In which we go (unintentionally) camping with a rat
This is the kind of story that will be funny in a couple weeks, in mid-July perhaps when we’re in Alaska visiting Dan’s family, eyes adjusting to the sight of rain-fed land and helping the kids observe normal bedtimes even though the sun never fully sets (or maybe we’ll be like our neighbor Aidan, age 10, who, when asked when he and his siblings go to bed in summer, replied, “when we drop.”)
Last Friday, heading out for the weekend, we had to find the missing rat, the rat who’d been AWOL for 3 days in our house. While I put crazy things in our cooler like glass jars of fermented carrots, an entire watermelon and 2 pineapples (yay, car camping!) Dan spent hours dismantling our room, stalking the rat.
Dan got huge points for finally locating the rat and trapping it behind a bookshelf (now he wants to know what he can redeem his points for). I grabbed Ratty Jr and popped her into a tupperware container poked with ventilation holes and we set off triumphantly for our camping trip with plans to drop the rat at her house in Dolores before heading north to our sweet spot in the woods.
cue the foreboding music
It was 95F outside and hotter than the devil’s deep fryer in our car; the rat container was at my feet heating up like a greenhouse, and like the mom I am, I began to worry about little Ratty Jr, fearing she might cook alive in there.
foreboding music gets louder
I cracked the lid just an eensy bit.
Next, everything goes silent except you can read my lips forming the words, “OH SHIT!” Dan’s whole body goes rigid. The kids are in the backseat, shouting, “what happened?” But no one can hear anyone because we’re suspended underwater clinging to the moment before.
We drive in silence for miles, my ego full of self-blame, slinking around the basement of my psyche kicking imaginary dogs. We gather ourselves and call the rat’s owners to explain the situation. I tell Glenn, “we’re going to take the rat to the mountains! She’ll finally get to live the free, independent life she wants.” Everyone seems satisfied with this conclusion, though as the kids picture Ratty frolicking amongst the wild strawberries, the adults imagine the hungry talons of a hawk.
We have a great camping weekend with friends; the caterpillars literally fall from the sky (what is this crazy hatch of caterpillars in the high country this year? Julie Korb? Bryan Peterson? Natalie – ask Noah? Anyone?); the kids become the Dirty-Faced tribe; we watch a male western tanager chase grey jays; the kids ask if I brought my pee-jar with me; I take no pictures because my camera is dead; the kids find a junco nest on the ground with 4 white-grey eggs that they visit every 20 minutes; everyone shoots bows; we leave our car doors open all weekend, toasting to the rat and her new wild digs.
Sunday morning, packing up the car, I see the rat tail dangling out of the open glove box. I yank on it, half worried a dead rat will fall into my hands. The rat yanks back and slides like water behind our dashboard.
We try and lure the rat out of the nooks and crannies behind our dashboard with cheese, then peanut butter on cheese; Dan blares the horn to try and scare her out. We drive home and go out to dinner. When we return to the car the rat is sleeping on our frisbee in the backseat. We grab for her tail and like a released balloon she floats away behind the dashboard again.
I suggest to Dan that before the rat does damage to our car, we buy a real trap. “That’s pretty macabre,” says the guy who hunts and kills large mammals.
Finally, Monday, after four days in our car living off the kids’ carseat crumbs, I buy a live trap and bait it with peanut butter. And today, she’s in custody.
Luckily, Dan was heading to Dolores for work today and Ratty Jr. rode along. We all waved good-bye to her and I found myself saying, “aww, she’s kind of cute.”
ps: I love you Kristi and Glenn, and look forward to hearing the continuing sagas of Ratty Jr.
* incidentally, on the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, I was born in The Year of The Rat.
* apropos of nothing but because Rowan, who lives downstairs, just told me about it and I’m excited, how to make your kombucha more bubbly: when your kombucha is almost sour enough, cap it tightly (leave a few inches headroom) and let scoby eat up the rest of the sugars and turn them into carbonation.
* furtherly out of context, have you read The Book Thief? It’s a fictional account of a girl living in Nazi Germany. After learning to read from her accordion-playing foster dad, Liesel discovers she has an insatiable thirst for books. She, dangerously, steals books from Nazi book-burnings, from the mayor’s wife’s library and shares these books with neighbors during bombing raids and the Jew her family hides in the basement. I’m not quite done but completely enthralled with the writing, the characters, and the story. Also, so far, it’s not as sad as it could be, mostly because Liesel is such a scrappy, fabulous heroine. (ps: the first 15 pages are narrated by “Death” and a little hard to follow. Keep going).
* and finally, last week we got to watch helicopters suck water out of nearby Turtle Lake and fly off to drop it on the Lightner Creek Fire. I felt like a 7 year old boy for how excited I was to watch the chopper descend on the lake over and over. Col kept exclaiming, “I hope they don’t suck up any fish or turtles!” My friend Ivey took awesome pictures and videos of the helicopters here.