Yesterday’s pest, today’s Halloween decor

I need to warn you before you read this column, that it might not pass the “breakfast test.” The breakfast test was a tool we used over the years in the newsroom to decide if the photo on page one was too upsetting, for any reason. In other words, if it put you off your breakfast, it wouldn’t run.
It began when my house phones suddenly had no dial tone. I replaced my old phones but still no tone, so I called our provider. As I pushed or said the long litany of instructions/choices, I fervently hoped that the problem would be the provider’s fault. Of course, it wasn’t. So we arranged for a serviceperson to come out and solve the mystery.
After he explored our outside wiring and replaced something, somewhere, he reported, very diplomatically, to me that something had chewed through the wires and he had found a dead field mouse near the electrical box. Without missing a beat, I said, “Oh yeah, we have rats everywhere outside.”
Once I had copped to knowledge of, and lack of squeamishness about, rats, he confessed that what he had found was actually a mummified rat in the electrical box. Apparently, some folks get extremely upset with him should he suggest that they have rats.
I, on the other hand, am well aware of their presence and the reason for it. My dogs chase them constantly, and catch one occasionally (probably when it is in its dotage and using a walker). Finding rat carcasses around the backyard is something I’ve almost gotten used to.
But before you freak out and ask me harshly if I am completely unaware of Vector Control, let me say this. My husband diligently sets traps every weekend and has, in the past, caught up to a dozen of the nasty vermin at a swipe. We don’t want poison because of our rat-chasing dogs. I believe the rats are basically under control, but we know they will keep breeding and keep coming back to our yard, in spite of the dogs. We know this because we are the proud owners of a 24-hour rat buffet.
My husband’s hobby is to see how many different varieties of odd, semi-tropical, fruit- and nut-bearing trees he can grow. He’s very good at it, hence we always have something fruiting and it is always something the rats find delicious. Please don’t mention this to our neighbors.
Meanwhile, the phone repair man took me out to show me the mummified rat. It was larger than I anticipated and did, indeed, look like someone was playing a prank with a fake one. We haven’t figured out exactly how it got so thoroughly dried out, but the result was rather interesting, if you have a strong stomach.
The repair man wouldn’t touch it, but I donned my garden gloves and forcefully extracted said rat from among the electrical wires. Most of him came out. You could see his entrails, his spine, his teeth and his eyes, all wonderfully preserved. I decided it was my newest Halloween decoration, but my family suggested I was twisted and voted otherwise. Big babies.
I have him sequestered in a less noticeable spot now, as a dire warning to all his cousins. Eat somewhere else unless you fancy becoming a holiday décor item. I’m sure they’ve noticed.

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