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In the quaint setting of her rural home, Shirley Batson answers a knock at the door. The smaller of her two dogs, Ellie, musters up her loudest growl as Batson greets the visitor cloaked in black.
It’s not an intruder who stands at the door, just the opposite: It’s Peter Riney, operator of the Central Missouri branch of Critter Control, who has come to check up on Batson’s pesky pest problem.
After a warm greeting, Riney sets off to check the bait stations he set on a previous visit. These devices are filled with blocks of Rodenticide, a chemical set to kill the mice in Batson’s home.
As he digs through the clutter of basement storage, meticulously checking trap after trap, Riney can recall encounters with animals that make homeowners cringe. He has been working in the field since 2005 when he was first offered a job at the St. Louis branch of Critter Control. Riney has seen everything from insects to venomous snakes — he even came face to face with a skunk.
One summer day, Riney found himself entrapped in a 4-foot crawl space with a dirt floor. Enveloped in darkness, he knew his situation stunk.
Earlier in the week, he had set traps to capture a skunk in this same spot. He returned to extract the animal, but the skunk had spoiled his plans: The trap was empty. Riney spotted the black-and-white critter through the darkness at the end of the tunnel. Riney knew he had one option, but it was a long shot. He grabbed the garden hose, reset the trap and blasted the varmint.
Skunks hate water, Riney says. The hose was his last resort to trap the skunk without getting sprayed. It was knowledge Riney wished he never had to use. He remembers seeing the skunk raise its tail as if poised to spray as he turned the spigot and sprayed it with water. But the skunk gave up the fight and retreated conveniently into the trap. “I don’t know if I’d try it again,” Riney says with a chuckle.
On this early Thursday morning, Riney finishes up his inspection and prepares to leave. “Doesn’t appear to be any problems,” Riney tells Batson. “I think we can book you again for the summer.” His job is complete for now, but as an exterminator, Riney never knows what could be waiting for him right around the next corner.
Credits: By Austin Fax - VoxMagazine.com