I first saw the rat on Labor Day as I was cutting the grass. It was skittering along the gutter across the street. I paused because I wasn’t sure what it was at first. It didn’t have a fluffy long tail, and it didn’t move like a squirrel. It was too large to be a chipmunk. When it jumped up onto the curb, I saw a ratty profile.
The next day I talked to one of my neighbors on the phone to alert them that we had a rat in the neighborhood. Now, I live in a nice neighborhood. Well kept houses. Clean yards. I had never seen anything like this before. I got off the phone and headed to the bathroom. I happened to glance out the window and saw a rat scurrying along the side of my storage building. Where was this thing coming from?
About a week later, my neighbor across the street told me she had seen it running along the east side of my storage building. She thought the rat might be living in the woodpile next door. It had never occurred to me, but she was probably right. That was when I declared war on the rat.
I borrowed a live trap from one of the neighbors and baited it with peanut butter. The next morning, the peanut butter was gone, but the trap hadn’t been set off. I surmised that the trap was too large and whatever ate the bait didn’t weigh enough to set off the trap. A friend adjusted the trap that night and we re-set it behind the storage building. The next morning I went to see if I had caught the rat.
Instead of the rat, I had caught a very angry and frantic gray squirrel. “Oh, no!” I said. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry!” I called as I rushed over to the trap to release the squirrel, who flew up into a nearby maple tree. That squirrel was about as mad as I have ever seen a squirrel. He scolded me. He ripped me a new one. Later in the day, I came out of the house to pick up my neighbor’s dog for a walk, and that same squirrel, I’m sure, was in the spruce tree out front. He must have recognized me because he scolded me all over again.
We re-baited the trap and set it up again that night. The next morning, I peeked around the corner of the storage building to see if I had finally caught the rat. There was something in the trap all right. It was black and had two white stripes on its back. What was I going to do now? I couldn’t leave it there, but I sure wasn’t going to stroll over to it to open the trap.
I went next door and knocked on the front door. “Don’t let your dog out the back door,” I said when the man of the house opened up. “I was trying to catch that rat, but I got a skunk this morning instead.” He looked at me calmly and said, “I’ll take care of it.” I could have kissed him!
I watched from the house as he and his young son carried a blanket through the yard and disappeared behind the storage building. That was the last I saw of them until later in the day. “Did you have any problems?” I asked. He grinned. “What does that mean?” He proceeded to tell me how his son got nailed while they were trying to free the skunk from the trap. I was horrified, but he seemed to think it was a big adventure. I told him I had a gift card for pizza to thank him for taking care of my problem. “I guess you’d better share it with your little boy,” I said.
It was a bonding experience with my neighbors. I never told them it was their wood pile the doggone rat was probably living in.