Thursday, July 06, 2006

Squirrel boy - part 3

by Tom Gaylord

Squirrel boy part 1
Squirrel boy part 2

He was interested, though. Real interested. He said he had a nest of squirrels in his attic that he had done everything to remove, but nothing worked. He couldn’t shoot them with a .22 because the bullet could go right through the boards on the outside of the house, where it might injure someone. A regular BB gun was also out of the question because it would only injure the squirrels without killing them. He wondered if I might possibly come over and give him a hand with them.

That same evening, I cleaned out five gray squirrels from that man’s attic rafters. It was like a zoo in there. I dropped every one of them with five pumps in the gun. The lead BB went in one side of the head and stayed there. No danger to anything else.

The man was so grateful that he offered to give me a dollar for the job, but I turned him down. After the embarrassment at the dump, I just wanted to get out of there with a little self-respect.

The next evening, a man came by our house and asked to speak to me. He had a big house on the other side of town and there was a squirrel problem in his attic. Would I please come over and help?

I did, and he was so happy with the job that he gave me a silver dollar. After that, I used to get asked several times a month to clean out attics all over Akron. People would pay me as much as fifty cents a squirrel for the job, and it was worth it because those animals were notorious for starting fires when they gnawed through the insulation on electrical wires.

My parents began to think of me as the "squirrel boy" because that’s how people who didn’t know me would ask for me. I didn’t have to hide my gun any longer, not because it wasn’t powerful after all, but because it was so popular. I even got my picture in the Akron Beacon Journal for killing squirrels in attics, and the popularity after that was what led to my going into business full time. I gave up my paper job and had business cards printed up to tell people of my services. I soon found that my best customers were not the actual homeowners, but insurance agents who told their clients to use me to lower their fire rates.

I did that work straight through high school, after which I went into the extermination business full time. I didn’t just get rid of squirrels any more—I did the whole spectrum of pests. My business grew very well, and as I added each new exterminator, he always got a Benjamin air rifle to take care of the larger critters. My own Benjamin was mounted on a plaque in my office until I sold the business in 1953, when I took it with me.

How about that? An airgun that proved to be an embarrassment in the beginning actually defined the rest of my adult life. On reflection, I guess I’d say I like BB guns a lot.


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