Friday, March 2, 2012

Carnage in the Backyard

It all started with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Child #2 and I were reading the passage where a rat named Justin discusses human hatred for rats and how rats are hunted, trapped and killed.

"That's just like dad," my son told me, big brown eyes wide.

"What do you mean?"

"Dad was looking for those traps to kill rats. He said he wanted the ones that would kill them instantly."

"Do you mean mice?" I asked drawing my feet up and looking suspiciously around the room.

"No." He shook his head and I could tell this was not a case of word confusion.

Here's the skinny. I'm terrified of rats. Not just a little jump, scream and giggle terrified. It's much more serious than that. An unexpected rat encounter will cause me to hyperventilate and lose all rational thought.

When we lived in NYC I once plucked my daughter out of her stroller and ran the other direction, leaving behind my husband, the diaper bag and an enormous rat who was giving me the stink eye.

"The rat would have run away," my husband insisted.

"Or it would have jumped in the stroller and chewed off Child #1's face."

When it comes to me and rats, there's a low occurrence of rational thought.

Here's the rest of the skinny.
Gateway to Ratopia

We live in an old inner city neighborhood, filled with big trees, historic homes, pretty parks and rats. The neighborhood's rat problem is our dirty, little secret.

A friend of mine who lives in a tasteful, elegantly appointed tudor tells a cringe-inducing story of hearing scratching noises inside a drawer, opening it up and having a rat jump out.

Dinner party discussion topics have touched on rats in walls, rats climbing out of toilets and I've seen the ocassional drowned rat in the street. But until that moment in Child #2's bed, they'd all just been cautionary tales. Suddenly, it felt personal.

I confronted my husband later that evening. He shook his head. "He wasn't supposed to tell you. I can't believe he didn't keep it a secret."

Child #2's lack of secret keeping skills was not what I wanted to focus on. I needed details and I got them. The rat  was found in our backyard, dead and bloody. Good, I thought. Something out there is killing rats. And that was the last time I thought about it until yesterday when I was blithely walking through the backyard and came upon vermin carnage.

It might have been a rat, but given its mangled and bloody state it was hard to tell. Later in the day I ventured back outside but the carcass was gone, disappeared as though my backyard is inhabited by a group of vermin hitmen skilled in the art of 'disappearing bodies'.

Some people might be disturbed to discover their back yard is a killing field where misshapen, bloody animal corpses disappear in a matter of hours. Not me! It feels like I have a guardian angel in my backyard. My guardian angel might have a ferocious appetite for mid-sized rodents and the personality of a serial killer but really, what's the point of quibbling over small details?

P.S. Posting the pictures for this blog was *almost* more than I could manage. Immediately upon finishing I closed the lid on every toilet in my house.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like you have a neighborhood cat or hawk who's dealing with your rats. And that one on the toilet seat is HUGE!!!

Beylit said...

That picture freaked me right the hell out and when I get home I am shutting the lids on my toilets. THEY COME OUT OF TOILETS?!!

So we live on a golf course in Texas. We have always had field mice come in the house, but they were tiny and almost cute, and a manageable size for our one cat that is a mouser.

This summer during the drought and almost hitting the record for consecutive 100+ days (something like two months worth, we missed it by throwing in one 99 day in there before going with another month of 100+)we attracted rats. I wanted to pretend that the scratching I heard in the walls was just tiny mice, which freak me out but I can handle, and not rats.

Then one night I was home alone and I heard the scrabbling noise in the kitchen. I had left the spice cabinet open and something was in there. I quickly swept all of the bottles out of the first two shelves as the culprit was on the third shelf getting into the brown sugar. I proceeded to slam the cabinet shut, and then tape it shut to trap the creature and then call my husband in hysterics.

I listened to the thing chew through my shelves trying to escape its impending doom for an hour while waiting for my husband to arrive.

I was still under the delusion this was a very fierce mouse until my husband for some insane reason decided to show me the corpse. The rat as a good 8 inches without its tail, and I proceeded to scream and cry and run in circles and chastise the cats and the dog for not protecting the house from such vermin.

A good deal of snap traps and poison later there has not been one seen or heard in over a month.

But I totally get where you are coming from.

Ross M Kitson said...

Awww... I think our rats are smaller in the UK (you Americans... always wiv de bigger...). Toe-curling reading, although I can't help but think of the fat rat in Ratatouille. Cute.

Morgan said...

Ewwwwww!!!!!! That toilet pic is just too much... *cringes*

Ahem. Anyway, I loved Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. ;) And wanted to say thanks for your follow and came to reciprocate! You have a fab blog ;)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I am cringing just looking at that photo. I would freak out too. I react the same way to roaches. Unfortunately we go way back. Glad you have a rat killing guardian angel.

Scarlett said...

So, Johanna, the picture of that rat sitting on the toilet's ledge is just too much! I can think of little worse than being greeted by one of THOSE in my bathroom... in the dark... when my brain is still half asleep!

We live out in the country. The occasional rat does show up on our doorstep after the outside mousers get a hold of them. Though ours are much smaller and tend to frequent the hen house than the big house! Here's hoping it stays that way.

My son begged us for a rat, as a pet. We finally caved. I do admit now, after taking care of "Daisy" on her deathbed with midnight feedings through baby bottles, that I grew attached to that particular rodent. Whenever her creepy little tail wrapped around my finger as I soothed her with liquid medicine, I just tried to think of my son's breaking heart. He was a big fan of the "I, Freddy" series, featuring a talking hamster. Kind of the same. Only not. *g*

Johanna Garth said...

Alex, I hadn't thought of a hawk.

Beylit, you are MUCH braver than I am when it comes to rodents.

Ross, the bigger thing is just to hide out deeper insecurities ;)

Hi Morgan, thanks for stopping by. I loved the book too.

Jenny, strangely, I'm fine with roaches.

Scarlett, pet rats don't bother me like the ferocious and oversized wild ones do.

Angela Cothran said...

I'm PETRIFIED of rats and mice too!!! Even NIMH won't change my mind.

The Bookworm said...

oh no, no no!!! ewwwww!!! That last photo makes my skin crawl.

We live in a wooded area as well, and luckily there's hawks who seem to be taking care of any rats and mice, but the bad part is I can't leave Diego outside unnatended. Especially during the summer months, when we've got him outside, after a little while we can see the hawks circling our house above, checking out their 'lunch'.

Botanist said...

I could do with that corpse-disposal service around here. Even with our dog and all our cats, we still find the occasional rat. Sometimes alive, and sometimes just left on the path as a present from our adoring pets :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

These creatures are surely disgusting and disturbing on SO many levels.

I live in an urban city and I know there are rats lurking, but thankfully I don't see them because if I did...

Also I live in a condo off street level, so vermin making there way up to a higher floor isn't common. Thank GOD!

Johanna Garth said...

Angela, I'm with you!

Naida, oh no! Poor Diego! That's so scary.

Botanist, if I knew what was disposing I'd be happy to send it over.

Michael, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that the mice population of chicago is less hardy than ours!

T. L. Cooper said...

I don't particularly like rats or mice, but I don't think one would frighten me either. In college, I once found one (rat or large mouse, I'm not sure which) in my close hamper. I opened the hamper to see its little eyes staring up at me. I couldn't bring myself to kill it, so I took an old gown, wrapped it around it and carried it to the outside door of the residence hall (luckily I lived near the door) and put it just outside the door. It watched me go back inside and was still sitting there when I glanced back before closing the second door. I never saw it again. I must confess that even though I wasn't scared of it, I was creeped out enough that I threw the gown in the trash.
Now, snakes, on the other hand, I can't handle in any form, even pictures or described in books...

Sarah Tokeley said...

When I lived in London, I'd see them every night running through the tunnels on the underground stations. I thought that had de-sensitised me - but, ugh, that last picture? Yeuch!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The house I grew up in resided on the edge of the city and alongside farms, so we saw lots of those big rats running around. We also had a cat who was an excellent hunter. Tiger would leave pieces-parts all over the place! I never went out barefoot because of that. Oh, and we had giant slugs, so I didn't want to step on those, either.

Christine Murray said...

Ugh, I'm completely the same. I once saw a rat in my parents house and I literally froze in shock (it was walking calmly away from me I should add). Until then I thought being frozen to the spot was like hand wringing - something that happened in books but not in real life.

Tamara Narayan said...

As a zookeeper, I had to feed frozen rats to the owls and raptors. They came in a big, plastic bag and we had to pry a couple off the clump and let them thaw.

But that was easy compared to setting the mega-sized, old fashioned rat-traps every night before we left. Those babies could break your finger.