Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are © David Ritchie and may not be used without my permission.
I have had many rodent “visits’ in my time, far too many. They’ve eaten the wiring off a tractor, chewed the seat on my motorcycle, the wiring above my photo studio (almost burned it down), my custom motorcycle boots and other leather apparel, stored books- the list goes on.
The wildest rodent story I have happened exactly as I will tell it here.
I live in an old country house on a farm just outside of a small town. About 20 years ago the farm next door was sold to a developer, one of those cretins who would rather ruin good farmland than build on empty town lots. The land was left sitting, the weeds took over- who needs food? The barn sat empty for many years. Only it wasn’t quite empty- the rats moved in and prospered. Eventually, the cretin had the barn torn down so that it could be replaced with ugly houses. The rats moved on.
They moved over a few fields to my house. We heard noises in the walls at night, scurrying sounds in the attic. I discovered holes chewed through baseboards in my office the perfect image of a typical Disney cartoon mouse (rat) hole. I found rat crap on the kitchen counter. They avoided traps like the plague, a plague I imagined them carrying in their flea-infested mangy pelts.
One hot summer night lying in my second-floor bedroom, I wake up hearing a gnawing noise at the bottom of the stairs. I knew that it was a rat trying to chew through the door to gain access to the second floor, where it could bite our faces and crap on the pillows while we slept. I was angry, very angry.
Now, I must confess that I sleep commando (naked). I have legally registered firearms, so I grab the .22 rifle (the 12 gauge smoothbore would do too much damage inside the house) and head downstairs to put Mickey in his grave. The f*cker scurries into my office, runs into his Disney-fashioned rat hole and stops. I mean he stops in his tracks with his ugly rat ass and his ugly rat tail dangling out the hole. I assume the prone position for the best shot angle. The bare-arsed sniper. I calmly fired a round into his ass. Bad move. Wounded, he scurried up the inside of the wall, screaming his wounded rat song. I squeezed off several more rounds through the plaster, tracing his path up the wall.
Yeah, I shot the feckin’ rat, and I got him good. Too good.
I heard a voice and look behind me. There’s my wife looking at me lying prone, buck naked on the office floor with a smoking rifle. “What the hell are you doing, David?”
The dead rat stench lingered for months.
Paper Route Memories
sleep pierced by hateful alarm clock
gritty-eyed stumble out the door
into a world filled with dark
crickets gossip dogs argue
I am the only human alive
paper bundle at the corner
the unborn waiting to be delivered
will the count be right
will I have the correct amount
or will my newest customer be shorted
cut the cord releasing the scent
of fresh ink on pulp paper
that soon blackens hands
rolling and tucking each copy
like loaves of bread stacked on end
in sturdy steel bike carrier
heavy steering hard pedalling eases
with each jaunty toss of paper to porch
as dawn slowly turns on the light
hawk-shaped kite climbs in air
tethered to youngster on top of hill
magnetic whoops of joy draw another
run up the hill- let me fly it!
soon there were four
wind shift kite falters
run draw in string don’t let it crash
learning things they cannot yet name