Downsizing: The Marmot’s Tale, Part 1

There was one moment when I thought the entire selling-the-house deal would fall apart. It happened on Thursday, the day before closing.

The new owners had some difficulty arranging the final walk-through of the property. They were sure they wanted the house, so we figured it was just a formality. They scheduled it on the same day as settlement, on Friday at 10:00, just one hour before we would sign the final contract and turn over the keys.

I mentioned in a previous entry that I enjoyed the wildlife that made a home in and around our neighborhood. We lived within visual distance of the Susquehanna River and were not strangers to deer, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and birds of many types — including one Red-Tailed Hawk, who almost made a meal of one of our backyard squirrels.

dsc_0001We also had a few groundhogs.

After talking to some of our neighbors and watching the groundhogs all these years, I figured out that they had a network of tunnels around the area. They would come out and sun themselves and when confronted, would scurry down into one of their holes and into their tunnels. Seeing a groundhog stretched out on the ground behind our house was nothing new. So the morning before settlement, when I looked out the second-floor bathroom window and saw one stretched out in our backyard, I didn’t think too much of it.

I went about my business, packing last minute items and scrubbing around the bathroom sink. About 15 minutes later, I glanced out the window again, admiring the peonies which were getting ready to bloom. Then I saw the groundhog again. Stretched out in the same spot. He hadn’t moved. And this time, I noticed a small cloud above his head. Although I was at some distance, I guessed immediately that the cloud was made up of flies and that the groundhog was dead.

For one moment, I was too shocked to move. So many thoughts flashed through my mind. That groundhog is dead! Was he rabid? Am I sure he’s dead? There are flies! I can’t leave him there! What are we going to do with him?

I called out to Bill, who was working on the first floor, and told him what I saw. Together we went to the back yard for a closer look.

Yep. He was dead. Ugh.

I was relatively sure that the groundhog hadn’t been there the day before. We were both a little over-excited about the situation, and I hurriedly called the first people I could think of, a company who specialized in varmints of this sort. I had talked to them years earlier when I first saw the groundhogs, and they were helpful in calming me down and talking me out of trying to poison them. The difference was, I didn’t have a house for sale THE NEXT DAY.

I guess my message was as breathy and panicky as I felt. Maybe the company had a record of my call from years before and assumed I was over-reacting again. They never called back. Not that day, nor any day after.

WhenI got off the phone, the reality of the time crunch hit me. I realized that Bill and I would have to handle this ourselves. We couldn’t wait for the specialists to call – if they ever did. So I got on the Internet and searched for everything I could find on disposing of dead animals in our state.

What I found didn’t help very much.


This blog post is part of a series called Downsizing. It is the chronicle of moving from a 2475 square foot home to one approximately half its size during the first six months of 2016. It takes place in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

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