[Tweeters] A Beautiful Rat

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Sep 23 02:35:33 PDT 2015

Like most American's, I'm associated with a junkie - in my case a small truck - and it needed a fix. Like, it needed some gasoline - seems like it just can't go on without it. I guess I'm the enabler in this story, just looking for a ride. No free ride though - it cost's , and in several ways.
So there I was, at the Safeway gas pump here in Port Townsend yesterday, and getting out of my truck I looked down on the tarmac behind my truck, and in the shade of the pump shelter, noticed a tiny little rat laying there. It was beautiful.
It was kinda funny, because earlier in the morning, down on Memory Lane, I was thinking about rats. My life has been full of rats at times, and that morning memory was of East Vancouver, Canada. In my limited life experience , East Vancouver is the rat center of North America. Every time I've been there (uh, like three times) I've seen rats, and lots of them. On the most memorable trip, an evening tour of a number of the areas excellent restaurants, I was amused, looking out the window of some high class place, to see numbers of big honkin' Wharf (or Norway) Rats running around outside. " Wow, look at those rats!" I exclaimed excitedly to my companions - my friends didn't share my sentiments. Rats - yuck.
And then fond memories of the "Everett Tree Rat's" which is my name for Black (or Roof ) Rats at home in Everett. These charming disease vectors are brilliant tree climbers, and of course famous for their ability to escape a sinking ship, or to get on a ship by running up a rope, or whatever.
Then there's the Bushy-tailed Woodrat (aka packrat) , a beautiful native rat famous for kleptomania and it's habit of building an immense nest. I first met this creature when I worked in North Cascades National Park. I was doing a lot of fire equipment inventory in a storage building by myself - I thought- when I heard a knocking on the wall. It was a Packrat- they can communicate by knocking on wood. I knocked back. The rat knocked back. That was kind of neat. We developed a relationship- knock on wood.
Well, this is nice and all, but sometimes rats intrude. Then action must be taken! My first experience with this was back in my college days, and living in a funky group hippy house we got rats. I became the de facto rat killer, since everyone else in the house was too soft to do the job. Setting the traps in the attic, I nabbed 22 rats. Sometimes the rat wouldn't get instantly killed in the trap, and would scream, quite loudly, and I had to go up and finish them off. Not fun really, but somebody had to do it.
So there you have it - I've committed murder. I've also lopped off a few chicken and goose heads on the ol' farm - for food purposes only. Again, not fun. And I've also killed several thousand mosquitoes, deer and horse flies, and other insects with limited regret, especially the mentioned flies.
So, back to the beautiful little rat at the gas station. The baby was just a few inches long overall, and at first I wasn't sure it was even alive, but yes, it was, quivering a bit on the pavement. How it got there was a good question. Maybe it fell out of some funky landscapers truck (like mine) raked up in some yard clean-up job - I've uncovered rat youngsters before while working moving brush piles. Maybe momma was moving young from a disturbed nest, and forgot junior. Whatever.
I couldn't help but be impressed by the delicacy of the little thing. It reminded me of netsuke , which are traditional Japanese toggles of a sort - small gems of art carved out of ivory, or hardwood- often portraying animals and plants. Maybe even a rat, in fine detail.
So I gently lifted little ratty by the tail and carried it over to the nearest gas station landscaping. It just seemed a little better for it to die on some green ground, than to get run over by the next truck. Hey maybe mom came by and picked it up. Or maybe one minute after I left, a gull or crow ate it. Who knows, but it was a beautiful little rat.
Jeff Gibsonrat watcherPort Townsend Wa

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