A tale of two traumas

By Mir
May 29, 2010

So things have been pretty uneventful for the last 24 hours.


When we last left off, we were busy packing up to head to South Carolina, gosh darnit, sickness and goopy eyes be damned. There was just one thing we had to take care of before we left, and that was an exterminator visit. It took a few days to schedule, but Licorice continued to be haunted by the mystery creature under the house even though Otto thought he’d sealed up all access to the crawlspace, and I remained convinced that there was a very crafty possum, and possibly crafty possum offspring, down there. So we waited for the Proper Authorities to come and say, “Yes ma’am, we’ll just set this humane live trap and get your visitor out of here.”

It was such a good plan, too.

The good news is that the nice young exterminator man was friendly and polite and extremely apologetic.

See, it turns out not to be a possum.

According to the exterminator man, he’s seen this hundreds of times before. And he doesn’t want me to be alarmed, see, because it’s very common here in the south and there’s nothing we could’ve done (other than have all access to the crawl space and eaves sealed up with galvinized steel mesh, which is what they would now do), but, Mrs. Otto, I’m very sorry, but what you have here is rats.


Roof rats, to be precise, and although he’s seen them in crawlspaces before, they really do prefer the roof and attic spaces—hence the name—and he just wanted to check up top as well, just to make sure they hadn’t migrated upwards yet.

I revived myself with smelling salts while he tromped through the attic, and declared it free of rats (oh thank God). But did we know we had squirrels up there?

I was starting to hate the exterminator.

He wrote me out an estimate, complete with a breakdown of what all they would do, and their guarantee, and a diagram of all the places on the house perimeter where RATS RATS OHMYDEARLORDRATS can access the house, and then he told me what it would all cost, and I began to mentally calculate whether it might just be cheaper to burn the house down. But then he said that they could come back first thing Tuesday morning to get it all done and my decision was made for me.

“Listen, buddy,” I said, grabbing him by the front of his shirt. “We’re leaving town this afternoon and I am NEVER COMING BACK AGAIN if I know rats are chewing away all weekend while we’re gone. You find a crew to do it today or I’m putting you down in the crawlspace with them!” Suddenly he had a crew that could come out in an hour.

[Note: I didn’t really grab him, or threaten him. I just looked really pitiful, and maybe begged a little. And gave him my credit card number.]

And so it came to pass that before we left, a couple of sturdy young men arrived at my house with fistsful of rat traps (like mouse traps, only much more ginormous) and rolls and rolls of impenetrable mesh. I fully expect that after we left they broke in and stole our television, because I’d already made it clear I was only coming home to set fire to the place, anyway.

So there was that.

Then we drove to South Carolina and set up camp and started to relax. Because… fresh air! And camping! And NO RATS! We would enjoy the weekend, dammit!

Part of the reason we came to this particular spot is because Otto has a friend who camps here regularly, who is here with his son (who is just a little younger than Monkey). And Boatguy also has… a boat! (I know, you totally did not see that coming!) So we got all set up and Boatguy swung by to report that his son had gone home with his mom, so it was just him, but we could still hang out, and he’d come by later. Fine, good. After dinner he showed up to ask if we wanted to go on a “sunset cruise.”

So we walked down to his site, where his motorboat was tied up on the water’s edge, and we all loaded up and got all the small creatures into life jackets, and began motoring around the lake. The children were positively GIDDY with it all; I sat with them up on benches right along the nose of the boat, and they both did their best Titanic impressions off the front (their love will go oooooooooooooon!) and begged Boatguy to drive faster, faster! Licorice sat in my lap with her ears streaming out behind her, silently asking why we hate her so much. She does not have a need for speed, apparently.

Boatguy and Otto sat in the two captain’s chairs behind us, chatting and trying to engage the kids in a bit of learning as we sped along. (“What do you notice about those osprey nests?” quizzed Boatguy. “They are filled with ospreys?” Chickadee helpfully offered. “No, no!” said Monkey. “They are made of STICKS!” My gifted children make me SO PROUD.)

At one point we slowed to a crawl to go under a bridge that had signage indicating that you had to go under at idle speed. There were many ropes hanging from its underside, and Boatguy explained to the kids that many folks will come out to fish at night and use one of those ropes to tie up while they do so. The kids half-listened and then started their own what-ifs. What if they grabbed the ropes? What if they each grabbed two ropes and pulled, could they lift the boat out of the water? What if someone used ALL the ropes? Etc.

And then we were back out on the open water, at full-throttle, and it was forgotten.

We stopped at a small island where we let Licorice off the leash and she picked around for a couple of minutes before realizing that HEY, she was off the leash, and then she merrily romped through the mud until Otto scooped her up when it was time to go. Know what’s more fun than a speed boat? A speed boat with a muddy, wet dog in it!

So then it was getting dark and it was time to head back, and as we approached the bridge again, the kids again began speculating about WHAT IF WE GRABBED THE ROPES, and as Boatguy cut the motor he leaned in towards them and said, very seriously, “Okay, guys. I want you to grab a rope as we go under, and hold on tight.”

I… I don’t know what the hell he was thinking. Otto says he thinks Boatguy thought he could stop the boat under the bridge, or that maybe he just didn’t realize Chickadee was tall enough to actually reach one. I say Boatguy was maybe just not thinking at all. Either way, I know he didn’t mean any harm, which is why I didn’t kill him with my bare hands when it was all over.

The boat began to glide under the bridge, and both kids stood to grab a rope. Monkey missed, because he’s short.

Chickadee did not miss. She grabbed a rope… and became airborne, swinging towards the back of the boat.

I didn’t even have time to think; was on my feet, arm shot around her, and as she and I crashed into the corner of the windshield behind my seat, both Otto and Boatguy were on their feet, grabbing her as she was fairly flung out of my arms and dragged behind me. They stopped her, and then we were on the other side of the bridge, and my 12-year-old had not managed to swing out of the boat, Tarzan-style, although she was fairly shaken up.

Boatguy was apologetic, and Otto tried to laugh it off, but once I confirmed that Chickadee was, you know, still with us, I had to just sit there and breathe very deeply and try not to scream for a few minutes.

I would like to tell you that it was because the whole thing was so upsetting, but actually it was because when we crashed into the windshield, I took her entire body weight on my forearm. So I was now cradling my throbbing arm in my lap, afraid to move it, because I was seriously concerned that it might be broken.

But, hey! Happy ending! Chickadee didn’t fall out of the boat and I just look like I was in a bad bar brawl. There’s a four-inch long black lump by my elbow, but the bones appear to be intact. Thankfully. That would’ve been a pretty sucky way to break in (get it? get it??) our first camping trip of the season, otherwise.

We came back to our site and the kids had a snack and went to bed, and Otto and I read a little bit and then went to bed, and then there was a big thunderstorm and it turns out that the dog is afraid of storms. So after listening to Licorice whine in her crate for an hour, we let her get in our bed, whereupon we spent the next few hours listening to the storm and being nervously licked.

This morning I am very, very tired. And bruised. And well-licked.

And still, curiously, having kind of a great time. Possibly because the alternative is, you know, RATS.


  1. Jones

    OMG you do know how to party don’t you? wow. and this is why i keep coming back to read your blog, it’s never dull. thanks for sharing!

  2. Megan

    augh!!! We had a rat once. A rat. Once. And I STILL have squicky feelings up my spine when I even HEAR rat. Scuze me. Must go mop my house with bleach and then find a nice corner to sit in for a while.

    Note: I’m sure your critters will be gone when you get back.

  3. KarenP

    Wow, i hope the rest of the weekend is uneventful. Have a good time.

  4. Heather

    *shudder* I recoil at even the idea of rats. How gross! Glad you could escape from it a while to be eaten by bugs and beaten by boat windows :P

  5. MomCat

    As Tolkien said, “It’s a dangerous business going out your front door.” It also brings to mind the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

  6. Debra

    OMG! What a trip! I am so LMAO. Partly because this is too funny to make up and partly because I’m about to have a nervous breakdown, (family visiting, high school graduation, did I mention family in my house?) But it’s still better than having RATS!

  7. StephLove

    Every time I see a small gray creature running down the driveway out of the corner of my eye, I think “Rat!” and then I look at it and it’s a squirrel. We moved from the city to the suburbs eight years ago.

    I think we do actually have a rat or two in the woodpile near the compost. Something that tunnels anyway. I have never seen it.

  8. Katherine

    I thought we had mice in the attic once – I actually SAW the creature, so I knew it wasn’t a squirrel, but then when I went to the hardware store and described said creature, the guy said it must be a rat – it was too large for a mouse. Yikes. So he sold me rat traps – much larger than mouse traps – and also, MUCH harder to set, as in I was worried I was going to end up snapping my fingers (or falling through the attic ceiling) trying to set it up there. Next step was a live trap. We caught several over the course of a week and when DH took one in to the biology teacher to feed to his snake – it turns out it wasn’t a rat afterall, but a vole, which is evidently even bigger than a rat. YIKES! But we are now rodent free, for several years now, thank goodness!

  9. RuthWells

    Oh dear. Fear I may have jinxed you with my comment yesterday about the pinworms. Forgive me?

  10. MelissaB

    We’ve had fruit rats in our roof fall into the voids of walls a couple of times. Ir’s really gross when they die in there. It’s happened twice in the wall over the a/c return. Fortunately, some plastic sheeting attached with tape contained the smell. We had to wait for them to dessicate or else tear out the wall to get it out. We waited it out. We found several dead mice when we tore out the walls to remodel the kitchen, dead mice are much better than live mice.

  11. ellbee

    Ick, ew, and squick! My husband and I were just up in our attic yesterday installing another vent off our main swamp cooler line (welcome to Denver, where the temperature is suddenly 90 degrees, thanks for playing!) and whilst up there, I noticed a furry tail poking out of the insulation. Upon further examination, said tail was apparently attached to a very large, very dead squirrel.
    And then I died.
    Also, Boatguy? Wow. Just…wow.

  12. beth s

    ick. just wait until you find one of those rats on the bottom of the swimming pool. we have learned the hard way. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear goggles when diving for toys in the pool or else you might come up with a squishy dead furry thing in your hand. i almost drowned when i saw what i was holding. we think it was just a gopher but hard to tell aftre a night in the pool. ugh, gives me the creeps just writing about it.

  13. Karen

    RATS, huh? Ok, maybe now I’m not quite so envious of you getting to move out of this here New England weather down to that warm southern state where there are ROOF RATS!!!??? My God, I have never heard of such a thing. OVER YOUR HEAD!?!?!… rats. OMG!!!

    Glad the rope swing thing didn’t turn out worse, and I don’t get how you couldn’t know what would happen in that scenario.

  14. Karen

    And I don’t mean YOU, I mean boatguy.

  15. paige

    This is why my idea of camping is being one towel short in the Marriot.

  16. Sue @ My Party of 6

    I almost threw up twice. (Once for the rats and once for Chickadee.) I’m thinking I’d be cashing in some Marriott points also…

  17. ellen

    last summer was very wet, here, and of course DH was deployed when a family of rats took up residence in my garage. I had a similar conversation about what prompt service means with our pest control guy. I was not hanging up until he agreed to come THAT day. And until a teenage boy from our church cleaned up the aftermath for me, we left our home by the front door and squeezed into DH’s car which was parked outside.

  18. Jennifer Joyner

    I have always been amazed when I hear perfectly normal-seeming women casually describe a rat problem at their house. I’m with you, Mir…..I. WOULD. DIE. And no way would I got back until I had every assurance that there wasn’t even a remote chance of one getting back in…even if it took every penny I had.

    **SO** glad Chickadee is okay.

  19. Chuck

    Wow, the worst I’ve had to deal with myself was ants. Nice to have professionals taking caree of it, even if they aren’t cheap, and very glad Chckadee and your arm are ok!

  20. MaryP

    Our neighbours had rats this summer. The neighbours whose house is the other side of our driveway, maybe… oh, three feet away.

    So when the exterminator came to my house — because I just LOOK for ways to spend money — for the ants, I asked about the rats. He says, “I can’t get rid of rats for you. Neither can your neighbours. They can kill the rats they saw, but if there are rats on the surface, it’s because they’re coming up FROM THE SEWERS.” And how do they get out of the sewers, you ask? (I sure as hell did.) They come up THROUGH THE SEWER-THINGY (yes, that’s what it’s called) IN YOUR BASEMENT. The houses in this neighbourhood are old, see, and don’t have the double-sided-sewer-rat-preventer-doohickey in them.

    So what you have to do is call the city, and they will send someone to put something down your sewer-thingy to “reduce the local population”. (I sure as hell did NOT ask.) And if one person on the street does it, the whole street will be treated!!!

    I told my neighbours. “Oh, no, that won’t be necessary,” they say. “We got them.” Obviously, they were not listening. However, the city service? It is FREE, so guess who’s going to call them on Monday and protect the whole damned street? It’s nice to be noble for free…

  21. elz

    My offer still stands-extra room, no rats, and free BBQ for as long as you all shall live. Veggies for Chickie too.

    Did you ever see “White Christmas”? How Danny Kaye rubs his elbow when he wants Bing Crosby to do something for him b/c he took a fall to protect him from the falling wall? That is what you should do to Chickie every single time. Don’t want her dating that young man, rub the arm. Want her to take out the trash, rub the arm, etc. etc.

    Good mom.

  22. Wendy E

    Rats…Ewwwwwwww, gives me the shivers. I am with you, I would be gone until they were. Although I would rather have rats than snakes. I have told my husband that if we EVER see a snake in the house, it is going up for sale the next day. There is NO WAY I could ever sleep in the house again. I am terrified of snakes and apparently he killed two in our yard a few weeks ago. YIKES.

    As for boat guy, how could you not know what would have happened? Although it kind of sounds like fun to grab the rope and swing :). Maybe not for my kids, but for me. But only if it is a good place to swim underneath.

  23. Melody

    I lived in Guatemala once, setting up medical missions for MercyShips…We were four females sharing an apartment over a marina office. It had rats living in the false cieling…lots of them. They would come down into the kitchen at night and open anything not in the fridge…so we set a trap…on top of the fridge…and came home one night to a dazed, bloody rat sitting in the middle of the kitchen. He had pulled hiimself back out of the trap. Our male colleague, who had driven us home, had to take the rat outside (that we had trapped under a huge coffee can) and hit him with a baseball bat. I then had to bleach EVERY surface in the kitchen. OMG, how did I ever survive that???? We didn’t have the stomach to set any more traps, and so put poison up in the false cieling (and when I say “we put the poison up there” I mean another male colleague did it for us :-) Thank God (thank you God, thank you God) that we do not have rats here, just little mice and three big cats :-)

  24. Jen

    and apparently you have wi-fi at the campground like we do at the moment, and life is grand! and today is a new day! and we’re going to enjoy it and not fight with each other and not yell or scream or have other campers look at us like we’re the addamms family, dangit! enjoy yourselves! ;)

    (i’ll share more of my own camping adventures later) ;)

  25. Brigitte

    If it were me and my family, the nearly-broken arm would have been a GOOD thing, because it would have been the only thing keeping me from laughing uncontrollably at my daughter and setting in some EXTRA-deep trauma.

  26. Heidi

    Omigosh, I’m exhausted just reading this!

    And you’ll be amused – or maybe not – that I was interrupted part-way through reading this by my cat making feline triumphant hunting noises on the porch. She had a mouse in her mouth with the tail sticking straight out like a lollipop stick. You’re welcome.

  27. Adrienne

    I can totally sympathize, except our problem was BATS in the attic, which are not only disgusting, but cost $1,000 to remove. Awesome. Can also relate to the Chickie in the boat story. We took our first fishing trip of the season this week and I was close enough to watch – but not close enough to prevent – my six year old from falling off the dock into the lake. She was fine, but it took 10 years off my life. Hope the rest of your camping trip is, ahem, smooth sailing.

  28. Nicki

    Yup. I’ve said it a thousand times…this weekend even. BOYS ARE DUMB! And they don’t outgrow that. They simply get bigger. So, yeah. Thanks, Boatguy. Way to think before you open your pie hole.

    Sorry about the arm. Statistically speaking, more moms are injured in an effort to protect their offspring than from anything else. Welcome to the club.

  29. Dawn

    LOL @ Paige. One towel short in a four-star hotel is my idea of camping, too.

  30. Em

    Oh wow that is hilarious, and scary! We live in SC and love camping at the beach near us. so glad I found your blog :)

  31. dad

    I suspect that someday, somewhere, somehow, you will do someting and it will go exactly as expected. BORING! and then what would you write about?

    You have a whole week to resolve all your outstanding issues so we can all go away without distraction. I will apologize to the other 2800 passengers.

  32. Katie in MA

    Perhaps this means you need a cat. A crazy cat who can live in the attic! And you can call her Bertha. You will be rat, squirrel, vole, and mouse free forever.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest