(Warning: If subjects such as rodents, firearms and any combination thereof bother you, please cease reading here and go find Dr. Gott.)So weíre sitting there, my girl and I, watching television late one night when she taps me on the knee and whispers, "Thereís a mouse looking at us from the stairs."
I looked up and sure enough, there was a little gray member of the species Mus musculus just sitting there, checking us out as if we were some kind of circus sideshow or something.
Now, anyone who has read this column for long enough knows I hate rodents of any kind. I live in the country (relatively speaking) and in a 160-year-old house that is all beset with places rodents can slip in and take up residence.
So here I am, watching King of Queens and thereís a mouse on the stair watching King of the Rez or so he thought. On my lap is a sleeping ball of calico fur I call Patches, so I gently lifted her up, to which she complained with a whine, and walked toward the stair. The mouse thought that balding, bespectacled, overweight figure carrying a ball of calico feline death warrant was not a great show anymore, and vanished into a dark shadow at the top of the stairs.
I put Patches down where the mouse had been, and she looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and went to her room.
About half an hour later, I was back on the sofa and I just happened to look down and there, right in front of the sofa (hereís the part to avoid if youíre squeamish!) was a single back leg of a mouse and some other part I couldnít quite identify, and nearby, a very satisfied-looking calico cat with a smug look on her face, which seemed to say, "What can I do for you next, Tonto?"
Now, my rodent troubles did not end there. I had been hearing several larger versions of the mouse, this time the species Rattus rattus, galloping through the ceiling. I do mean galloping now: They sounded like a series of Kentucky Derby races.
I tried traps set with peanut butter to no avail. I tried everything I could think of, they were too smart.
But they were also cocky. Thatís the thing I hate about rats. Theyíre bold and cocky. Around dusk, almost every night, Iíd hear them gallivant through the house, across the ceiling in the workshop, and into the carport. If I turned on the carport light, Iíd see them in there, sitting on a joist, looking cocky.
They turned down tuna fish. They turned down chocolate, grape jelly, corn and New York strip. I was at my witís end.
Now, donít forget, I was raised in the country and live in the country. I also live on a Reservation, and they say, deep in the heart of every Indian man, no matter how seemingly meek or timid, thereís a little bit of Crazy Horse, trying to get out.
I had, in short, had enough.
I got my grandpaís old .22 single-shot rifle out of the closet and loaded it with the proverbial "rat shot." Some people call it "bird shot" but I wasnít going after cardinals, dadgumit. I was going after bold, cocky Rattus rattus mocking me from a two-by-four joist in my carport, and I had enough.
I warned my neighbors that if they heard a shot just around dusk, donít worry about it. Where else can you do that in America, eh?
A few days passed, and at last, there he was. I was putting a box fan in the carport for storage and I saw him. Sitting on a joist. Looking at me. Mocking me. A spiteful, toothy grin on his face, his hairless tail hanging down behind him.
Iím not the great American hunter. I donít shoot deer, ducks or quail, though I did a little of the latter in my younger days. But we all hate rats, donít we? Especially if theyíre in our homes and theyíre bigger than our calico kitties.
Iím not a hunter, but Iím a pretty good shot.
So when I tell you the rifle went pow! and the rat was flung off the joist, flipped three times, fell and hit the carport floor then got up and ran across the floor, under the rear corner and disappeared I ainít just whistliní Dixie, Cuz.
My neighbor came over to see what was going on. I figure he looked up and saw me bringing the fan in, then looked away, and the next time he looked up I was standing there with a smoking gun, so he figured either there was a gunfight brewing or I got him.
I explained in a quavering voice what had happened, and his eyes grew wide.
"I canít live here anymore," I said. "There be monsters here!"
Five minutes later, I was calling my girl on my cell phone to tell her that we would be moving to some place where there are no monsters, and when she answered the call by saying, "Hello?" I saw Mr. Rat No. 2 come out of hiding to see what all the fuss was about.
"Iíll Ė call Ė you Ė right Ė back," I whispered, put the phone down and got my gun.
I ainít bragginí or nothiní but dang Iím a good shot!
After disposing of the evidence regarding Mr. Rat No. 2, I was feeling a little better about things and convinced myself that the "rat shot" in the first round must have been a dud and just didnít fire properly.
They say that rats and cockroaches would likely be the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust, and I guess that may be true. They are certainly terrible creatures that make my life miserable.
But, as long as Iíve got my grandpaís trusty old Winchester .22 rifle, some "rat shot" and a little Crazy Horse running through my veins, I can cope.