And A Dead Squirrel In The Stove Pipe

Published 12:51 pm Friday, January 6, 2012

All that was missing was a gift certificate for the Jelly-Of-The-Month Club.

Otherwise, Christmas Eve was more like Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation than my wife and I would have wanted.

The dead mouse in the trap near the woodstove was no big deal. Standard rural routine. But that rodent was merely the very thin end of the wedge.

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A squirrel and a Christmas Tree disaster would follow.

But first the horde of flies.

Perhaps it was some sixth sense that had kept me from cleaning the chimney so far this fall. When I pulled the stovepipe out from the wall on the morning of Christmas Eve, a couple of dozen flies flew out and covered one window.

Fortunately we still had a can of flying insect spray, which I used enough of to kill every mosquito in the Everglades.

As the sound of dying flies drowned out the Christmas carols, I tried not to breathe very much as I shoved the chimney brush pole further and further up the chimney.

Then I tipped the stovepipe at an angle for the creosote to fall out.

That done, I opened the woodstove, itself.

Another couple of dozen flies flew out, covering the other window in the den.

Big fat flies, too. Large enough to take the place of the geese in The Twelve Days of Christmas or pull Santa's sled if the reindeer went on strike.

One of the largest flies even seemed to have a red nose.

More toxic spray as more dying flies drowned out even more Christmas carols.

“Deck the halls with dying insects, fa-la-la-la-la and hold your breath.”

That's when I looked down and saw the dead squirrel, which must have fallen out of the stovepipe, in the pile of creosote.

The squirrel, of course, had attracted the flies.

For some reason, my wife didn't want to see the dead beast after I brought it upstairs in a sealed plastic bag to throw away. Why I wanted to show it to her-perhaps so she'd believe me when I told the story-I can only guess.

So the den smelled like a chemical accident and there were more dead flies there than in all seven of Nolan Ryan's no-hitters put together.

That's when I got the vacuum cleaner to suck up the dead flies. Our Christmas tree was in front of one of the windows and a dozen or so flies had kicked the bucket and fallen on the white sheet wrapped around the tree.

Having difficulty seeing the flies through the tree limbs, I carefully pushed a few of the ornament-laden limbs gently to the left, clearing the way for me to clean up the insect corpses, as the whole thing began to resemble a badly-imitated Agatha Christie novel. There is always the problem of how to dispose of the bodies.

So I pushed a little more gently.

And just a bit more.

Bad idea.

Looking back, I can see that now.

The fully-decorated tree, in a deep pan full of water, began to lean, tilt and fall. Grabbing a few branches, I gratefully halted the disaster for a few seconds.

Then the entire tree, with its ornaments collected over 30 Christmases, hit the floor with a tingling crash and my feet felt like I was trout fishing in a small mountain river.

Oh, Christmas tree, Oh, Christmas tree, how capsized are your branches.

A dead mouse, several dozen flies, deadly bug spray, a deceased squirrel, and now our Christmas tree lay on the floor, ornaments scattered across the rug.

And it was now the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

Channeling Chevy Chase's portrayal of Clark W. Griswold, Jr., I was having the hap, hap, happiest Christmas Eve since Bing Crosby tap danced with Danny (bleeping) Kay.

To her everlasting credit, my wife handled it amazingly well.

Instead of letting it spoil our mood, we turned it into a positive. We decided to re-enjoy decorating the

Christmas Tree, cutting on our favorite tree-decorating CD of Christmas music-fittingly, A Charlie Brown Christmas-and had a wonderful time filled with cheer.

Not a single ornament had broken.

Nor had our Christmas spirit.

Decorating the tree is such a highlight and we'd been able to do it twice.

No wonder we answered the phone, “Griswold residence.”


Randy Quaid was calling about parking his RV in the driveway.