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turtles in the attic (again)
march 1, 2014
I woke up in the middle of the night last week to a rustling sound. Lifted my head off the pillow, ears rotating in our bedroom darkness. Didn't take long to figure out the rustling was coming from the attic.
We had turtles up there again.
In Texas, turtles are a serious problem. Their migrations frequently close down highways for days (since they cross the highway so slowly.) Nowadays, if you're sending an express overnight package to Texas via FedEx or any of the other national carriers, there'll usually be an asterisked footnote: "Subject to level of turtle activity". That's how bad it's gotten.
In late Winter, you can often see turtles scaling the outer walls of homes, heading towards the eaves, where they chew turtle-holes into the wood to gain access to the attic. And in fact, around Halloween Mary and I saw the south wall of our home had quite a few turtles climbing up it. "We better call a turtle removal expert to pull them off our walls, before they reach the eaves," I said, and in fact I planned on calling one such agency Mary and I had used in the past, sometime after the Christmas holidays, which would normally be in plenty of time before the turtles actually reached the eaves. However, we got distracted with other issues, and we had a couple of unseasonably warm days (when the weather is nice, turtles can clamber up a wall more than a quarter of an inch a day), so we never stopped them in time.
After a few days of that rustling sound, which is so characteristic of turtles (hear it once, and forever after you'll think, That's a turtle up there), we started to hear the egg rolling sound. Because attic floors are rarely perfectly level, the eggs will roll back and forth all day and night. It's like living under a bowling alley, where everyone rolls gutter balls. Not that turtles could ever actually bowl, since they have flippers instead of hands. (I'm assuming they couldn't. They could push a bowling ball with one of their flippers, but I don't believe the bowling ball would get all the way down the aisle. I could be wrong.)
So we called Tom's Turtle Removal Services LLC, a nation-wide corporation with franchises in most cities.
To remove a turtle, a turtle removal technician climbs up into your attic, lifts the turtles off the floor and places them in pens. The captured turtles are then brought downstairs and out to the trucks, and relocated to nearby marshes. If there are no nearby marshes available, or if those marshes are already at "full capacity", due to a particularly lustful turtle reproduction cycle, and that does happen, the turtles are transported to far away marshes. Which makes sense.
However, the technician they sent out was quite elderly, and the turtles kept outrunning him. He climbed back down from our attic at the end of the day sweaty and winded. His turtle collection pen was empty. We were bitterly disappointed. I punched a wall.
After he mopped his brow, and drank quite a bit of water, he shook his head. "You got a real problem up there, Mr. Moore. They've established themselves. Half your attic floor is covered with lily pads."
I stared at him. "What do lily pads have to do with turtles? That doesn't even make sense."
He was bent forward, hands on his knees. "It's all I got."
Of course, old folklore is that if you want to get rid of turtles, you just put a few rabbits in the attic. They think the turtles' shells are rocks, and love to climb up on top of the shells and start hopping up and down. That drives most turtles crazy, so they start a slow exodus out of the attic.
Mary and I went to a pet store yesterday and bought a pair of rabbits. We named the male rabbit Hippity-Hoppity Penis. We weren't sure what to name the female rabbit, but then it occurred to us, the next morning over breakfast, ham and eggs, buttered rye toast, to name her Hippity-Hoppity Vagina. We named them "Hippity-Hoppity" because that's a pet name that only works with rabbits and kangaroos, and kangaroos don't irritate turtles, so it would be unlikely we'd ever have kangaroos as pets. We added "Penis" to the name of the male rabbit because it has a penis. Originally, we were going to name the female rabbit Ragina, because its face looked a little bit like the face of this little girl who used to live near us in Santa Barbara, who would throw yanked-off dolls' heads at the front door of our apartment, but then we thought, Why not change the "R" to a "V", to represent "V for Victory"? Once we did that, it occurred to me sometime later that, Wow, that's also the name of the female sex organ, so it's kind of like the names for our pet rabbits have a theme (they both mention sex organs.) Funny how often that happens.
Two rabbits are all you need. They reproduce quickly, so there'll be plenty of rabbits up there hopping on the turtle shells. In fairness, we'll probably give our next door neighbors a heads-up that they may start seeing turtles climbing the walls of their home sometime during the 2020's. That's just being a good neighbor.
I asked the pet shop owner how we get rid of the rabbits once they've gotten rid of the turtles. He scrunched his eyebrows at me. Friendly laugh. "Ask me a difficult question, Mr. Moore." Tilt of his head, in a "just kidding" gesture. Nodded at a cage full of raccoons. "Just put these raccoons up in your attic, and they'll chase those rabbits out in no time."
"Okay. But then--"
He raised his right forefinger, pointed at a tub filled with writhing snakes. "They don't like raccoons, and raccoons don't like them. These snakes can fling themselves twenty feet through the air towards a food source. The bigger the victim, the faster they bite."