We’re Not Alone

We’re Not Alone written by Kelly Baker

So you think old houses are charming do you? You drive past one and say “Oh look honey. Look at that old house. Wouldn’t it be so fantastic to have one of our own? Honey? HEY, are you listening to me?”  We have an old house. I just want to set the record straight about them. They are not for sissies. It’s not all rainbows and glitter. One must possess a certain amount of patience, tolerance and courage to live in an old house because when you live in a house as old as ours, (160 years approximately) you don’t live there alone.  No, not the ghosts, they’re actually quite likeable. I’m talking about the wild life. This place is a zoo. 

About 10 years ago, we were sitting in the living room, watching TV when I heard a very loud THUMP, followed by smaller quieter thumps. It sounded like it was coming from the basement. (I KNOW. Creepy, right?) I said to my husband “Hey, why don’t you go see what that is.” But in true husband fashion, he was loath to get off the recliner to investigate. Then I heard it again. THUMP! (thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.)

“Seriously,” I said, “Go see what that is.”

“Quit worrying about it. It’s probably just Bud (our dog at the time) going down the outside porch steps.”

“I don’t think so. It really sounds like it’s hitting the door coming up from the basement.”

He continued to ignore me and the thumping. It sounded like something would bang against the basement door and then roll or fall down the steps. Finally I got up and looked myself.  On the way I even peeked through the window of our mudroom door, fully expecting something awful to pop up and scare me witless. This is how horror movies start. I am aware of that and thought that exact thing at the time.

I got to the basement door, flung it open and peered down the steps. Nothing. There was absolutely nothing there.  How weird, I thought. But everything about my life is a little bit off so I didn’t dwell on it. There was no more thumping that night.

The next day I came home from work to change into my barn clothes and go help milk our cows. I stomped down to the basement for my barn shoes, as usual, not suspecting a thing and forgetting about the incident the night before. And then I heard it.

Screeeeeeeeech. It sounded like someone scratching a nail over a metal surface. I froze. The noise was coming from the direction of my washer and dryer. It stopped. I took another step. Screeeeeee… again I heard it.

Egads! I thought, what could be making that sound? What if a raccoon or a groundhog has somehow crawled into my dryer through the dryer vent and can’t get out? What will I do with it after I open the door and it escapes? Should I go next door for help? (My husband was already at the barn we rented which was conveniently located in another township, nowhere near the house. So he was of no use to me.) NO, I thought. You do not need help. You are a Big Girl. You hunt, you butcher things. Surely you can take care of yourself if a crazy animal pops out at you. Yes, I agreed with myself, I can do this. (I’m not sure how many personalities live in my head but they all seemed to agree that I could handle this situation.)

So I sloooowly began to creep towards the washer and dryer. Screeeeeeeech.  Dang, that’s un-nerving, I thought. And then the fluorescent light above the washer started to wobble, slowly back and forth. I looked up. And there, sitting on top of the light was…… a duck.

Oh Thank God! It’s just a duck, I thought. Whew! (Because, you know, it’s quite normal to find a duck in your basement sitting on top of the lights.) There it was, all covered in soot. I opened the door and shushed it out. It was happy to acquiesce and flew straight out never to return.

The ducks that lived down by the creek had been sitting up on our chimney, (Don’t ask me why, I’m not a duck psychologist. To stay warm maybe?) and this one must have fallen down in. There it found itself in the fireplace in the basement which we don’t use and spent the evening flapping around, banging against the basement door and falling down the stairs. The screechy noise I heard was its little duck claws scratching against the metal of our hanging florescent light.

Aside from this crazy duck, we’ve also had the normal amount of mice scampering about, a few rats, and a bat that got into our room one night.  It flew around until my husband caught it with an old issue of Hoard’s Dairyman and threw it back outside while I sat quietly with the covers up over my head.  I’m actually quite fond of bats but since I had to deal with the duck escapade ALL BY MYSELF I didn’t feel bad about sitting this one out.

There have been squirrels and chipmunks romping in the roof of the mudroom, and every year way too many birds seem to get stuck in our attic and die. Sometimes I hear what sounds like a ground hog or maybe a hobo romping around in my kitchen ceiling. Whatever it is, it’s big. With all this activity going on inside our walls, it’s no wonder we had the visitor that we did last year.

house guest 2If you are queasy about creepy things being in houses, then you probably should not read any further. Just stop now. As I said in the first paragraph, old houses aren’t for sissies. But if you feel stoic, then by all means, sally forth. 

It was Wednesday in the summer and I had just come home from quilting. Our little girl had fallen asleep in the car and as I carried her through the dining room, I noticed something amiss from the corner of my eye. I didn’t stop to look because my main objective was to get her upstairs to her bed so I could have some quality quiet time. I love quiet time.

I came back downstairs and rounded the corner to the dining room and as I saw it in full view, I must say, I left out a war whoop of surprise and then shut up because as I said, I value quiet time above all else. There hanging on my wall, with its head resting on a nail that was holding up a picture was… a black snake.  On my wall. In my dining room. A black snake. The part of it that wasn’t hanging down the wall was laying on the top of my wallpaper border where it pouches out because it’s old and I can’t afford new wall border, sadly.

Normally snakes are A-ok in my book. I like having them around because they do a great job eating little pests and there are plenty of little pests around our house.  I’m not snake squeamish, when they are OUTSIDE of my house. When they are INSIDE it is just a most odd feeling.

I stared at the snake. It stared back, seeming equally confused about this little conundrum. It was probably thinking “I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.” (Channel your inner Mel Blanc.) Hmmm, I thought, do I get it down myself?  I think I could. Outside, snake relocating is not a big deal. But this one was hanging from my wall, up above me. It had the height advantage.

I decided to just go ahead and be the damsel in distress for once in my life and I called next door for backup. Here is the conversation to the best of my memory:

Me: Hey Cy. Are the fellows at lunch? I’ve got a bit of a situation here. (I’m on the cordless, still staring at the snake)

Cy: I don’t know if they are or not, I just got home myself. Do you need help with something?

Me: Yeeeeah. There’s a black snake in my house.

Cy: Ok. I’ll come down.

Me: It’s…. on the dining room wall.

Cy (laughing): I’ll be right there.

And he was. 30 seconds later, we were both in the dining room staring at the snake. It hadn’t moved. It was very calm. I myself had butterflies in my stomach. With the help of a three prong corn fork, Cy coaxed the snake off my wall. He even took a picture for me with his phone so I could document the occasion. The batteries in my camera were dead at the time and I was too much in shock to rob some from the remote control like I normally do. I thanked Cy for his help and we went about our days.

I called my husband at work and told him what happened.  “Ok. Why are you calling me?” he said.  Honestly I don’t know.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do you now see why old houses are not for everyone?

People speculated and wondered how this snake could have gotten in. They, of the new air tight type houses. There are only a million different ways. Through the siding perhaps? Whoever put the siding on our house only used about 12 screws for the whole house. I could climb under our siding if I really put my mind to it. Or maybe it squeezed in through one of the rocks in our foundation. It apparently hung out for awhile in the basement because we found its skin down there. It could have slithered in under the porch roof. We have half a dozen holes in the siding. Pick one. 

So before you go and sign the papers to buy your nice old house, ask yourself this: Do you have what it takes to live there? Do you? Do you really? 

circus 2015 003 Kelly Baker, writer for OITC Cove Humor