Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vermin story

During my usual moring perusal of all web things sheepy and good, I came across a blog posting on barn mice, and it reminded me of my worst farm rodent story yet. (We have several, but this was the yuckiest in my mind...)

Just like good fairy tales all begin with, "Once Upon A Time...", all rodent stories start with, "I Saw Something Moving Out Of The Corner Of My Eye..." and this time it was WAY too big to be a field mouse. So I broke out the poison. You know, the brick type that you can tuck away in all the nooks and crannies, and went to work. I didn't have to wait long, the pieces were all gone within a day. Now the theory is that they eat the stuff, go away, and die. Apparently our rats missed the "go away" part.

I went into the barn a few nights later, and as I rounded the dark corner where the hay is piled, I saw something white on the floor. Not wispy white, like a lock of stray fleece, but big and dead white, like the belly of you-know-what. Looking away, I continued my chores, knowing that DH was coming home soon and would clean up. Now the arrangement we have on our farm, is that I handle all spiders (DH is a raving arachnophobe!) and he handles all rodents. Dead ones at least.

So I fed the chickens and got ready for the evening's 4-H meeting. The kids were coming over, and we ran a poultry group, so I was going into the coop to collect their chicks so they could check on their progress, take photos, etc. Our coop and barn are constructed in such a way that you wouldn't want to troop a half-dozen kids out there just to retrieve their chicks from the mini-pen I had constructed for them under the laying boxes, so I did the retrieving. I got down on my knees, opened the mini-pen door, and froze in horror. There, facing me, just inches from my nose, was a big rat with its head poking through the chicken wire staring silently at me. I freaked, screamed, and jumped back, heart pounding. After a few seconds, I gathered the courage to look back where I had been, and there was the rat, still there. Now, I am no expert in rodent behavior, but I didn't think freezing in place was any defensive behavior I had ever heard of, so I was cautiously curious. I stared for a few seconds; it didn't move. I leaned closer to look; it still didn't move. The thought ran through my mind that perhaps this was some sick, practical joke and perhaps this rat was fake. Well, when I leaned even closer, I saw the individual hairs and whiskers, and thought, "Nobody invests THAT much time and money in a fake rat!" So I kicked some wood shavings at it to get it to move, and nothing. The shavings just settled on the rat in a very still manner, and I was starting to to realize something...this sucker was dead. Or very, very sick. A few more kicks of shavings, and I was sure - it was dead. I braved up enough for a closer look, and I saw that somehow this stupid rat had managed to get it's head stuck as it was (apparently) going after the chicks, and there it died. I ran back in the house to get my daughter to photograph it, and to see what I had seen, just so I had a witness to my story in case the thing came to life and somehow wriggled free before DH came home...

So much for the "go away" and die part. I am convinced these two rats did everything possible with their last dying breaths to put themselves right where I would see them. Kind of a defiant, final, one-finger salute. At least that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.


Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Ah Melanie, you are a woman after my own heart. Since our marriage DH and I have lived in several abodes with mice (thank goodness not RATS!), and I have steadfastly insisted that I don't DO mice. As the daughter of a dietitian, the thought of their germy little feet and disgusting liquid and solid wastes in my cooking, eating and living spaces was totally unacceptable; they had to die. But I don't want to see them and I CERTAINLY don't want to get close enough to their dirty little carcasses to empty spring traps or toss glue traps! Bar bait has worked fairly well for us, too, although there is still occasionally one that doesn't read the package and insists on dying within our space.

melanie said...

I know we don't stand a chance of making a dent in the world rodent population, but it makes me feel good to know I have a partner in this endeavor on the West Coast...

Karin said...

Pardon me, but: holy shit.
You're a much better woman than I am.
I used to only set traps for mice in my yarn shop all the time (well, my husband set the traps in the evening and I'd collect in the morning...). Bet you never knew that, did you.
I think those mice truly were after the chocolate shop next door, but when they saw all the wool they could be nesting in...they went : hmm, cholcolate, wool, chocolate, wool. We'll settle for the wool! But after the first shock of finding out, I was after them let me tell you. They never stood a chance.:)

melanie said...

Yes, but Karin even if they were only mice vs. rats, YOU TOUCHED THE TRAP!! yech, blech, and eewwww! So the respect goes two ways - holy shit back at you!

(And no, I never suspected there were mice in the shop, I never even saw DUST in there...)