Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Rats! Big F*$%&ing Rats! A Winter's Tail

More from the email archives.... This little episode took place last winter.

Well, boys & girls, today's adventure was cleaning out the garage with Dad! Can you say moldy clutter? I knew you could!

After being informed that - A: I was going to Austin this weekend, and B: I was to get to load up and haul back a truckbed-and-trailer full of heavy-ass furniture to Houston (that I had previously hauled TO Austin about a year ago, but that's another matter entirely...) We proceeded to go explore the dungheap, er... garage to make space for the incoming load.

When I say dungheap, I was not kidding. If you have not heard the tale as yet, Dad had purchased a 25 lb bag of grass seed to spread on the lawn. It promptly got covered up by one of the innumerable loads of junk that get carried out to the garage, and was forgotten about. Except by the rats. See, the common domestic rat (rattus rattus) just loooooves to make a home in compost heaps and wood piles. When aforementioned compost heaps and woodpiles are next to a nice cozy garage, though, they have no qualms about gnawing a hole in the back wall and moving right in. They wasted no time finding the bag of grass seed. Imagine you are an 8 ounce rat. You have found the equivalent of 50 times your body weight in what might as well be GrapeNuts cereal. Naturally, you bring the little lady along, and also invite all your rat pals for a smorgasbord. Oh, and you have babies. Lots and lots of rat babies.

When I went out exploring the garage last spring when the raccoon had wandered into it, the seed hulls and rat turds were almost 3" deep around the sack of grass seed, and tapered off from there in a widening circle where it was spread underneath the piles of boxes, bins, and assorted oddities. At that point I wisely avoided the garage unless it was full daylight, and I had tall boots on.

I digress.... back to the tale!

Cleaning out the garage is a simple task, really. Move everything out, sweep, sort, throw away at least a third of the clutter, and move the rest back inside in a more orderly fashion. My preferred method of garage cleaning involved a front-end loader and a roll-on/roll-off dumpster, followed by a huge bonfire, but I was once again overruled.

There's actually almost half of the concrete floor visible now. Not enough to move all my stuff down from Dallas, which would save me $50 a month, but there's enough room to get all the furniture moved in from Austin, and leave Dad enough room to refinish it to sell hopefully sooner rather than later.

The fun part came when we were nearly finished, and I had stopped sweeping to take a swig from a bottle of water. I've got the bottle tilted back, and my eyes are pointed upward when Dad yells "Watch out for the rat!" I'm not afraid of rats, and even find them cute in a verminous, Black Plague-y sort of way, but that doesn't mean I want them climbing up my leg, either. So I'm hopping around, desperately trying to catch sight of the critter and not spew water all over everything. Dad's getting a good chuckle, mostly because my prime hopping days were 20 years ago, and I imagine I look rather like a bear dancing the Watusi. The rat by this time has disappeared into the pile of boxes along the back wall, and we can hear him scrabbling around looking for the Rat Escape Hatch that we still need to get patched.

Futher merriment comes when I find a box of my grandmother's (Gigi, for those of you dear readers that knew her) handmade Xmas ornaments. I had thought all of the Xmas gear was stored inside in the attic, but apparently these had been placed outside inadvertently by one of our relatives who helped to clean up the Xmas clutter we had left about in the chaos caused by Gigi's illness and death 2 years ago.
Mom had thought some of the ornaments were missing, and behold, here they were. With a big F*$%&ing rat-gnawed hole in the top of the box, and bits and pieces of ornaments hanging out the top.

I toss the box to Dad and explain what's in it. I also mention that Mom will excrete large bricks sideways through the usual exit portal when she finds out. Dad, from the wellspring of wisdom that most fathers seem to acquire, said "We'll salvage what we can, then take them inside and put them with the rest of the Xmas ornaments. We can 'find them next year' and no one will be the wiser. Particularly your Mother...." Sage wisdom, indeed!

So Dad's going through this box of ornaments, most of which are wrapped in (now rat-gnawed) tissue paper. As it turns out, they left Gigi's mostly alone, aside from a few nibbles, and concentrated on the bread-dough ornaments my sister and I made in our youth, and they also gnawed up a few Hallmark 1970's era Xmas balls. No great loss there. Dad's about 2/3 of the way done when he strikes the mother lode.

"RAT!!!!" yells Dad as the first of the rodents porpoises out of the sea of tissue paper, does a triple gainer, and hits the ground running. Dad's now got the box at arm's length, and it's like watching popcorn pop. Big puffy poofs of white tissue paper are bouncing around, and every so often a rat breaks the surface in a nice parabolic arc, hits the ground after a 5 foot fall, and scampers away. Bear in mind I've already bounced this box around and rooted inside in a cursory inspection, and Dad has emptied most of it.
They must have been curled up in a corner of the box when overwhelming panic finally struck.

I'm grabbing for a shovel to try and reduce the population, but rats wait for no man. Because the garage floor is now an open plain, they've scooted around the side of the garage, and are buried in either the woodpile or the climbing vine/bush thingie, and I'm not sticking my hand in either one without a chainmail gauntlet. So, we've de-housed them (a rat rout, if you will) , but left them alive. No doubt they're planning rat-revenge. No matter. I've got a six-shooter and an eye patch. I'll just go do my Rooster Cogburn/True Grit impression. "Mr. Rat, I've got writ here that says you're to stop eating Dad's grass seed forthwith. Now, it's a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of same." I'm sure uncorking a .357 Magnum in the confines of the garage will be a bit much, though.

Aside from the reward of gaining a few dozen square feet of floor space, I also ran across a sealed pint bottle of French brandy tucked away in a box full of Gigi's sewing supplies. I dunno whether it was intended to be an ingredient in her holiday candies, or just there for 'medicinal purposes'. Probably the latter. I'm sure she'll have no problem with me using it for the same purpose. I don't know if brandy is recommended as a preventative tool against hantavirus, but I'll keep you posted as to the details. As I'm typing this, the sun appears to be over the yardarm, and if not, well, it's 5 o'clock somewhere.

Cheers, Gigi. Thanks for the Christmas present!