Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Rambo Moment: Wildlife Wars Continue, Part III

Back when the boys were quite little, we had a very, very wet spring and summer--quite a lot like the one we're having right now. Everything was soggy and waterlogged, and it seemed like all manner of creepy crawlies and varmints came out. Especially annoying was the influx of a skunk family who wandered up our driveway each night, left a scented greeting, and departed by dawn. Naturally, our neighborhood was blessed by a robust stray cat population, so altercations were frequent and fragrant. (Our bedroom windows overlook the driveway--did I mention that?)

It was also the Summer Of Spiders, and I felt as if I would never get rid of them. Or the Thousand-Leggers. This was The Time Before Cats as well, although I doubt seriously if EmilyCat or TravisCat would have been much help. Travis whined terribly when he encountered any bugs near his food dish, and Emily simply couldn't be bothered.

But I digress.

It was after dinner one day when we were in the living room. Sam suddenly pointed into the kitchen and said, "Kitty! Hi, kitty!" Sam was only about two, a toddler who had been slow to talk, and one of those kids who called all men Daddy and all drinks Juice. Anything, therefore, which was small and furry and walked on four legs was a Kitty. Horrified, I asked him to clarify. "Sam, what did you say? Where is a kitty?" He smiled excitedly and pointed into the kitchen. "Kitty in there!" he said.

"Rick," I said, sick and dreadful. "Something is in the kitchen." Somehow, I was able to make the boys stay in the living room while Rick went out to investigate. In short order he was back. "Nance, it's a mouse. I see where it went. It's behind the dishwasher now. I'm getting the BB gun."

I felt like I was in a bad action movie and that Rick was suffering a Sylvester Stallone delusion. What in the hell was he going to do to a mouse with a BB gun? And behind the dishwasher? "Rick!" I yelled, but it was too late. He had grabbed the gun, cocked it, and was going in.

"It's in the space under the counter, in the insulation. I can see it!" he said. I heard the gun pop, cock, then pop again. "Got it!" he said. "I really got it." There was a pause, then, "Where the hell did it go?" I heard him open the cupboards next to the dishwasher and rummage around, heard him open the drawer, and then a strangled yelp. "Dammit!" There were the sounds of a brief struggle, then his footsteps on the basement steps. Moments later, he came up and into the living room, smiling and triumphant. "Got him!" he said. "But I'll get some traps in case there are more. I hit him, too. He was bloody. He jumped out of the drawer and ran downstairs. But I got him."

Rambo's victory was short-lived, however. And the mouse was probably just a scout or the recon team.

A day or two later, I heard the snap of the trap behind the trashcan in the kitchen. I was home with only Jared and Sam, but I wasn't afraid to dispose of a mousetrap. As I walked over to the can, I was surprised to hear more noise. It sounded like the trap snapping over and over again. How could that be? I wondered. With trepidation, I slid the kitchen can away from the wall and took a look.

What I saw was huge, a mouse on steroids with its head caught in the trap, trying desperately to free itself by shaking its head back and forth, knocking the wooden trap on the tile floor each time. The thing had its mouth open, revealing sharp yellow teeth on top and bottom, a pink mouth open in a silent scream as it writhed right and left, right and left. Horrified, I swallowed my own scream, mindful that Sam and Jared were around somewhere, and I slid the can right back into place and tried to think of what on earth to do.

Rick was quite a ways off on a job site, and no way was I letting that thing back there until the end of the day. But I could not bring myself to touch it. I immediately thought of my colleague's husband Lou, who lived one street over. He was the dearest and kindest man, and he used to walk over to deliver his famous homemade soup to us. He would know what to do, and he would be my Knight In Shining Armor! I called Carol and explained the situation. "I'm sending him right over!" she said. "Lou will take care of everything. Don't worry about a thing, Nance," she said.

In moments Lou appeared through the yards across the street, carrying a paper bag, gloves, and a whisk broom. I wanted to kiss him. The Giant Mouse was still flopping, making noise behind my kitchen trash can. He took a moment to reassure me and then went to work while I stood in the next room. In less than a minute, he had taken the creature outside to my garbage cans and came back inside to talk to me.

"Nance," he said worriedly, "that's no mouse. That's a river rat. You need to tell Rick. Somehow, that came up from the river and got into your house, maybe through your basement or something. He needs to find where and take care of it. And you need bigger traps."

Rats. Can you possibly imagine? First bats and then rats. I was ready to burn the place down. I think that's exactly what I told Rick when we...discussed it later.

We avoided that eventuality by finding the old sump crock with outside access and plugging it up, ending our rat problem. And Rick remained fully clothed throughout.


  1. Oh man, what a story! Mice are icky, but rats… YUCK. The only one I've encountered in person was dead, and thrown onto our driveway by the neighbor's moving crew who thought I was being a bitch when I asked them to move their van so that I could exit my driveway in my car. But that rat was not in my house. YIKES.

    1. Ally Bean--Good heavens! What objectionable people. And, really really immature.

  2. Laughing. Sorry. Although I figure you intended that. Best regards to Rambo.
    My Rambo once killed the compost bin while attempting to scare off a bear. Not nearly as good.

    1. Mary G.--Oh, go on. It's even funny to me now. I've survived it. At the time--not so much. Honestly, it's a miracle we still own our little house. It has betrayed us in so many ways. But I love it still.

      Heaven help us if Rick ever, EVER has to go up against anything truly vicious with his BB gun. Or any weapon. It would break his heart if he did not emerge victorious.

      I do want to hear about your husband's terrible battle with the compost bin. It's all in the telling, as you know.

    2. I will write it up. After I get done with the dogs. Non dog people may avoid this post, without offence.

  3. Oh yuck!! I know I've told the story of the rat in the toilet (while I was sitting on it), so I'll refrain this time. But suffice it to say that I do NOT have warm fuzzy feelings for rats!!

    1. Bug--Oh, hell. Thank you for THAT. I'm still leery about the snake in the toilet story from last summer, and now I have to remember your rat. Sigh.


      Do not get me started on camping. I mean it.

  4. Mice:
    We had some once in our condo. I found out one day as I opened the trash compactor early one morning to discard the coffee filter and ... smiling up at me was a little grey mouse. I freaked out, but managed not to scream. Not knowing what else to do, I turned the compactor on, hoping he would be squashed enough to deal with. When I opened it again, the mouse was gone. I started investigating fancy mouse traps online. Electric zappers that cost about $50. Then I called our property manager to see if anyone else had a mouse problem. He said no, but recommended I not bother with the fancy traps. Came over to have a look, and recommended I set some of the old-fashioned, cheap 99-cent traps and bait with peanut butter, which apparently they like a lot more than cheese. By golly, it took about 3 days, but the various traps I set around the kitchen produced results. Snap, snap, snap! Haven’t seen a mouse since.

    Never in the house, thank God. But when I lived in Bahrain, the dumpster near our apartment building had those suckers and they were the size of feral cats. Geez. Scared the crap out of me.

    1. Ortizzle--My, yes, peanut butter and a cheapo trap. Cheese is a big ol' myth. Rick is quick to use MY peanut butter--smooth--rather than his stuff, the extra chunky.

      Isn't it funny how that cute little mouse you see everywhere else is suddenly a disgusting rodent once it's INSIDE YOUR HOME?

      We haven't seen a rat since that one "kitty" that Lou dispatched. That was almost worse than the bats, I think, taking into account all of the Baggage and Stigma that rats bring with them. And we didn't even have the exotic perks of life in Bahrain.

    2. Rats in the rubbish was about as exotic as it got in Bahrain. I just could not believe the size of those suckers. I used to babysit for a family (U.S.) whose kids had "pet rats." In a cage in the garage, thankfully, and these were, uh, normal size I suppose, but that did not keep me from feeling uneasy that Templeton & Co. might escape. How anyone could want those creatures as pets is beyond me, but then there are those who have snakes and other delightful creatures as pets, so go figure.

  5. UGH. Poor rat. Poor you. I think I'll stop complaining about our drought now, if moisture brings such delights.

  6. J@jj--Certainly rain at those/these levels, anyway. And if you live near woods, a river or creek, or any other hunk of Nature, you're far more likely to entertain Guests. And, our home is an older one, built back in the Depression era. It constantly reveals small fissures, nooks, and crannies that we need to seal off. Some of them are from old fixtures or archaic plumbing thingies. As a condo dweller in a more modern building, you wouldn't have to worry about much of this.

  7. Nance,

    I thought that locusts would be next but the situation is more dire than I imagined. What other creatures could possibly show up at your house? Your neighbor will have her binoculars at the ready to see how Rick handles this next group.

    Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble

    1. Nancy--Oh, my dear! You only had to ask. I have one more post in the series and you'll see what's left. (It's none of the things mentioned by the Weird Sisters, believe it or not. At least SO FAR...!)

  8. When we lived in Arizona, it was always the scorpions I ran across, but what really frightened me were the Roof Rats - supposedly attracted to citrus trees and swimming pools (which pretty much summed up every house in suburban Phoenix.) Thank God they never showed up or I probably would have gone stark, raving mad - and, in fact, your description of the rat in the mousetrap was terrifying. We had squirrels in the attic in our house in Texas, but the exterminator guys were able to get them to leave with a liberal sprinkling of cayenne pepper and then filling up the cracks where they entered with some crazy expanding foam(who knew? We could have done that ourselves and saved some money.) Here in England (the land of No Screens on Windows and Doors and No AirCon) we just have a constant stream of spiders, mice, and pill bugs. Mind you, when we were moving in, our landlord (a lovely retired Naval Officer) tossed out this conversational bombshell: "You know, they say that, anywhere you go, you're no more than 2 meters away from a rat." I have often wondered if this was an attempt to set the expectations, if you know what I mean. Six months in, still haven't seen one, but maybe they're just hiding in the walls, growing fat off all the insects.

    1. MsCaroline--Roof Rats would make a great name for a band or a roofing company. But I agree, they sound horrifying.

      I'm intrigued by the remedy for your Resident Squirrels since we've found cayenne pepper largely ineffective against squirrels here. I sprinkled it into our bird food for an entire summer to discourage the damn things from robbing the birdfeeders, but they parked on top of them anyway and gorged themselves constantly. We must have a Cajun variety of rodents here.

      This is the Year Of The Spider, most certainly. I am taking it personally. It is absolutely ridiculous how much time I spend destroying webs and smashing spiders EVERY SINGLE DAY. That it is an International Epidemic is frightening.

    2. You know, I think they actually blew it in there in a cloud - enough to make them uncomfortable and skitter out - and as soon as they had gone, the guys went in and foamed all the cracks shut. It also helped that we had the neighbors trim their trees - the branches were so long that the squirrels were able to climb the trees and basically just stroll onto our roof. Once it got more challenging, our attic didn't seem quite so attractive.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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