I saw it at the back of the garage when I came out of the house, a fresh cup of coffee in hand. The marmot was busy inspecting some stuff on a wooden shelf I have there. It was standing on its back legs, grabbing something with its “hands”. Marmots don’t really have “hands” but like a raccoon, they are able to use their long fingers to grab things quite dexterously. This was a small marmot, probably a juvenile. If you are unfamiliar with marmots, a full grown marmot is easily bigger than a house cat. Visualise an elongated squirrel without its muscly little back legs, and instead with even shorter legs— proportionally — than a dachshund, the paws of a raccoon, and the girth of a severely overweight cat with a pendulous belly. The whole animal finished off by a very long tail that tends to drag behind.
I said “Hey! Get out of there!” It looked at me, dropped back to the floor and immediately ran (a running marmot looks like a shag rug escaping someone or something since it runs belly to the ground) directly under my workbench at the far back of the garage, raising a lot of dust and causing a fair bit of commotion.
I store a bunch of things under the lower shelf of the workbench: a big wooden wire spool that still has a couple of hundred feet of thick underground 12V wire, and other assorted electrical wiring all rolled into coils. Wires being fairly stiff, even when rolled up these just don’t fit on the shelves. I also have a stack of tiles under there, near the back. I heard the wooden spool roll, and the tiles collapse from their neat stack to a heap on the concrete floor as the marmot makes a space for itself.
I put my cup down on a table, and went to the back. “You are not supposed to be in here!” I said articulating each word clearly and loudly. “Get the heck out of here!”
The reply was more kerfuffle from under the workbench and the noise of tiles scattering. Obviously, this was going to be another one of those days when I end up spending a fair amount of time trying to coax an animal out of somewhere it’s not supposed to be.
Working on the principle that if I leave, it might take the opportunity to do the same, I went through the back door of the garage and into my studio. The so-called “studio” is not quite as pretentious as the name implies. It’s really a 10 x 12 shed with an 8 ft. ceiling that I built that is nicely finished inside. It’s where I work on a lot of stuff that does not require power tools, and it’s got a great view that I can see above my monitors. I loitered in there for a few minutes going through e-mails, hoping my uninvited garage visitor would leave. No such luck. I go back and forth a number of times. The marmot is still under the workbench. On one of my forays into the studio, I grab one of my cameras. I’ve taken many marmot photos over the years, but I thought I might need evidence to show Cherry when she returned.
By then, the marmot had been under the workbench for at least twenty minutes. Having stuff to do, marmot or no marmot, I sat down at the large work table that I assemble in the garage during the warm months to work on various projects. That’s when the cars sleep outside. The garage door was up, and I was hoping it would sneak past me on the other side of the garage and get out.
As I worked, more noises came from the workbench area, followed by a prolonged silence. I turned to look and saw a nose poke out from in between a drawer unit and the workbench. Then an eye appeared. It stared at me. Very gradually, the entire marmot head showed, staring at me with one eye. Like rabbits, marmots have phenomenal peripheral vision so they can spot predators, some of which are airborne, such as hawks and eagles.
“I’m not going to do anything to you. Just leave, this is no place for a marmot.” I said. The marmot remained perfectly still. I shifted on my chair, which groaned. The marmot retreated back underneath the workbench. Then I had an idea: maybe music would make it leave. I picked up the remote and turned on the iPod dock I have on a shelf. From where I was sitting, I could not see the iPod screen however. So I got up and went over to it. That’s when I saw the wet marmot footprints, and the crap it had deposited right in front of the workbench. Could this be the explanation for the perfect stillness? It peed under the workbench, came out, and took a crap on the floor while staring at me? I did not think of myself as being that scary…
Irritated, I scanned through the playlist and selected some ground-shaking rave music. This marmot had to go, and maybe that would scare it out. I raised the volume. Within seconds the garage —which has great sound qualities by the way— was pulsating like a night club. I returned to my seat and, glancing towards the back of the garage every few seconds, waited to see if the music would scare the marmot out.
Twelve cuts later, the marmot had not moved at all. I, however, was developing a headache. Rave music is all right once in a while, when my energy is flagging, but it wasn’t now. Only my patience was flagging. Then the nose poked out again. I stayed quiet. In a minute, most of the marmot was visible. I kept working, ignoring it. The marmot stood there and stared at me. A few more minutes went by.
This was obviously a party animal since it had stayed for the rave music, I thought, maybe the opposite would cause it to leave? I pressed the button for the next playlist on the remote. Øystein Sevåg’s “Consolation” started playing (You can hear it below). This is a somewhat sombre, slow cello piece. Halfway through the piece the marmot lowered itself to the floor, lying down, head resting on its front paws. Thirty seconds later, its eyes were closed. As were mine. I shook myself. This, clearly, was not working. The marmot was asleep and these guys are capable of sleeping for months on end. The last thing I wanted was a catatonic marmot to deal with.
The next cut on the playlist did not help either. More of the same melancholic cello, and the marmot’s eyes remained closed. I thought this might be an opportunity to gain the upper hand. If I could sneak by it while it’s asleep and block off its retreat to the workbench, then I could startle it awake and it would dart straight ahead and out of the garage. However, before I put my stealthy plan to action, I could not resist taking a photo of the marmot lying down with its eyes closed. As I leaned forward reaching for the camera, my chair creaked. The marmot woke up instantly out its music-induced stupor, took one look at me with my arm reaching for the camera, and dashed back under the workbench. Blast!
Frustrated, I got up and grabbed a shovel. If that marmot was going to stay there, at least its deposit would go before I forgot it was there and stepped in it. I scooped up the crap and tossed it up the hill. The marmot wasted another opportunity to leave as it remained under the workbench while I left.
I was back at the table trying to finish what I had been doing when the phone rang. I was urgently needed at the B&B to stare (my turn) at the plumber changing out the cartridge of a year-old, very expensive, tub filler that had already failed (you certainly don’t get what you pay for nowadays). And please, don’t ask why I had to go stare at the plumber, I haven’t the foggiest. I just do as I’m told.
By then, the marmot had been in the garage for more than 2 hours. I purposefully left the garage door open when I went to the B&B. At this point the possibilities were that when I returned:
- The marmot would still be there;
- The marmot would have company (a strong possibility as there are a bunch of them around here);
- The marmot would have been replaced by another animal or bird, possibly one that would be even more problematic to turf out;
- I would have the garage back to myself.
I lucked out, when I returned fifteen minutes later, ten minutes of which were spent staring at the plumber (he did not stare back, which I appreciated) and looked around for the marmot. It was gone. I cleaned up the rest of its smelly deposits and went back to what I had been trying to do.
The next day, while I was going through e-mails in the studio, it showed up at the door, and had a colleague for reinforcement. I jumped up and shut the door.
Øystein Sevåg’s “Consolation”: (I’m fairly sure he never thought this piece would put a marmot to sleep…)