Here we go again with another amazing story from the field! I’ve taken a break from the blog lately (my one subscriber has been heartbroken) due to my life being hectic. I was debating on what story I was going to tell for this particular blog and then I realized I haven’t talked about marsupials in quite a long time! I love marsupials! We only have one species in the U.S sadly. For those that may not know, the opossum is our only native marsupial. They are equipped with a pouch where the young opossums can hang out in until they are old enough venture out on their own. Opossums may look mean or dirty to some people but actually they are usually very clean and shy animals. An interesting (yet useless) fact is that they have extremely low blood temperatures for warm blooded creatures ( 94-96F).This low temperature makes it very difficult for viruses and any other blood born pathogen to survive in their system. They do have large teeth and will give a good bite if provoked but your chances of getting rabies from them is very small. They are opportunistic eaters and will usually eat anything that can pass as food. When I receive opossum calls, I can usually expect to catch them relatively fast using bait that is strong smelling like sardines or fishy cat food. Every now and then I get a phone call that seems to have nothing to do with opossums, at least on the phone. Some phone calls are hard to take seriously. I mean, I want to believe the person on the other line but sometimes I find myself wondering if they really expect me to believe them. Sometimes the pieces of the puzzle are just not there. I received a phone call from a lady who said she heard a fight between two animals in her laundry room. The fight lasted an hour according to her. There were crashing sounds and growling according to her as well as screaming and scratching. She then explained how she was too scared to open the laundry room door for two days after the event. On the third day she gathered enough nerves to crack the door open and peek inside. When she told me what she saw I knew I had to go inspect!
I arrived at the customer’s home to assess the validity of her phone call content. Some people just exaggerate…there is no way to know how bad the exaggerated story will be until one sees it first hand. For example, “I have a huge snake in my yard..It has been attacking my German Shepherd!..please come fast.” This is the call I get too often for snakes. When I arrived it is usually a 2 foot long rat snake who is defending itself from the dog that is trying to kill it. This is the reason for my skepticism. In this case I was wrong! She told me on the phone that the laundry room walls were covered in blood. She said it looks like a slasher film was made in there and there is a strong odor. I was sort of excited to be honest. I had to see this! I walked through her front door and noticed the odor right away. It was an unusual smell. She told me that after she saw the massacre-like blood sprays all over the wall she slept in a hotel. I made my way through the kitchen to the laundry room door. When I opened the door I couldn’t believe what I saw. There was blood spray all the way up the wall to the ceiling and down to the floor. All four walls were covered and it smelled funky in there! There were no entry points from the outside leading into the laundry room and no dead animals to be found! It was a true murder mystery and I was now responsible for cracking the case. I asked her if she left the door cracked open and maybe the animals left. She said, “No because I barricaded the doors with chairs!” Ok, well there went the only theory that could have possibly made any sense. I told her, “Let me go outside for a second..I will be right back. I have an idea”. I didn’t have any damn idea but she didn’t know that! I had to leave so that I could think without the pressure of someone waiting on me for an immediate answer to a problem that may not exist. I thought way back to the beginning of my career and all of the jobs that seemed to have no solution. They all had one thing in common. They all had a solution and I was able to figure them out by performing my “due diligence”. My initial inspection is the “due diligence”. Every part of the home needs to be inspected even if the problem seems to have nothing to do with the other parts of the home. In this case the blood and smell is in a room with one door and no exits or entries. It seems to defy logic but really I needed to inspect everything! The house was on a slab so there was no crawlspace underneath. My next stop was the roof and then lastly, the attic space. I opened the door to the attic and immediately the house filled with refugee blow flies (sorry I had to). A blow fly is a large green fly that only feeds on dead animals and rotting flesh. They are easy to spot because when they feed they fill up so full that they can barely fly. They are very slow and sound like little airplanes. When I saw them fly out of the attic so quickly I knew I would find something “Gooey” up there. I entered into the attic and had some distance to go before I was near the laundry room. There was a slightly bad smell but nothing terrible…yet. I walked slowly on the rafters and made the turn to where the laundry room ceiling was and then I noticed a large..brown beach ball…or something like it..15-20 feet away. The odor started getting worse. I approached the large bubble-like mass and then it all came together in an instant. It was an opossum that was dead. Obviously it was killed by another large opossum in the epic battle that was heard by my customer. “But how did the blood get into the laundry room and how did it get all over the walls?” you may be asking. Well I noticed his head was pointing down. His body was next to the hot water heater vent tube that stuck through the ceiling in the laundry room. The opossum died, became bloated from the extreme heat in the attic (this was mid-summer in Alabama). I went back down stairs and looked where the hot water heater vent pipe entered into the ceiling of the laundry room. I noticed a little pink nose sticking out. Gross! The opossum had exploded internally but all of his juices shot out of his noses, spraying the walls down! I picture the sight of a woopy cushion flapping as it lets out air when someone sits on it. I solved the problem sort of.. now it had to be cleaned up. She said she wasn’t going to clean it so you know me! I am a glutton for gross experiences and pain. I said, “Well you know..I clean up dead stuff too!” She said, “Ok, you are hired, but what’s wrong with you?”. I said “Well I’m not too sure actually.. but let me explain what I am going to do”! I went into the attic with my 3 mil contractor garbage bag, my long chemical gloves, my respirator and my headlamp. I approached the green, hairless bloated beast and pondered my life choices for a few seconds and then started to think about how I used to work at a farmers market when I was 15. I was the fastest watermelon bagger in the place! I decided to use my watermelon bagging skills to put this critter in the sac without touching it. It was all going so well until I remembered that watermelons don’t have heads..and that this wasn’t a watermelon. The opossum (green beach ball) was almost all the way in the bag until I lifted it too soon. His head fell off.. clean off and a river of juice and maggots followed. In a lightning fast reflexive motion ( years of ninja training) I reached down and grabbed the head and stuffed it back into the body cavity effectively stopping the rancid juices from soaking the sheetrock over the laundry room. It was some of my best work to date. The reflexes of a cat and the speed of a mongoose as ACE Ventura used to say! However not all was saved. My boots had been soaked all the way down to my socks with foul rotten opossum juice. Guess who threw their shoes away in the garbage can outside and guess who drove home with bare feet….this guy. But before I went home barefooted and smelling like a million bucks, I had to somehow clean the blood off the wall. It had been there for days and was so hard that my scraper wasn’t doing anything. I sprayed it down with the most harsh sanitization chemical I had and let it soak for a while. I then started scrubbing with a handy dandy shop towel. The rotten juice/blood combo wouldn’t come off. It just kept smearing like it was made of oil. I told the customer that the sheetrock needed to be replaced after all. She said,”I am way ahead of you, I’ve got a guy coming tomorrow to remove it”. So after scrubbing the walls down, while listening to my shoes and socks squish in the rotten juice with every step, I removed my shoes and did the normal routine paperwork. She insisted that my price was too low so she payed me extra! I then threw away my shoes and went home. This was one of the days my wife made me strip down outside at the front door before
coming in the house. I said, “What if the neighbors are outside”? She didn’t seem to care….