Sometimes in the middle of a big job you just don’t realize how much energy you’ve expended until you get a tiny break in the action and you wish more than anything you could sit for a minute and recoup a bit. I didn’t have that luxury as we headed towards the bank of the river but I didn’t want to show any signs of fatigue with my trainer even if he never again would be with me on this account.
This is the last chapter specifically on ‘the mill’, one of my earliest commercial accounts so you might want to read chapter one and two for more of what I consider one of my most memorable days in pest control. I’m sure I’ll reference it from time to time but also I’d love to hear from any pros out there about similar days that I just know are not unique to me.
I’m not sure why, but aside from the Avitrol corn for pigeons there was to be NO rodent bait used at this facility, even outside. This made outdoor control a real challenge. I suppose someone (probably the salesman) decided at one time that the rats were coming from the river bank and so that is where the most of our efforts would be and to this day that really didn’t make a lot of sense. Using only snap traps we walked the banks looking for any rat evidence in the jagged rocks or burrows in the bank. We didn’t find very much and even my partner didn’t seem to overly excited about this part of the service. “Just put a few traps here and there and then we’ll look around the back of the building,” he told me trying to shout over the sound of the fast moving water. I never had any measurable success trapping this way but I did learn a valuable lesson. One of my traps was not hidden well enough and the following week I found that I had caught and killed a beautiful non target bird. Now I grew up trapping and oddly enough my first catch even then was a wood pecker who landed on my trap that was set for a fox. I’m not sure which time I felt worse, then or now and for all the mystique and excitement this job gave me in the first 3 hours I wasn’t sure I was going to like this aspect of the account.
Before leaving the facility we wrote in yet another big 3 ring binder and checked in with the supervisor one last time. As with many managers and supervisors these people are naturally skeptical and only feel comfortable when they’re assured that the job at hand will be done correctly by the person doing it. This manager wasn’t at that comfort level with me yet but he smiled and suggested we take a look at the basement so I’d have a full scope of the facility. He shook the hand of my mentor for the day and thanked him for his service and said he’d miss him. They both gave their quick assessments of me (which was kind of awkward) but both agreed that if I kept up so well on the first day I should be fine. I knew however that I had some major proving to do and next week I would be on my own.
We did check out the lower level before leaving and there I saw where all that grain was before it ended up in the bags on the pallets in their own perfect rows. The grain was dumped from the semis into a huge screen on the parking lot level and piled up in huge mounds below. From there a very large stainless steel auger pulled the grain onto a conveyor belt and it disappeared into another room. We rarely did much on this level except maybe chase a live rat around and try to whack it on the head with one of the few metal poles that were leaning against the walls that were actually there for this purpose. By today’s standards this might seem barbaric but glue boards, baits and traps were out for this area and the rats actually came tumbling out of some semi loads with the tons of grain so while they were a bit dazed this was the quickest and most effective way to deal with the problem. Most often the employees took care of this themselves but just in case of a crafty one I may need to know my way around. In another area of the lower level they did fumigations of the product for grain pests. This to me was really fascinating and I did sneak down from time to time later on just to see if I could watch them do it. The closest I got was a demonstration and I saw how they took long metal poles and poked them through a hole in the wall where the grain was stored for this purpose. At the end of the poles they would place fumigation tablets in a special cut out and by turning the pole when it reached the middle the tablets were released and the fumigation began. I didn’t know what these ‘pills’ were until years later or just how toxic they were. Fumitoxin is basically aluminum phosphide which releases deadly gas when exposed to air and moisture. It’s main purpose is for grain pests but can also be used for burrowing rodents. The gas is highly mobile and there are strict restrictions on this application. Unfortunately the instructions are not so clear when it comes to rodent control and a few innocent lives have been taken by accidents with this product.
The mill was always an account I looked forward to even though each week I performed the same task. I learned quickly that the plant depended on me to spot wayward grain pests along with checking all those ketch all traps. They actually listened to me if I spotted a sanitation problem building up and unlike so many of my commercial accounts over the years, they took action based on what I recommended. I felt like a needed part of a team and a professional that soon everybody in the facility trusted. It wasn’t that I had all the latest gadgets because my tools were very limited but rather it came to be that attention to small details kept this highly scrutinized and inspected plant running smoothly with no major pest interruptions.
Oh, I promised in chapter two I’d tell you if I ever made that jump from the roof to the one silo we could never get to. No, I did not. Something about a 3 foot jump over a 100 foot drop with a 20 pound bucket of corn for some stupid pigeons just never appealed to me. That is also exactly what I taught the rookie who took my place some years later as I saw that same astonished look in his eyes that must have been in mine as well. That look of amazement and awe, for this run of the mill account.