Scott Anthony: Rats!

By Scott Anthony

Springtime has arrived here at the Anthony Organic Dog Ranch with the fanfare of increased animal activity. I made my way to the garden shed below the deck. It’s a concrete bunker that adjoins the foundation with a fiberglass roof and a wooden door. I popped open the door and peered into the dark at my collection of lawn tools, mower and edger, weedwacker, clippers, bags of grass seed and fertilizers until I noticed that everything was in worse disarray than usual. A grass seed bag had been knocked from the shelf and had spilled all over the lawn mower and the room smelled of gasoline.

I reached in and pulled on the handle of the mower and, BOOM, a huge rat skittered out from underneath, went right between my legs and out across the patio. It happened so fast that I didn’t shudder until he had disappeared into the grass. I don’t tolerate rats very well, but I steeled myself and went back in to remove all the tools. The mess was terrible, but what was worse was the damage the rat had done to my mower. The grass catcher had been unraveled to make a nest and there were actual tooth marks where the vermin had chewed at the plastic engine housing. I didn’t want to deal with the mess without a particle mask on, so I went to the garage to get one, grabbing the wet-vac on the way back. It was worse than I’d thought. The rat had chewed the spark-plug wire almost all the way through and the nest was so ensconced under the engine area that it took me nearly an hour with a coat-hanger and the vacumn to get it cleaned out. Rat droppings were everywhere so after vacumning I took a gallon of bleach and scrubbed all the concrete surfaces.

I don’t like killing anything and don’t even use Round-Up on the weeds because of my dogs, who sometimes chew on grass in the yard, but I knew I had to get serious with disease-carriers like rats. Home Depot had the plastic trays of rat poison and I bought a couple of boxes, went home and placed them on the shelves as per the instructions and after a week, I went back down and checked the shed to find a successful result.
Under the mower lay a really big dead rat. I picked him up with a shovel and buried him a few feet away from the compost heap. The dogs will not bother this site because I park my wheelbarrow over it. Back at the shed, I replaced the sparkplug wires on the mower and patched a hole in the grass catcher but I didn’t know then what else was to go wrong. I drove down to the gas station to fill up the gas cans and as I loaded them into my van and after topping them off, I noticed some wetness underneath and on closer inspection found tooth marks on the bottoms of both cans. Unbelievably, the rat had chewed through the gas cans.

The attendant at the station gave me some garbage bags and I was able to contain the leak and get up to Auto Zone to pick up some new cans, then home where I transferred the gas. Later that evening I was just settling in to read the newspaper when I heard a fluttering noise coming from the wood-stove next to me.
A bird was looking at me through the glass doors like a man at a horse track betting window. I got my camera, opened the house door and then swung the stove doors apart. An Ash-Throated Sparrow I think he was, he zoomed right out like he’d hit the exacta. It was a photo-finish.