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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 19, 2017

It takes a pack rat

By Curt Swarm | Jan 04, 2017

Jess Richards never throws anything away. Wood scraps, old window frames, cardboard, what-have-you, all go into the you-never-know-when-you’re-going-to-need-it pile. He has a junk drawer that’s overflowing and won’t shut. Erin, his wife, rolls her eyes and calls him a pack rat.

It gets cold in Minneapolis where they live with their two elementary-school girls, Fiona and Keenan. In the fall, outdoor critters like to find warm buildings.

One night, as Jess was cooking supper, Erin heard a squeal. Peeka, their cat (short for Peekaboo), was going nuts by the radiator. Erin thought, “Oh, no, another one of those centipedes!” She walked over and moved the pad they keep on top of the radiator for Peeka to sleep on. Erin could see fur and a bushy tail on the floor. She jumped back and hollered for her husband, “Jess, we have a rodent, or rabbit, or a squirrel in the house!”

When Jess heard “squirrel” his mind flashed to a horror story he’d heard about a squirrel getting loose in a house. The squirrel got under the couch. The police were called. They chased the squirrel out from under the couch and it ran into the fireplace, that had a fire going, caught fire, then proceeded to run around the house catching the house on fire! That was what Jess envisioned when he heard “squirrel!”

He came over and took a look. Two little eyes were staring back at him, and they weren’t squirrel eyes. But they still didn’t know what it was. Erin called an exterminator. The exterminator would come over, but the minimum charge would be $300. “Forget that,” Jess told Erin. He then proceeded to build an enclosure around the radiator where the critter was holed up, so that it wouldn’t get loose in the house.

This is where Jess’ hoarding fetish paid off. With old 2 x 4’s, cardboard, duct tape (handyman’s secret weapon), and those old windows, Jess cobbled together a fairly respectable enclosure around the critter and radiator. The critter watched with curious interest.

The words of Red Green, one of Jess’ favorite TV show hosts, came to him. He looked at Erin and said, “It’s a good thing I never get rid of all the things I throw out.” Erin had to agree. For once, that pile of stuff she had been after him to get rid of came in pretty handy.

Jess then went out and purchased a live-animal trap. Returning home, he rearranged the 2 x 4’s to create a sort-of funnel into the trap. The girls, Fiona and Keenan were beside themselves with excitement.

Jess put peanut butter in the trap for bait, and sat back with a book to read while he waited. This was going to take a while. Erin put the girls to bed. No sooner had Erin come back downstairs then they heard a click. The critter was in the trap gorging itself on peanut butter. They took a lot of pictures.

Jess then drove the critter a couple of miles away and turned it loose in a park. The critter immediately ran up a tree. Jess’ last view of the critter was its silhouette against the moon.

In the meantime, Erin, still not knowing what the critter was, went online and Googled “furry-tailed rat.” Up popped “bushy tailed wood rat, also known as a pack rat.” Ah, ha! It is the only rat native to Canada, and does venture into the U.S. occasionally. They tend to be calm, mellow, and solitary creatures, and the mating and birthing season were over. So Erin was pretty sure there wasn’t a family of pack rats living in the house.

The next day they sent the girls to school with a little written story of what happened. The girls had a ball telling their class and teacher about how “It takes a pack rat to catch a pack rat.”

Have a good story? Call or text Swarm, in Mt. Pleasant, at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or find him on Facebook. Swarm’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.

 

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