2 get caught in basement ceiling void by Kim’s Inside Man’s traps, but no dig, dig, digging of new entry holes.

Two days later, Kim texted to tell us that Vector Control changed their tune. Now, instead of following through, they decided it was likely a broken sewer pipe that’s letting the rats in. Two weeks later, we met Kim

As so it goes with pest control. We rat catchers are master spinners of stories. Mere days into the job, Kim’s Inside Man spun his own story to interpret The Infestation. Not unlike most of the fables spun by industry technicians, the Inside Man’s story lacked the one thing all good stories need: action. He was new on the scene, and he hadn’t engaged The Action in any meaningful way, but he had it all worked out…and now he was selling his story to Kim.

“What is this instinct in human males?” Guide pouted after Kim shared the Inside Man’s theory. “Why do they all feel they can discern the truth, from their armchairs, without engaging The Action? Are they so afraid of rats that they need to make some snap judgement about their natures, almost immediately, to calm their nerves?”

“Let it go Guide,” Pest Predator said quietly. “Nobody cares about tracking The Action anyway. Least of all our paying customers. It doesn’t stay still long enough under their microscopes to matter.”

“I suppose,” Guide agreed through gritted teeth as she began to check the traps around Kim’s Homefront.

“You’re just mad, because you don’t have a solid theory for where they’re running,” Bookmaker chimed in, on cue. “They could be running in from under the street, tunneling and following the sewer line to the basement like the rats in Don’t Feed The Rat Catchers and then tunneling out the back to the coop through the small space afforded them by the joists? Or they could be tunneling in from the street, all along the drain pipe, and then back dooring the basement room through the massive hole you unearthed? Or they could be digging from under the sidewalk, sneaking by all your traps and free food everyday, around the storage room, and then back dooring it to the nest above the basement room…”

“Stop being an Asshole, Bookmaker,” Predator stated flatly. “You’re just trying to make her mad.”

One after the next, every trap Guide checked around the Homefront was tripped, upturned, and empty. Even the 2 peanuts she set securely on her new big-rat-killing body trap and been, somehow, both lifted (straight up) off the trap’s steel pin trigger. It was the first time all of her traps had been run through without anything to show for it.

Then it happened. Not too unlike the strong feeling our fully embodied business felt moments before we decided to begin this service story, Guide felt a sudden urge to stand and peer over the raspberry bushes and read the scene at David’s backyard for clues, signs, anything that made what she was feeling make more sense…

On the other side of the berries and the coop, along the side of the house, Guide spied 2 rat traps sitting unarmed on a trash can. They were just sitting there, unset, in a sea of rats and rat attractants.

Guide’s eyes narrowed as stared at the coddled domesticates clucking in the coop. Then she faced the neighbor’s house, crossed her arms, and whispered under her breath, like a gossip in church, the same worn line she’d heard her customers’ deliver so many times before: “It’s because the neighbor has chickens…”

And now we too can stand at the fence, arm in arm with our good neighbors, and gaze into the Chicken Lover’s yard and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, why we were suffering a plague of rats.

It’s those got-damned chicken lovers and their raspberries.

THE EPILOGUE

STORYSOLD (August 13th): I was totally wrong about Dan the Inside Man. He’s on it!

KIM: Oh good. That gives me confidence too. I appreciated all the work you did on the outside though.

STORYSOLD: It was a good one alright, and I’m glad I played a part…but I’m going to sign off. You’re in good hands with Dan. Feel free to use the traps I left. I’ll stop by in a couple months or so to collect them.

KIM: Thanks again for everything. I’ll definitely recommend you for anyone looking for pest control.

STORYSOLD: Thanks for the adventure! Good luck with The Chicken Loving Neighbor!

Dan the Inside Man was on it. He tore the basement open so we could see more of it. At first, after Dan and I spent some time hunting for entry holes together, I thought we had finally found our answer…

KIM: So many holes! So many entry points!

No doubt, the light was proof of possible entry. Yet we (I, Kim, and Dan the Inside Man) were not able to find an entry hole large enough, on the outside, to explain this rat story away.

Either the rats had found the perfect dark corner of the home to breach The Magic Line between wilderness and civilization, or we had, in fact, reached The End. The world may never know…

The story now rests in the hands of Kim and Dan the Inside Man.

Service Stories #83, #84, #85: Save the Squirrels! (Part Two)

Service Stories #83, #84, #85: Save the Squirrels! (Part Two)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SERVICE STORY (REVIEWED ON THUMBTACK)

Jake was great! Amazing service, incredibly responsive and awesome quality of work. We had a huge project and he approached it with positivity and creativity. I would truly recommend him to anyone. On top of that he had very fair pricing and was really flexible around our schedules. Can’t say enough great things about Storysold. Highly recommend!”

Produced for Yvonne E. of SE Portland

Service Story #83: Total Access in The Tabor Wilderness

As far as gutter line exclusions go, so far I haven’t seen this story’s equal. Yvonne called because she was hearing scratching in the ceiling of her kitchen. After a quick introduction, I popped into the attic space of the cozy little home sandwiched between 82nd and Mt. Tabor.

“Holy Moses! There’s fat gaps of light running all the way around her gutter line!” I thought as I crawled back to the addition over the kitchen. Along the way, I passed squirrel, bird, and roof rat droppings hidden under the new insulation.

It was The Same Old Story, new homeowner in home that had been sort of cleaned, reinsulated, and brushed up, but nobody (not the seller, not the real estate agent, not the home inspector, or the pest inspector) thought to mention anything about the entry holes beaconing all God’s creatures in the Mt. Tabor wilderness to come and play in Yvonne’s attic.

That’s not an exaggeration. Sometimes I wonder if The Industry has some kind of shady anti-exclusion deal with the home inspectors’ union. Then again, the previous exclusion attempt (cheap mosquito netting and foam) looked super old. My guess is, if there’s a conspiracy it runs deep. Dozens of folks: landlords, homeowners, neighbors, and homeowners must have noticed this gap over time (like decades) and nobody had done anything about it. Until now.

No joke. Day one, I made eye contact with the beast in the home it had made above Yvonne’s kitchen. We shared a special moment. It chattered at me. I banged the roof to match its obnoxious behavior. Two weeks later, I spent a day excluding the long gap around the roof with metal flashing. I kept an eye out for my buddy while I worked, but there was no sign of the squirrel anywhere. I even left the entry hole nearest its nest open, just in case.

The last thing I did that day was inspect the attic again. Still no sign of my buddy. So I decided to seal the last entry hole up and call it a day. There was no reason to “wait to make sure it was gone” and milk my customer. I could see the whole attic space, and squirrels aren’t exactly stealthily creatures.

Here’s the dialogue between Yvonne and I after the exclusion was done:

YVONNE: That looks great! Thank you. Just out of curiosity how does the attic get proper ventilation now. I know we have a vent up there but I just realized how much ventilation we must have removed with taking away the mesh. I’m not sure if that’s a common thing you run into or not.

STORYSOLD: Good morning Yvonne! Good question. I’ve never seen any home that planned to have one massive “soffit vent” running 3/4 the way around the edge of the roofline. It seemed to me that the mesh wasn’t planned. It was installed poorly in places where the original builders created a gap when they failed to connect the facing to the sheathing. That leads me to believe the mesh was meant to be exclusion. The back side of your home is a good example of that. No mesh was installed there, because the construction work is good. I imagine if ventilation was an issue, the original builder or some construction guy along the way would have installed soffit vents property…they would have built or installed a frame for the vent and they wouldn’t have used that mesh crap. It’s like door screen or something. Not something anyone would use for a soffit vent. All that said, it wouldn’t take too much to install a few more vents if a professional contractor agrees that the original builders failed to install a proper number of vents in your attic. All I did was put metal flashing where their should have been wood facing. The metal will breathe better than the wood would have if they built it like they did in back.

YVONNE: That’s great. I assumed that was case I just have never dealt with something like this so wanted to check! So the back and front both have wood and the sides just had the crappy mesh?

STORYSOLD: There’s wood all the way around. That’s what the gutters are attached to. The problem was, there was a gap between the wood that holds the gutters and the edge of the roof. In the back, the construction guys did a great job of making the wood flush with the roof. Not so much in the original construction. The mesh was a hack exclusion job…along with all the foam someone tried to use to exclude the massive gaps as well. Critters in attic was clearly an issue for whoever owned your home before you. Cheap landlord with a can of spray foam and a roll of screen door mesh is my guess…I feel like yesterday I corrected a decades old mistake that many many people saw and did not try to fix properly.

YVONNE: I would agree! Thanks for your awesome work

THE END

Service Story #84: Exclusion In Times of Virus

This service story was produced for Ron, a landlord with an old house in NE Portland. Outside of the giant mystery box of 80s porn I found in the attic space, this was a textbook squirrel venting and exclusion service.

Wilderness Corridor #1
Wilderness Corridor #2

I used to be shocked when I found open entry holes like these. I was like, “How could we (as humans) continue to trap and kill raccoons and rats year after year, decade after decade, without sending the simplest of signals…” Now I know that I can knock on almost any home, in any neighborhood, and find at least one open entry hole.

I know it sounds crazy, but somedays I feel like I’m exploring something new called “exclusion.” These entry holes were found under the eves of the dormers. Classic spots.

The real story here was the poor family who lived in the rental. Not only did they encounter a creature eye-to-eye through the vent in the attic room, they had to deal with another known carrier of disease and pestilence: Jake.

I’ve always know I’ve been a vector for novel characters such as Wilderness Security Guide and Pest Predator, but now that our planet was facing a pandemic virus…I was a possible host for that creature too. And the family was as frightened of that invisible viral creature as they were the critter in their attic.

They decided the best plan was to leave (like for the whole day) while I performed my work scene. Honestly, I’ve never felt more like a pest in my life. The male figure in the house texted me the next day to ask if I’d taken my respirator off at any time during the service. It was an usual feeling that dredged up memories of being picked on at school. Yet, at the same time, it was refreshing. Humans need to be reminded that we can be pests too.

All in all, I was thankful I was able to limit my pestilence and nail the ending in 2 services.

Service Story #85: Why Not Birds Too?

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (reviewed on Thumbtack): “Jake was great to work with. He responded quickly to my request. He was able to do the job by being creative. He sent a follow up email to let me know when he would check back. His rate was very reasonable.” – Kelly A. of SW Portland

Yeah, we know. Humans are incurably hooked on the idea that “Good Guys kill Bad Guys.” It’s the environmental “disease” Guide calls Systemic Death Production Disorder. We also know, every so often, we find a glimmer of a cure in The Action.

Kelly was one of the coworkers and friends Brenden of The Garage Liberation Front sent my way. She had a problem with birds nesting in the eves/vent holes of a large add on bay window thing. Normally, during in a bird service, Guide can access the nest from inside, physically scoop the nest up, and then exclude the entry hole. She knows relocating a nest is often a death sentence for any baby birds, but she supposes it’s better than killing them outright. In any case, we didn’t have that option. The addition didn’t have any access to the attic, so Guide had to come up with a creative solution…

At first she wanted to mark the holes (stuff plastic bags in them) and then return to remark them if the birds pushed them out. She was about to do that, when she suddenly remembered that our truck was stocked with a variety of squirrel venting equipment. Ten or so minutes later, she’d cut one of my one way doors to size and fixed it to the entry hole.

While Guide was up there, she realized that many of the vent holes were compromised by birds. Someone had used the same darned cheap mosquito netting/mesh stuff that was featured in Yvonne’s Service Story #83. A few light pointy pecks of the bird’s beak, and the birds would be back in business…

[ Not actual vent (same model). I put the birdseed lure inside roof void to test for activity ]

Once Guide realized her vent would be pointless unless she, at least, marked the other holes, Guide eyed the storm clouds gathering above us like a salty old sailor–then she said, “I have some expanded aluminum mesh in my truck…If we want the vent to be effective…I really should exclude all these holes now.”

Kelly was all for that idea. After Guide installed her first new vent screen for an example, her husband said, “Oh wow, that looks great! That’s going to add value to our home for sure!”

The actual number is lost to us, but we’d say Guide excluded at least 16 entry holes in less than 2 hours…all before the rain hit. Major victory! It reminded Guide of her days of thru-hiking, hustling to make camp before the storm hit.

And our victory was a true team effort. If Kelly hadn’t been watching the birds and called us when she did, the cute baby birds may have died trapped and separated from their parents. Go team! Wilderness Security Guide can now add a bird-venting-and-exclusion service to her lineup of action!

THE END

Service Story #20: The Owl Project

Service Story #20: The Owl Project

THE FOLLOWING SERVICE STORY WAS ONE OF OUR FIRST EPIC EXCLUSIONS THAT KICKED THE OLD INDUSTRY SCRPT.

Produced for Summer L. in Portland, OR

When I met Summer that day, I didn’t tell her the truth. 

Not too unlike an employee working for a company, I didn’t disclose my true identity. I am only the human host of Storysold: Pest Control. The business is run by my customer service characters: The Pest Predator, Bookmaker, and one of my oldest characters, Wilderness Security Guide. 

I’m not planning to introduce my characters until our Grand Opening, but Guide took a special interest in Summer’s service story. 

You see, Guide knows Summer lives in prime rodent hunting territory, and she never misses an opportunity to feed her wild creature friends. Like I tried to explain during the service, we could set poison around Summer’s home and do our best to kill off every rat and mouse in the neighborhood, or we could do like the wild creatures do…and mark our territory in such a way that rats understand what happens when they cross The Line

An owl has to make a living too! And Wilderness Guide was determined to help Summer push the rats and mice out of her home and force them back into the urban wilderness predators.  

To that end, I suited up, inspected Summer’s home, and I found: 

The vent along the back patio had a gap in front, but that wasn’t the entry point. Not really. It had a monster gap between the patio and the ground that offered the mice (and other creatures) easy access to the unfinished basement/crawl/wild home space. The only thing blocking their entry was a puzzle of non-load bearing, loosely stacked concrete blocks, which were held in place by a piece of wood wedged against the top sill. 

Here’s the front view with the marker I stuff in it > 

The most obvious Tom-and-Jerry hole (low hanging fruit) was in the front yard vent. “It’s too easy,” was Guide’s reply when we found it. I agreed, it’s an entry point, but I’m not convinced it’s the one. That’s why I set a half a dozen traps between it and Summer’s kitchen, where the activity is. 

Note the beautiful shot of your flower. I’m like a photographer! Someday Guide will be in the business of supplying mason bee homes. 

On the other side of that tiny crawl space in front of your home is another gap and possible entrypoint, which I marked > 

That I will need to be repaired from inside and out. It’s kind of a medley of parts that don’t quite fit together. 

Next up is the two vents to the left of the door. They’re not active, but the dry rot has almost completely destroyed their frames. 

“Something must be done about these vents!” cried Guide aloud when she saw the gaps leading from the driveway. 

Next, I found a possible runway in the unfinished basement/lair. That one runs to the bathroom. 

Also there’s a clear rodent runway (which I didn’t photo) leading from the corner next to the back patio vent into the secret/mystery kitchen crawl that also borders this strange monolith > 

And least I forget the two rodent holes in the kitchen (under cabinet and the side of stove), all of which I plan to exclude with foam, wood, metal, or a mouse hunting robot that shoots lasers from its eyes. 

Guide ended our first service with the ritual setting of “fishing traps” to determine the level and direction of activity. Guide never feels good about killing her wilderness creature friends, but she’s knows every creature that crawls, walks, and slithers on earth kills to eat, kills to make clothes and shelter, and kills to protect their home. 

As always, Guide is clear about which side of The Magic Line (between wilderness and civilization) she stands on. She had no qualms about killing the mice in Summer’s home who’d surrendered their wild for an easy roof over their heads, kitchen scraps, and late night dog food snacks.  

“The wilderness is vanishing before our eyes,” she said to her human Jake as he belly crawled through the dirt setting traps. “Humans and their pets can’t be blamed for their domestication. They’re dumbed down and tamed since birth, but I cannot abide traitors. The freeborn wild mice of Southeast Portland have a choice! They know what it means to be wild.” 

Chapter 2: Trapping vs. Exclusion

It was a few weeks before Guide returned to The Owl Project. She had me schedule a full four hours to do some exclusion work, believing that would be enough time to get the job done. 

The Second Service started smoothly enough. Guide read her traps and discovered that she was right. The two entrypoints in front and along the driveway weren’t active. All five (or so) of her kills were in the traps she set in front of The Monster Gap below the back patio. Her theory was, the would be civilized mice—traitors!—were running from that opening right around the corner into what she was calling the “mystery crawlspace.” 

The work fixing the four vents didn’t take too long, but fixing The Monster Gap was more challenging than Guide had imagined. 

“Argh!” I groaned as he twisted his body into place to face the jumble of concrete blocks. “This is going to be a good one.” 

After I played with the blocks for a while like a kid with Legos, a plan began to form in my mind. 

“Yeah, I know…” Guide replied after she heard my plan. 

“What do you mean, you know?” I shouted silently at my teammate as the sweat dripped around the sides of my respirator. “It’s my plan!” 

“Yeah, I know…I gave it to you,” she smiled. “Subliminally.” 

“That’s what I hate about working with characters,” I whined like I always whine when I’m tired. “You’re always trying to take credit for all the good stuff I do, when really it’s all me…me, me, me.” 

“Wrong,” Guide replied coolly. “We, the employed characters of Storysold: Pest Control are the work engines of your brain…your company. You just think it’s your plan because you can’t engage The Action that finally hits you like a boardroom presentation after all its work is done.” 

“Whatever you say Guide,” I huffed as I began to put the plan into action. “I don’t have time for this. We have to be in another crawlspace in a hour.” 

“You know there’s no law that says trapping and exclusion have to be done separately,” Guide offered slyly. “If you don’t finish today…and you saved some for next time…wouldn’t that mean more time, in general, to really get a good read on the trapping situation here?” 

I tried to process that thought as I tried to free my twisted body enough to bend a large piece of hardware cloth in position. “I like that,” I said when I finally caught up. “Checking traps isn’t much of a service anyway, and I bet in time we could get really good at closing off entrypoints one by one, and creating runways that make our traps more effective…” 

“You’re welcome,” Guide beamed proudly.

“For what?!” 

“Giving you another idea.” 

With that, I called it a day and climbed from the darkness. 

As Summer and I talked about Guide’s new action plan to trap and exclude in the same service, I remembered the last text she sent me. Summer said she discovered a new hole in the corner of her kitchen. It was then that I saw it: droppings in corner next to dog door, droppings around the corner from dog door, and the answer to the mysterious crawl space. The mice weren’t coming up, through the pipes like usual…

“Oh my god!” I cried aloud. “It was the dog door all along!” 

“Yeah,” Guide said coolly. “I knew that all along…” 

Then Summer weighed in. “Oh, and I was wondering if they could also be coming in, up through this vent?” 

Then she took a wood panel off the step into her kitchen and we saw the end of the same vent we’d already been trapping below. 

“How did you miss this?” I shouted silently at Guide. “I thought you were supposed to have the supereconomic power of the bird’s eye third person perspective?” 

While I was busy talking to myself, Summer added, “Oh, and my sister also noticed a lot of burrows along the walkway…” 

“Shit sticks!” I cried again—immediately realizing that was likely the spot where the mice were tunneling to The Monster Gap

I had a sudden urge to do the classic pest control guy thing and lie, saying something like, “Yea ma’am, we saw that. We’re leaving that runway open to make our trapping more effective.” 

Lie wrapped in truth. Trapping is more effective if it’s left open, but we did not see the holes. We’d been so hyper focused on the broken vent screens and The Monster Gap we’d completely missed The Big Picture.  

Chapter 3: The Action

Humiliated and humbled, my third service was all action. I planned out the new frame and screen combination for The Monster Gap, drank a lot of coffee, and fashioned it into being. I was surprised how well it went together. 

I only used one small piece of concrete block! 

I don’t have a before photo of the Monster Gap, but try to imagine 2 concrete blocks holding up a 2×4 and a highway of entry holes running from the gap under the back patio into Summer’s home.

Next I foamed the gaps around the kitchen vent from the crawlspace, a few feet from The Monster Gap. I also foamed the strange monolith (not shown here) around the corner. 

Then I added store bought screens to the two vents along the driveway to reinforce the work I’d already done in crawl space. 

By that time, Summer was gone. She had a meeting, so she told me to lock up before I left. I remember talking to her. I was in The Action zone, and it felt like everything I said to her was jangled and awkward. Sometimes it’s hard for me—and the rest of my team—to make what I call The Leap, or The Leap of Leaps. Basically, The Leap is that transition we humans make all the time from introspection/focus/deep thought or action to relating in real time with other characters on The World Stage. It’s like staring at a movie screen for hours, then trying to speak intelligently to your friends.  

The work in the kitchen went smoothly. I don’t like using foam, so I used metal and hardware cloth to exclude most of the inside entry points:

And how could I forget the dog door!

“Feel the cold steel of exclusion rodents!”

Chapter 4: Ranger Jane to The Rescue

I imagine there’s a scene that played in a parallel dimension where a cop pulled me over in our farm truck, Ranger Jane, and asked, “So what’s all this…gravel for?” 

And I answer, “Pest control.” 

“Yeah sure, bub,” He’d laugh. “Tell me another one!” 

“No really,” I’d plead. “I’m going to drop this on a bunch of burrows.” 

Then he’d laugh again, wave me on, and call all his buddies that night and tell them the story of the idiot pest control operator who hauled a truck full of gravel to his customer’s home for “pest control.” 

“All you have to do is kill them,” he’d laugh. “Drop a five dollar pack of bait in their burrows and they’ll be dead by dawn!” 

That’s when my New Other Self in another parallel dimension other than the first parallel dimension I introduced would ask the cop, “Wouldn’t it be ‘smarter’ to just kill criminals? Bullets are cheap and prisons are a multi-million dollar industry. Why don’t you do that?” 

Meanwhile, back in reality, Guide and I cleared the weeds and built a wall to keep the gravel in, and then hung the CLOSED FOR TUNNELLING sign along her walkway.  

Before our team left that day, we foamed the entry point at the bottom of Summer’s stairs, reset the traps in the basement crawl, set a few “fishing trap” outside near hot tub, and promised our patron to return to make sure all the would-be civilized house mice died a merciful death under the yoke of our traps and exclusion. 

Chapter 5 (or so): That’s a Wrap

Our service story here ended many months later. I returned to patch an entry hole in my Monster Gap exclusion work, clear 3 dead rats from the outside Volehalla boxes I set, and confirm that a new uprising of activity in the upstairs room was the result of leaving the doggie door open at night.

I like to think that the owls of the neighborhood would now be a little fatter, but that might be one of those classic over-the-top romanticism of nature we Oregon born granola crunchers are known for. I do know, however, it’s not a romanticism to say I’m going to miss my chats with Summer.

She’s one of the good guys for sure.

THE END

Service Story #50: Doing It Right

Service Story #50: Doing It Right

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ SERVICE STORY (Reviewed on Thumbtack) –

Produced for Kristin Army of NE Portland, Oregon on Jan 29th 2019 –

I am Wilderness Security Guide, the Environmental Control Character for Storysold: Pest Control, and this is the story of my service –

Often when the flurry of rat killing subsides and all the dragons and bad bugs have been slain, life once returns to normal. Without any villains to trigger The Conflict, our thoughts naturally drift to the important things of life: Who’s turn is it to take out the garbage? What show do we watch next now that we binge watched GLOW? Does the Paid sandwich I bought and ate while I was working count as a tax deductible? Is it illegal to drive and eat at the same time? And other matters of importance… 

Once The Action dies, it’s perfectly normal to forget about cleaning the rat nests and or excluding the entry holes so life can return to normal for a lot longer. People do it all the time. 

Even people who are in process of selling their homes forget to shore up their territorial lines. That’s normal too. Most people usually wait for a home inspector to poke around their crawl or attic spaces for half a hot minute (and not a minute more), and then emerge from his or her brief encounter with the dark corners of your home itching to launch the word “infestation” from his lips like an overpriced government missile. 

But not the Almys. They decided to do it right without any professional advice-giver there to prompt them into action. 

Here’s the message we read and replied to on Thumbtack:  

KRISTEN: We had roof rats in two areas of our attic space a few years ago, and while they are no longer present, we are FINALLY wanting to remove the gross stuff we are assuming they left behind prior to putting our house on the market this spring.

The company who’d done their rat killing for them quoted them a lot of money to remove all the old insulation, and then clean, disinfect, and replace it with new insulation. 

When the job was done, Kristen said, “I would have bought a hazmat suit and clean it myself for that price…” 

And I’m no saint. I was rubbing my hands together and eyeing the couple like a money tree when I pitched my quote. Turns out, I’m not much of a hustler. It was still $200 less than the other owner/operator from Thumbtackwho bid the job. 

That was the most exciting part of this story. The rest of this service story is just me, doing my best to follow the Almy’s lead and Do It Right

I arrived as arranged on the 29that 10am. After a brief greeting, I staged all my gear on the porch. 

An hour later, I was covered from head to toe in the super old, funky blown insulation someone had stapled behind three walls full of cardboard. 

It wasn’t rocket science, but discovered that the removal process had a trick to it. Don’t rip away the cardboard when you’re under it.

The cardboard was only torn in two places, which made me curious about the nesting situation reported by the other company. Unfortunately, unlike regular insulation, I couldn’t inspect the space behind the cardboard without ripping it down. Here’s a few shots of the old insulation.

Once all the old was bagged and staged on the porch, I did the first wave of cleaning and disinfection. Then I drove to Home Depot for more insulation while I contemplated the legality of deducting a lunch I ate while go-getting a load of clearly, legally deductible supplies. 

Hum? I thought while I waited on I-5 with the rest of the herd. What am I going to do if Plaid Pantry stops selling Portland Subs

In the next scene, I cut and strung the unfaced (cheaper) insulation along the sides of the walls to match the preexisting style: 

I had extra insulation in one of the 2 smaller sized rolls I used, and that prompted me to insulate the open floor spaces as well. 

It’s always so much fun cutting open those big bags of faced (not as cheap) insulation. The pink insulation pops over the plastic like a muffin top. 

When I finished stapling the faced insulation to the roof, I stood back and made sure I hadn’t missed any sections: 

And that’s that. I vacuumed up all the old crap and disinfected the space again, all before midnight. 

After a short, sweet parting conversation with the Almys, I was driving away in my wife’s Full Cellar Farmcargo delivery van fully loaded with old insulation and cardboard and broken boards. The soundtrack of the night had been mostly classic indie: Wilco, Radiohead, Luna, and Portland favorites like the Dandys and Decemberists.   

“When we arrive Sons and Daughters,” the van speakers danced with the Decemberists. “We’ll make our homes on the water. We’ll build our walls with aluminum and fill our mouths with cinnamon…


Here all the bombs fade away…” 

It wasn’t the first time I had the thought, but I’d been too busy doing my best like a good Boy Scout—trying to Do It Right


Where again did that other company say the rats were nesting? Because I don’t remember uncovering any runways behind the cardboard, or bagging any droppings, shelled nuts, or urine soaked insulation…

Maybe I missed it in the day’s flurry of action?I wondered as I showered, grabbed a bag of chips, plopped down in front of the TV, and finally let my body clock out for the day. Or maybe “clean outs” like this service have become so profitable to Generic Pest Control they hand their clean out proposals to every customer with rats?

No matter. The attic sure looks better now. Thanks Pioneer Pest Management! 

THE END

Read Our Reviews

Story Sold Pest Control is rated 5 out of 5.0 stars based on 83 review(s).

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- Jake is great! He was referred to me by a friend and he was thorough, very knowledgeable and put my mind at ease! Thanks for all the help!

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- I contacted Storysold Pest control for mice/rat problems for a rental property. I was very impressed with their website about the process they use to keep out rodents not just catching them and calling it good. They are very professional, explained the process in detail and showed up on time for our appointment. It’s been a week or so since he came out and my tenant hasn’t heard or seen any mice/rats. Jake, the owner is passionate about helping people and very knowledgeable in all aspects of pest control! Don’t waste your time on any other company call him first. Teri C

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- Keith B

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- Abby and Dave

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- Paige and Kris

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- Kammie James

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- Ed Robertson

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Great!!! Next day service, very knowledgeable and trustworthy, affordable. Didn t try to sell me any extra services I didn t need. Would gladly hire again.Great!!! Next day service, very knowledgeable and trustworthy, affordable. Didn t try to sell me any extra services I didn t need. Would gladly hire again.

-  Shelly A.

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Very good

- Larry A

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Jake actually arrived early. He did a good job of removing a large hornet's nest of very aggressive hornets. He will definitely be our first choice on any future pest removal we might need.

- Barbara B.

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Jake went above and beyond of what was asked of him! Will not use anyone else!

-  Ted M

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Jake was extremely respectful and responsive. Came promptly and did a thorough inspection. He gave us options and his honest opinion about what we needed to do. He was very helpful in solving the problem simply and cost effectively! Will definitely call again.

- Michelle C. 

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Came to our home right away and set live traps in our chimneys and made screens for the tops. Returned the next day to find a squirrel in one of the traps. We were very pleased with our results and appreciated the great customer service

- Kathleen

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Friendly, fast and efficient. Very pleased with the service Jake provided

- Joli P.

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Refreshing to work with Jake. He is collaborative and communicative. Great improvement since his visit.

- Seth W

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He's friendly, professional, punctual & extremely affordable. Would hire again & recommend to my friends.

- Max K

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We had a great experience and highly recommend Jake. He is responsive, effective and thoughtful.

-  Eddie B

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Jake at Storysold Pest Control is knowledgeable and professional. He is quick to respond and reasonably priced. I find him to be trustworthy and ethical, he does not sell unnecessary services and he works with customers that are willing to do some of the work themselves as well as with customers who just want the whole service done without being involved themselves. While other companies told me I needed to replace all my insulation and do massive crawl space renovations, he offered several affordable options. With his help we no longer have a mouse problem and it was done at a fraction of what other companies quoted us. I appreciate his flexibility and fun, friendly personality. If I ever have another pest control issue, he will be my first call.

- Darian C.

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- Joyce R

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Jake has been helping me trap rodents at my farm with his Volehalla rodent boxes. He's friendly, knowledgeable, and effective: we've trapped a lot of rodents!

-  Emily C

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Jake was fantastic! Fast response. Reliable and honest. Great rates. Hope not to have any more rodent problems, but if I do I will be calling Jake again. I would recommend him to anybody that needs help with Pest Control.

- Janet D.

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Truly, I can t say enough about this team! They are so professional, trustworthy, and for the very first time in a long time I feel that they aren t here for 1/2 hour only to run off to the next job site! Jake (I believe the owner) told me that their company prefers to have 2 home visits per day over 10!!! I can t say enough them!!!!

- Lori T.

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Working with Storysold was a dream. We had a huge undertaking with almost 40,000 sq ft between two properties! With both buildings being over 100 years old keeping critters out is difficult and the previous tenants of the building allowed a huge infestation to occur. Jake was able to not only eradicate the unwanted pests he also filled holes and cracks and has stopped them from having easy access. Communication was great and the pricing was fair and manageable for our small nonprofit! I will continue to work with Storysold and recommend them for any pest control needs, big or small!

-  Jamie C

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Mouse in the house!!!! I texted Sunday morning after having chased a mouse through the house Saturday all day and Sunday at 3am... they came out to the house by 12:30 that Sunday. Jake got in the crawl space and checked the outside of the house for entry points. While there was no evidence of a major problem, I opt ed for the full attack. He came in with an Arsenal of traps that he placed in the kitchen and crawl space. He didn t hard sell and his prices were very affordable! He was also very honest with potential outcomes which I appreciate. He literally just left and I haven t heard any traps go off but just based on his customer service, I would totes recommend him! He s coming back in a week to check traps. I ve read some horror stories about other companies but I feel very confident that I m working with an upstanding professional. And he s dog friendly!

-  Taaj A.

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Great company.

- Ed S

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A pro. Showed on time. Knew what to do

-  Mike B.

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Jake of StorySold is proficient, affordable, and punctual. He took his time with carefully evaluating my problem, fixed my issue, and did extras like helping me fix my mattress which he treated for bed bugs. Can't recommend him enough and will use him and his company in the future. Got two other quotes which were much higher each quoting at least $1,000 without a guarantee.

- James J. 

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Jake is prompt, skilled, authentic and friendly! I couldn't be happier. I'm so glad that I talked to all three bidders before choosing. Even before he got here, I knew he was the best choice!

-  Linda B. 

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- We’ve struggled with mice in our home for years. Stoysold came out in February of 2020, found the access spots, blocked them, and we haven’t had a single mouse inside in over a year. I highly recommend their service. KH in Sandy, OR

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- Jake was professional, friendly, educational on the process. I would recommend his services to anyone needing a exterminator for insects or rodents.

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- Boann

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- We are so happy with the work Storysold did to fortify our house against unwelcome creatures! They were courteous, efficient, and communicative throughout the process.

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- Jake took care of our unwanted guest (roof rat!) and identified and took care of entry points to prevent future problems. We have been paying for a pest control service for years that we are going to be able to cancel thanks to Jake’s work. He’s very professional and responsive and we highly recommend him! – Mary

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- Dustin

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- Dani Rathke

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- Thorough, effective and reliable. I’ve used other exterminator services that seem more concerned with signing you up for annual contracts than actually solving the rodent issue. This company is the opposite. They care the most about solving the problem, billing customers comes second. I’d highly recommend.

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- Paul

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- Kristy L

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- Darlene Warren

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- Erika Glancy

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Great!!! Next day service, very knowledgeable and trustworthy, affordable. Didn t try to sell me any extra services I didn t need. Would gladly hire again.

- Shelly A.

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Jake actually arrived early. He did a good job of removing a large hornet's nest of very aggressive hornets. He will definitely be our first choice on any future pest removal we might need.

- Barbara B.

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Jake went above and beyond of what was asked of him! Will not use anyone else!

- Ted M.

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Jake was extremely respectful and responsive. Came promptly and did a thorough inspection. He gave us options and his honest opinion about what we needed to do. He was very helpful in solving the problem simply and cost effectively! Will definitely call again.

- Michelle C.

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Friendly, fast and efficient. Very pleased with the service Jake provided

- Joli P.

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He's friendly, professional, punctual & extremely affordable. Would hire again & recommend to my friends.

- Max K.

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Jake at Storysold Pest Control is knowledgeable and professional. He is quick to respond and reasonably priced. I find him to be trustworthy and ethical, he does not sell unnecessary services and he works with customers that are willing to do some of the work themselves as well as with customers who just want the whole service done without being involved themselves. While other companies told me I needed to replace all my insulation and do massive crawl space renovations, he offered several affordable options. With his help we no longer have a mouse problem and it was done at a fraction of what other companies quoted us. I appreciate his flexibility and fun, friendly personality. If I ever have another pest control issue, he will be my first call.

- Darian C.

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Jake has been helping me trap rodents at my farm with his Volehalla rodent boxes. He's friendly, knowledgeable, and effective: we've trapped a lot of rodents!

- Emily C.

---

Truly, I can t say enough about this team! They are so professional, trustworthy, and for the very first time in a long time I feel that they aren t here for 1/2 hour only to run off to the next job site! Jake (I believe the owner) told me that their company prefers to have 2 home visits per day over 10!!! I can t say enough them!!!!

- Lori T.

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Amazing! Jake is amazing! He came out because I had a squirrel in my attic. He has a vent he can put in so they can get out but not back in! Theres no trauma to the animal by trapping it and you will save yourself hearing it scream and cry in a trap! He walked around my entire house and attic looking for all entry points. He is very knowledgable and kind and looking to help you exist w wildlife w the option of not euthanizing. Years of experience. I was so pleased q his company I would highly highly recommend him for any of your critter/pest? needs! Thank you Jake!

- Susan K.

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- Loa H.

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We knew we had several openings to our crawl space where rodents were coming in. To come out and give us a quote, Jake was flexible with making an appointment at our convenience. He is personable and professional. We accepted his quote on the spot and he did the work at that time. He was thorough and gave us an excellent report with pictures after he was done. I highly recommend him and will use him again should the need arise.

- Larry a.

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- Paige L.

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Jake was a huge help with our recent rodent adventure. He was a great communicator and his work and knowledge were superb. He was thorough with his assessment of our property and honest with his recommendations. There was no attempt to unnecessarily sell us on any packages, in fact Jake gave us resources to get our situation under control and to maintain that going forward. Will absolutely be calling Jake in the future if the situation arises.

- Graham H.

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Great service and very affordable pricing.

- Humberto Z.

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- Deanna M.

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- Michelle H.

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Jake was very quick, informative. He not only took care of the rodent, but spent time helping to prevent it happening again.

- Em W.

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Excellent job! Jake was wonderful to work with.

- Kathy M.

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Jake went above and beyond. I had tiny ants in my cupboards and on my kitchen floor. He went outside the property and went underneath my condo. Not only did he take care of the ants but took care of a small rodent issue. Charged me exactly what he quoted me. All the extra work he did I thought for sure it would cost more but he stuck to his quote and was very polite, kind and quick.

- Brenda H.

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Jake was great to work with. He responded quickly to my request. He was able to do the job by being creative. He sent a follow up email to let me know when he would check back. His rate was very reasonable.

- Kelly A.

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Jake is really a 10/10 person and it shows in his work. Thankfully we did not have an infestation but his thoroughness, promptness, and overall attitude towards his profession was something that stuck out to me. I will be recommending him to everyone for pest control. I know who I'm calling when I need one!

- Samantha A.

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Amazing! Jake is amazing! He came out because I had a squirrel in my attic. He has a vent he can put in so they can get out but not back in! Theres no trauma to the animal by trapping it and you will save yourself hearing it scream and cry in a trap! He walked around my entire house and attic looking for all entry points. He is very knowledgable and kind and looking to help you exist w wildlife w the option of not euthanizing. Years of experience. I was so pleased q his company I would highly highly recommend him for any of your critter/pest? needs! Thank you Jake!

- Suzan K.

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Went above and beyond my expectations! Would recommend to anyone, knowledgeable and experienced. Thanks again!!

- Jaimie D.

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Jake will give you friendly, personalized, and timely service, and you get the story of the service at the end!

- Emily C.

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Very honest, friendly and informative. Excellent work.

- Terry B.

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Refreshing to work with Jake. He is collaborative and communicative. Great improvement since his visit.

- Seth W

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- Zack C.

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We had a great experience and highly recommend Jake. He is responsive, effective and thoughtful.

- Eddie B.

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Very honest, identified the problem in a remote corner of the property, operated quickly, provided photos of the work done and is coming back to verify the problem has been solved.

- Matteo V.

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Jake was fantastic! Fast response. Reliable and honest. Great rates. Hope not to have any more rodent problems, but if I do I will be calling Jake again. I would recommend him to anybody that needs help with Pest Control.

- Janet D.

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- Taney R.

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Working with Storysold was a dream. We had a huge undertaking with almost 40,000 sq ft between two properties! With both buildings being over 100 years old keeping critters out is difficult and the previous tenants of the building allowed a huge infestation to occur. Jake was able to not only eradicate the unwanted pests he also filled holes and cracks and has stopped them from having easy access. Communication was great and the pricing was fair and manageable for our small nonprofit! I will continue to work with Storysold and recommend them for any pest control needs, big or small!

- Jamie C.

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Came out next day and took care of our wasp nest! Easy to schedule and very responsive. Thank you!

- Jacoba G.

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Mouse in the house!!!! I texted Sunday morning after having chased a mouse through the house Saturday all day and Sunday at 3am... they came out to the house by 12:30 that Sunday. Jake got in the crawl space and checked the outside of the house for entry points. While there was no evidence of a major problem, I opt ed for the full attack. He came in with an Arsenal of traps that he placed in the kitchen and crawl space. He didn t hard sell and his prices were very affordable! He was also very honest with potential outcomes which I appreciate. He literally just left and I haven t heard any traps go off but just based on his customer service, I would totes recommend him! He s coming back in a week to check traps. I ve read some horror stories about other companies but I feel very confident that I m working with an upstanding professional. And he s dog friendly!

- Taaj A.

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Jake was straight forward and was happy to answer all questions. Thank you!

- April B.

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A pro. Showed on time. Knew what to do

- Mike B.

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Did an amazing job fixing some visitors to my crawl space. Sanitized, cleaned, and locked down from future uninvited guests!

- Stephen I.

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Jake of StorySold is proficient, affordable, and punctual. He took his time with carefully evaluating my problem, fixed my issue, and did extras like helping me fix my mattress which he treated for bed bugs. Can't recommend him enough and will use him and his company in the future. Got two other quotes which were much higher each quoting at least $1,000 without a guarantee.

- James J.

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He arrived on time, knew precisely what to do to resolve my problem and completed the job.

- Jeff J.

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Jake is prompt, skilled, authentic and friendly! I couldn't be happier. I'm so glad that I talked to all three bidders before choosing. Even before he got here, I knew he was the best choice!

- Linda B.

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- Jake is amazing

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- Stacie Benefield