Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Tale of Two Bad Mice

I'm very lucky to have my parents live down the street from me. Being retired, they take turns picking my boys up from school. My youngest gets out of kindergarten about thirty minutes before his brother is freed from intermediate school. Therefore, he always gets picked up first and plays with his toys in the car until his brother comes.

If they get to the parking lot early enough, he is allowed to unstrap his seatbelt and sit on the floor of the car to play until his brother gets there. He vastly prefers this to staying in his booster seat and is correspondingly impatient on the short drive from the elementary to the intermediate school.

Last week, the traffic was slow and he began to fidget. It seemed to him it was taking an unreasonable amount of time. Why were all these cars on the road? They were between him and his Power Ranger action figures.

"Damn traffic," he said.

"Alex," Nana chided him. "We don't say that word."

"Grampa says that all the time."

"Well, little boys do not. It's not appropriate. Find something else to say."

Alex thought for a moment. "Daddy says 'rats'."

"That's better. You can say rats."

"Damn rats!" Alex said.

Which brings me to the topic of rats, mice, and assorted small vermin (with apologies to Ed of course). You may know that I recently put my old barn cat to sleep after his kidneys failed. Tiger was a large, tawny tom of unknown origin and advanced years. In his day, he was a ferocious mouser. I never had a problem with vermin and never gave it much thought, but he had lost a step or two over the last few years and had lived out most of the last year in my garage.

This was brought into sharp focus when it became time to put up my Christmas decorations. We've always stored them in the barn rafters. Most of the items are kept in plastic tubs, but a few things -- such as my Christmas tree -- were stored in their original boxes. I'm using the past tense here, because I won't make that mistake again.

My husband was diligently hauling down decorations when he sent my eldest to come and get me.
"Daddy says we've got a problem. You need to come and see."

We did in fact have a problem. Some little sharp-toothed vermin had made a nest of my Christmas tree which involved a great deal of nibbling and reshaping. Likewise, several wreaths and extension cords were also ruined and a small ratsnake (perhaps attempting to do what Tiger had not) was quite startled when we opened the box he was sleeping in.

So it was off to Lowes. I have a lovely new tree and it was only money, right? Pre-lit Christmas trees are obscenely expensive, but it's better than facing the annual maze of tangled lights. I was happy to shell out the money and it only ate a few hours of my decorating time. The kids were thrilled to pick out a new tree and happily told the story of our previous tree's demise at the jaws of a savage pack of rats to anyone who would listen. The story progressed from "we have a mouse" to that "savage pack of killer rats" in no time at all. To hear them tell it, you would think we had a plague on par with Australia.

I guess it's time to get a new barn cat. Maybe two.

Damn rats.


Midnight Muse said...

But, just LOOK at that rat in the stocking! How cute is that? Seriously, he's adorable.

Okay, sure, there's a big difference between a pet rat and something living in your Christmas tree in the barn.

Or several hundred somethings :D Yes, it's time for more barn cats.

But LOOK at that rat in the picture!! I want to kiss it.

Voyager said...

Damn rats! Lmao, that's priceless.

Ed Pahule said...

Intermediary school? Is that what you guys call elementary school? Grades 1 through 5 or thereabouts?

And I find myself having to once again explain that ferrets are not vermin. Ferrets are pets. And generally speaking they are of the mustelid family, not the rodent family, and are not usually refered to as vermin. Unless you have weasels in the henhouse, then I suppose they might be vermin.

But mustelid eat rodents. So we're helpful.

Mary B said...

I hear you, Ed. I'm forever telling people that rabbits aren't rodents either. They are lagomorphs.

No, we haven't had a weasel problem. Possums in the hen house, yes. But no weasels.

Yes, Muse. I've actually had a pet hooded rat named Templeton. He was a sweetie.

But the rats in my barn are an unfortunate fact of life in the country. You can either put out poisons or cats. Time for more barn cats.

Mary B said...

Oh, and to answer Ed, intermediate is a step between elementary and junior high. Grades 3-5 go to intermediate.

TJWriter said...

I will say that since I've started feeding a whole neighborhood of stray cats, our seasonal mouse issue has become nonexistent. You just have to be able to deal with the occasional mouse, squirrel, or mole carcass in the yard.

Shall I ship you some cats, Mary?

DementedM said...

Heh. Damn rats indeed. Too funny. I just hope my child's swearing is just as mild, however, given who her parents are, I don't hold much hope.

Good luck on finding a new barn cat. Tried to adopt one once and learned the hard way, you can't take the barn out of the cat. We often woke up to find her stalking our eyes as they moved during REM sleep.


Anonymous said...

Great story, Mary. Rah to the barn cats, too!


VirtualWordsmith said...

Ain't life grand (sometimes)?! The stories that come from everyday life are always the best!

Kathleen Frassrand said...

Well, I must say that the snake would bother me more that the rat. I hate snakes. They give me the heebie-jeebies.

I can relate to the whole pre-lit, shelling out the money problem. Pre-lits are indeed expensive... and I hated to spend the money last year... but it was SO WORTH IT. I didn't curse once this year as I put up my tree. LOL

Laurie (quidscribis) said...

My once-indoor cat, turned mostly outdoor cat (due to marrying into a cat-allergic family) keeps the local, ah, pest problem down. He kills rats, squirrels, spiders (we get some huge ones here), geckos, and other small lizards. The big lizards - as in, a foot long and bigger - he leaves alone.

Yeah, I don't much like finding carcasses on the lawn, but I find it somehow more worrisome when, later that day, the carcass is suddenly gone. I mean, our cat is well-fed enough, and the ants don't demolish carcasses that fast...

wordsmith said...

Ick...rats. That was too cute of your son with the "damn rats." Kids. But on one hand, the rats did you a favor, you have a beautiful pre-lit tree, and there will be no dancing with cords this Christmas (or the next, or the next) and that alone, makes for a very happy holiday!