Mo Money, Mo Possum

I knew I had some small animals running around under my house for the last couple months. One of the vents on the side of the house had been broken since mid-summer, so I knew something had crawled under there at some point. Just last month we caught a small mouse in our kitchen, and I thought that was the size of the problem.


After crawling around in urine and crap under my house for a half an hour I learned that the problem was much, much greater.

My Mom’s water pipe blew a few weeks back and her bad luck was a good reminder that I should probably look under my house to check the status of the broken vent. I finally made the time to do so this past Sunday.

Our 106-year-old home looks its age underneath. Most everything’s updated as far as piping and electrical, but the ground is uneven and ranges from 2-4 feet in ground clearance. You’re crawling on your stomach or back to get from corner to corner most of the time.

Now add months’ worth of possum droppings every foot and you’ll understand my pain. At first I only saw the recent dropping and thought that a possum hadn’t been there for a week, but the more I crawled the worse it got. To boot, the possum had torn about half of the insulation off of the floor boards. I never saw the damn thing, but I knew it was still there. That possum was about as accustomed to the home as I was. I’m surprised I wasn’t receiving its mail. Pissed off, I lodged a brick into the broken vent to see if I could stress the possum enough to get it leave when I removed the brick later. That plan doesn’t really make sense, but it did at the time. The fumes got to me like that.

For every 10 minutes I crawled under the house I took a shower later that day, which equated to three showers – consecutively. You couldn’t feel clean after crawling around in rodent shit for a half an hour.

Later that night, Amanda heard the possum scurrying around under the house, freaking out because it was trapped.  My crazy plans had worked! I grabbed a headlamp, and we went outside to investigate.

I turned the corner around the house, looked back at Fabrizio and saw the shimmer of his eyes. I then turned toward the brick I had planted and saw two eyes shimmer back at me in an open gap. There it was. Amanda and I were generally fascinated by seeing him much like children who find a caterpillar on a stick. It’s cute and all, but eventually you just want to squish it.

We walked around the house to check the other vents. The possum scurried around, followed our footstep and greeted us at each vent with a blink. It’d be cute if it hadn’t shit all over my foundation. We wanted to get it out so our plan was for me to distract the possum with light on the side of the house opposite the broken vent so that Amanda could remove the brick. Amanda will tell you that I was too scared to move the brick, but I’d like to remind the jury that I had installed the brick, crawled around the possum’s Port O Potty in the dark earlier in the day and still couldn’t shake the sights or smell.

I heard Amanda squeal on the other side of the house, signifying that she had removed the brick, but I was curious about what Fabrizio was staring at behind me. I turned my head and my headlamp shined on three adult raccoons just 10 feet away behind our broken fence.

What in the hell was going on?! What kind of Dr. Doolittle hell was I living? I grabbed the cat and took off around the corner to tell Amanda to get in the house. We were outnumbered by wildlife on our own turf. I’d rather the possum see another day than create a new clip for “When Animals Attack.”

After the evening’s animal drama concluded, I figured I had three tasks ahead:

1. Remove the possum

2. Remove and replace all of the tarp under the house so that I could

3. Replace the insulation

I could mentally handle one of those, but three projects? I did what my Mottola forefathers had done in times of crisis like this: I outsourced.

A pest control contractor came out on Tuesday when I was at work. Sergio called me from the house. The conversation went something like this:

Sergio: “The pest control guy is here and he is f***ing hardcore. He said he’d crawl around under there and charge us $20 if he can just grab the possum with his bare hands. If not, he’ll set a live trap.”

Me: “His bare hands? Did we hire Bear Grylls? That’s crazy.”

Sergio: “Yeah, you can just tell this guy does this all day and does some nasty jobs. He’s serious. If he sees it he’ll probably just snap its neck or something. He says this is a minor job.”

It probably was minor, but for the unoutdoorsy Mottola family (pre-Amanda), this was a catastrophic clash with nature.

The pest control savage did not end up finding the possum but by miscommunication did fix the broken vent, leaving the possum trapped under the house. We learned quickly that possums are not happy when they’re trapped and have ways of making noise at night to let you know.  Bear Grylls is coming back today to set the live trap. That takes care of task #1.

Tasks #2 and #3 are going to plain expensive. I know it. I truly have contractors coming out to justify why I’ll need to do the clean-up myself. After that last visit underneath the house, I need some convincing. Nothing convinces this guy like saving money, so I need to know how much I can save. Our Bear Grylls contractor thought that the clean up and replacement of the tarp and insulation would cost on the low-end, around $1,000. That’s his estimate so we’ll see what the other say. Tacoma has a $1,000 credit for new insulation, so I may be better off to separate the clean-up and installation work just so that I can take advantage of essentially free insulation.

Regardless of who picks up the tab or who does the work, I know that possum is costing me at least $500. I had the title to this post backwards. It’s “Mo possum crap, mo money.” More to come.