February 22, 2018
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My new least-favorite houseguests

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff

FORT KENT, Maine — There are two kinds of houseguests in the world.

There are the guests whose arrival we await with delicious anticipation and, once they arrive, the time flies by in a blink of an eye.

Then there are the guests who arrive uninvited, unannounced and unwelcome.

Sad to say, currently I am the inhospitable and reluctant victim of the latter.

They arrived via air a week or so ago, moved into a loft room above the garage and are showing no signs of vacating anytime soon.

As is often the case here in the north, these interlopers are not the run-of-the-mill two-legged guests. Nope, this crew has feathers, beaks and somewhat voracious appetites.

So, don’t ask how they got in — I’m still trying to figure that one out — but a pair of woodpeckers has taken up residence in that second floor room.

And what a time they are having. Every time I venture past the door they swoop and dive-bomb from rafter to rafter always just at the periphery of my vision.

They are the worst kind of guests. Not only did they move in, they refuse to clean up after themselves and, to put it delicately as this is a family newspaper, the woodpecker-to-waste ratio is, in a word, impressive.

We had taken to storing quite a bit of stuff up in that room and thanks to the woodpeckers, most of it was coated in globs of bird goo.

Trying to remain calm over the situation, I called my go-to friend in such cases. The next day Kim was at the house helping me move things out of the way and cover the rest with blue tarps.

The whole time Mr. and Mrs. Woodpecker were swooping among the rafters and into the eaves, clearly displeased with all the activity.

We also looked high and low for the entrance point with no success.

Not everyone was as dismayed as I by the invasion.

Take my friend, Penny, for instance who reacted to the news with, “Think how happy and excited those woodpeckers must have been. They must have said to each other, ‘Look honey, a giant, heated birdhouse for the winter, close to food and big enough to fly around in.’”

Somehow, I suspect that is the exact reaction those birds had upon gaining entrance.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love having guests and over the years we have hosted a wide variety of folks. In fact, all of this got me thinking about people we had the fortune to meet here on the farm thanks to serving as a host family for organizations like Voice of America.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, VOA sponsored a program that brought French-speaking journalists from third world countries to the United States.

Given that French is still widely spoken in northern Maine, the St. John Valley was a popular destination so we got to know several of these journalists.

There was Jean Marc Blanc, a journalist from Haiti. I remember his asking me what happened if a member of the United States government got mad at something I wrote as a reporter.

He clearly did not believe me when I told him it was more likely I would get mad at a government official who stonewalled a story.

Of course, this is a journalist who had been jailed and beaten several times in pursuit of a story.

Then there was Babikar (whose last name, unforgivably, eludes me), Senegal’s version of Walter Cronkite.

Babikar arrived in Fort Kent fresh from a one-on-one interview with then Russian President Boris Yeltsin. An impressive assignment, to be sure, but Babikar himself was more impressed with the local television reporter who took the time to give him a personal tour of the Presque Isle TV station and WAGM newsroom.

We even had a mayor from a large town in the republic of Georgia stay with us.

I’ll never forget stopping at a Madawaska gas station and, as the attendant was fueling my car, the mayor from Georgia began pointing out the front windshield, asking in broken English, “What is that?”

For the life of me I could not figure out to what he was referring until it hit me, the station attendant had just washed the car’s windows and my guest was pointing at the squeegee.

There are no squeegees in Georgia. Check, that. There is now at least one squeegee as, after that incident, I stopped at the local NAPA store and presented my guest one as a gift.

To this day I wonder if he’s not back in Georgia entertaining fellow dignitaries by washing and then deftly squeegeeing their windows.

Or, perhaps when a new mayor is elected instead of passing a gavel they now pass the squeegee.

There were other journalists, officials from a variety of countries, even a troop of Apache dancers, but my favorites have to be the two gentlemen from Moldova.

They arrived in Maine as part of the goodwill program Project Harmony.

The two were high-level environmental officials in their country and arrived in Fort Kent in the middle of a typical winter snowstorm.

They have snow in Moldova, but the two had never seen nor ridden a snowmobile, so my late husband fired up our ancient Skidoo Skandic and, after a quick lesson on the controls, sent them on their way.

For the next hour, up and down the driveway they went taking turns on the snowmobile, whooping and cheering, trench coat tails flying, one hand on the throttle and the other holding a dark fedora each wore atop his head.

It was a sight that still brings a laugh.

By and large the people we’ve had stay here at the house have been model guests and I count myself lucky to have met and learned something from all of them.

As for those woodpeckers, they have more than worn out their already unwelcome stay and if serving them eviction papers does not work, I’m stuffing the cats in there with them overnight.

Maybe that will give them the hint.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by e-mail at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.

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