Everybody I see on the streets of Wallowa County is full of hallelujahs about spring getting here and no more snow. Not me. Not this guy. These last couple years I dread the days warming up. A pack of marmots colonized underneath the floorboards of the little cabin I use as my writing shack. I can hear them rustling around beneath my desk. The noise I could live with. It’s the smell that makes me recoil at the sight of the first blade of green grass, knowing the marmots are soon to wake up. I’m no expert on marmot hibernation, but from personal experience it seems they wake up, yawn, scratch their yellow belly, then lift a cheek and unleash a winter’s worth of pent-up hellfire. It’s bad. Curl your nose hairs bad. There’s not enough Febreze on the shelf at The Dollar Stretcher to knock back this unholy odor.

I’ve tried all manner of tactics to shoo these varmints away. So far the only thing that works is waiting for the right time and letting them die of Natural Causes. Natural Causes, by the way, is what I call my Grandpa Charlie’s single-shot .22 rifle. One marmot also left my place due to Mysterious Circumstances, which is what I call my compound bow.

But I’m bringing in a trapper. Gonna try to clear out that marmot den and then seal it up so they don’t ever come back. This trapper I’m hiring goes by the name of Jack Crawford. He’s young, but dedicated. Got his start trapping bunnies that live in the azalea bushes in the backyard at his Grandma and Grandpa’s house. His custom rabbit traps are a no-nonsense, straightforward design. Just a paper sack with a carrot placed inside. How it works is, the bunny hops in and starts nibbling the carrot. Then Jack rushes out from his hiding place and closes the bag. So far it hasn’t, you know, worked — but trapping is a waiting game and Jack is only six years old, so he’s got loads of time.

Jack is also my nephew, so I’ve been getting updates from my sister on his trapping efforts. What really got my attention was news that Jack had lost a few baby teeth and knew an opportunity when he saw one. His Tooth Fairy trap didn’t work, somehow, but part of me had to admire the audacious plan. Another part of me was a little concerned, frankly, that he would even think of this. But I was intrigued so called to find out more.

“Well, I was supposed to stay awake,” is how Jack explained the Tooth Fairy trap not panning out. His bait teeth were placed inside a box next to his bed, rather than the traditional under-the-pillow approach. He’s thinking outside the box, this kid, by putting things inside a box. That’s next-level. So, if all went according to plan, Jack would feign sleep until he saw the Tooth Fairy go inside the box, then quickly place a book on top. I realized as he was describing this that I’d always assumed the Tooth Fairy would be much larger than the size of a box that a book could fit over. I also realized that I’d never realized until then that I had thoughts on how large the Tooth Fairy would be. Huh.

“Oh, it’s not just the Tooth Fairy,” his mom told me. “He also tried to trap the leprechaun on Saint Patrick’s Day.” The leprechaun trap is a pit arrangement, about one foot wide and two feet deep, conveniently located in the lawn just ten feet from the front door of their house. As my sister sighed and discussed this phase Jack is going through, I knew I’d found my answer. This is just the kind of innovative approach I need to rid my writing shack of the marmot situation. I asked her to put Jack back on the phone and hired him on the spot to go after the marmots when his family comes out to visit this summer. He asked what a marmot is, and the best description I could come up with is sort of like a little beaver but with a normal tail and they don’t swim, they just poop under Uncle Jon’s office. Jack mulled it over, then announced, “We’re gonna need some cardboard. And some tape.”

I can hardly wait for next spring, when I’ll be free from marmots. I’m going to have Jack lay off the leprechauns, though. I like having them around.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain. He writes in a little cabin with the windows open.

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