Rattus annoya

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Rats! Annoying and dirty!

Submitted: November 09, 2016

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Submitted: November 09, 2016

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Most people have and aversion for rats, the plague carriers, but at first Henry really didn’t have an aversion for them. When he was a lad it was his job to feed the hens and mice used rob the wheat, but his loyal cat, Bib was always with him. The name is hardly original but he was a kid and cat did have a bib! When he found a mouse nest with babies, Bib turned up her nose, so Mum was called in to deal with them! She boiled the jug and poured scalding water over them! In retrospect Henry reckoned a stomp with a big boot would have done the trick just as well.

Older, Henry made arrangements to stay at a musterer’s hut on the banks of Fred Stream, because Hooks and he were going hunting Thar high in the mountains. Musterer’s hut are generally basic, even spartan but the pair knew to expect nothing and weren’t surprised about this one. After a fry-up outside, they rolled out their sleeping bags on the floor, blew out the candle and settled down for the night. Henry was out to like a light! The next morning though Hooks complained that he didn’t sleep a wink because of the ‘bloody rats’! Apparently they played a game of football with and empty spaghetti can and the spectators ran over the prone sleeping, or not so sleeping, bodies! Henry was in disbelief because he thought he couldn’t sleep through all that racket, but in his trusty wagon, the frying pan, supposedly filled with fat, had been mined down to the bare metal. Rats had gained entry through the little triangle window in the door! It was only open a fraction! The next night, the rats came out to play and neither of them managed a wink of sleep!

Back home in his hut at Goblin Woods, Henry sat in his kitchen with his feet on the coal range.

Hang on, you want to know about Goblin Woods? Bill and Mrs. Matches built three huts before they built their retirement. They named the property Goblin Woods because it was a wooded area beside the river. A place that looked like the home on goblins. Henry kept his eye on the widowed Mrs. Matches and rented the three huts. The first hut was a kitchen/sitting room with a bathroom attached, the middle hut was where Henry worked on his possum skins, and the third was his bedroom.

Right, so Henry with his feet on the coal range, reading a book and listening to his radio had a long carving knife at the ready. Winter was on the way and mice wanted to warm up beside the coal range where they had a little hole at the edge of the fire surround. He put biscuit crumbs there and when out of the corner of his eye he saw a mouse take a nibble, the knife would swish down like a samurai sword! Disposal was easy, they were cremated!

One evening above the chatter of the radio, he thought he heard footsteps in the ceiling and within a couple of days, he knew that rats were partying up there and there seemed to be a busload of them! They weren’t interested in the baited rabbit trap he set, so he decided on other arrangements. He filled a bowl, about the size his head would fit into, with flour and put it in the ceiling. In the morning it was empty, he repeated the exercise the next evening and again it was empty in the morning. The next evening he filled the bowl with rock cyanide and topped it off with an inch of flour. The next morning the bowl was completely empty, but the rats were gone! He never found a dead rat, nor did he smell a rotting one and they never came back!

A year or two later, Henry had shifted to his small farm and decided to raise chooks in the hope of an egg or two. ‘Cackle-berries,’ his father used to call them. Henry noticed that one hen was being picked on by the others, establishing pecking order, he supposed because often when one hen is being bullied, the others just keep on and on, sometimes even killing it! But just the same he was suspicious, so out he went one night with a torch and saw two rats! They were taking turns to hop on the back of the chook, sucking blood from the back of her head. They were not concerned at all about the torchlight! Henry swore, but under his breath, and went inside to fetch his .22 rifle. Mags refused point blank to hold the light, the fear of rodents was too much for her! He didn’t mind holding the torch and aiming, he had done it plenty of times, it was just a bit trickier.  He was concerned though about ricochet in the corrugated iron henhouse. He aimed for the head of the mounted rat and the bullet did hit the wall, but the force was reduced because it had passed through the head of the rat! Not celebrating, he worked the bolt rapidly, ready to fire again but the other rat was gone! It was just a bit awkward holding the rifle and the light to see where it had gone. He eventually located it again, standing on its hind legs, red-eying him! This time the shot didn’t need to be so accurate, he aimed mid-ships and the animal was driven backwards! There were no more rats in the henhouse, but Henry decided to go out of chooks.

The rats were different in Africa, they were bigger, slower and as black as an IS fighter’s heart! The first one he saw was in a drawer that housed some of Henry’s nursery gear. Mags’ ears were sharply attuned to snuffling sounds and the pressure was on Henry to ‘do something about it’! Meantime she scarpered to a different part of the house! He took his trusty measuring stick and opened the drawer ever so slowly, bit by bit. He expected the animal to leap out at any moment and had no plan to how to tackle it. But the big black rat was too busy snuffling into some tree seed Henry had stored there. There was no room to swipe at it, so instead aimed as if he was playing snooker, and smacked the animal with as much force as he dared! It ate no more tree seed!

The next one was more of a challenge. It had been nibbling at bananas that were sitting on top of the fridge! Sure there was a hole in the opposite wall where it could come from, but Henry didn’t think it could shinny up an enamel fridge, or run back up the wall to exit via the hole! It could! He glimpsed it run to hide beneath the sink bench, and as Vai was there, he had her keep an eye that it didn’t escape while he brought the Landrover and a hose to attempt to gas it! Hopeless, the kitchen was shut up for the hour, with the vehicle was idling puffing noxious fumes. No rat was found! The next day more bananas were nibbled and again Henry saw it dive for the sink bench! He blocked the hole in the wall, fetched his trusty measuring stick and went on a hunt, Vai wanted to help, but when she saw the rat, she clung on to so he couldn’t swing his stick! Older sister Upendo was braver and she helped move the gas bottle and the soda crate to see if the rat appeared. It did and Henry swung at it but again it ran behind the sink bench. He claimed a hit though! They gave up, but next morning, the rat’s tail was just visible in the gap between the wall and the sink bench. Quietly Henry was there with his stick, but the tail had not moved! Yep it was stone dead, Henry’s blow was indeed a fatal one.

And finally, this is no fib, there were witnesses, friends were staying and Mags heard the tell-tale snuffling among the cartons stored under the stairwell. Henry had to ‘deal with it’ while the visitors and Mags stood on either chairs or the table with expectations similar to those of the spectators at the Colosseum. His stick was at hand and Henry began moving the cartons, one by one, as the snuffling continued and grew louder.  Suddenly there was a flash of black and Henry’s hand came down in a classic Bruce Lee karate chop! The rat lay there dead!

Henry nonchalantly brushed the dust off his trousers!


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