When far-flung friends visit in the winter, it’s a quiet time of good food and conversation.
I pulled Becky aside and explained that we’d discovered the tracks of a packrat—probably trying to hide from the winter weather—in the dust on the ranch computer. I explained that if she heard the pitter-patter of little furry feet in the middle of the night—she shouldn’t worry, I was setting a trap.
“Thanks for letting me know,” she said.
Becky headed to her bedroom and I slid the trap under the butcher block in the kitchen.
My wife and I were reading in bed when we heard a distinctive “CLINK” of something that wasn’t supposed to be moving in the kitchen. We looked at each other and nodded. Three paragraphs later…”SNAPPPP!!!”…followed by the sound of thrashing on our linoleum floor.
We looked over the top of our respective books and grinned. I tossed on a robe and headed down the hall toward the kitchen. Just coming around the corner, I saw a struggling packrat jam the trap between the legs of the butcher block. He got a purchase with his paws, then wriggled out from between the jaws and dived behind our refrigerator.
“Oh, great,” I thought.
Packrats are intelligent, persistent and messy little animals. In a matter of days, they can ruin refrigerator motors with urine. The smell is memorable, pungent and could trigger the gag-reflex of a sewer rat. The only difficult to deal with than a trap-wise rodent is a dead one crammed against a warm compressor.
I hurried to the bedroom and explained the situation to my wife. Shaking her head and growling under her breath, she headed for the guest room to let Becky know there was about to be a ruckus in the kitchen.
Becky, another long-time veteran of the packrat/human wars, got up to help.
After a quick strategy meeting, we slid the breadbox down the counter and fanned out on three sides of the refrigerator to prevent the packrat from escaping. Slowly, inch by inch, we moved the refrigerator away from the wall. When there was room, we jumped my rat-catcher dog onto the counter then behind the refrigerator to cover the rear.
All hell broke loose.
The packrat skittered around the bowels of the refrigerator like a bead of water on a sizzling skillet. My dog was snarling and snapping at the appliance’s cracks and crevices. We three humans guarded the remaining sides, ready to commit rodenticide.
“There he is—get ‘im!!!”
“Watch it—I got a tail over here!!!”
“Look out…look out, he’s headed your way!!!”
The panicked rat froze and the kitchen was suddenly silent.
I glanced at Becky on the other side of the refrigerator. Dressed in pretty, flannel pajamas, she was balanced on her bare toes like a martial artist and wielding a fire poker like an avenging sword. Her blue eyes had a white-hot focus and her gentle smile had been replaced by thin-lipped determination. At that moment, she looked like a warrior princess in pajamas.
I knew there was no way that rat would slip by her. The quiet continued—it was time to take the fight to the packrat.
I pulled the refrigerator completely away from the wall and the rat crammed tighter in his cranny. All parties, including my dog, on high-alert, Becky forced the rat out into the open with her fire poker.
Those of you who’ve argued squatter’s rights with a packrat know they are smart, tough and adaptable animals. It’s easy to make a case that along with cockroaches and coyotes, packrats may be among the last creatures left on Earth.
He didn’t make it.
Adrenaline still flowing, we cleaned up our mess. Becky’s face went back to her usual happy, smiling self. Then we had a cup of tea and everybody went to bed.
There were no more disturbances that night and we had an excellent morning with good coffee, conversation and breakfast.
Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. If you’d like to read further tales of the rural American West, click the…’Shaped by the Land’…button.