Thursday, July 16, 2015

attack of the packrats

First, a serious note:  Mom's manfriend, Boyd, passed away this morning at 4:35.  Mom is doing fine.  We aren't sure when the services will be, but, we are assuming next week.  His children will plan and arrange it.  He lived a long and full life.  He'd have been 92 on Halloween.  Not sure what the future will bring for my mother.  She's lived a life full of trials and struggles and she usually brushes herself off and moves forward.  Enough said about that.  (Note:  The photo of Mom and Boyd was nine years ago.)

Carol and I went just returned from one crazy night in Idaho.  We went up yesterday morning and stopped in her childhood hometown, Rupert, to have lunch.  We ate at the Drift Inn again, outside on the patio, which was lovely.  After lunch and a stop for treats and munchies in Burley, we went on to her home.  We packed a few more things, unpacked our things, settled in for a movie and cards, then headed back to Burley for dinner.

As we were driving back from Burley to settle down for the night, she was telling me a story that was blowing my mind!  We were deep in conversation when she noticed red flashing lights in the rearview mirror.  We pulled over and the officer asked her if she knew what the speed limit was.  Carol, who's much more reserved than I am, responded and gave him her license and registration.  As he was walking back to his car, I said, "Officer, may I say something?"  I went on to tell him that Carol's husband had just passed away a few weeks ago and she was talking to me about it.  The officer, kindly, asked her, "When did he pass away?"  She responded, "June 8th" and he walked back to his car.  He returned and said, "I'm sorry about your husband.  I'm giving you a warning this time.  Take it a little slower."  She thanked him and we drove away.  We had just had a conversation ten minutes before about tender mercies and this was, indeed, one!

We got home, watched another movie and decided to get into the hottub.  Now, one thing that has been most humorous for years, and moreso lately, with every trip to Carol's Idaho home... she is horrified of mice!  HORRIFIED!  Robert's home is in the middle of nowhere.  No neighbors for miles.  Nothing but sagebrush and juniper bushes for miles.  MILES.  The home is fenced with ranch log fencing but the bottom few feet has a mesh wire fencing attached to keep rodents, rabbits and wildlife out.  There's also a cattlegaurd gated entrance.  No critters allowed!  The home is also almost sterile clean, so another reason that rodents would not be a concern inside.  EVER.

(Here's a picture of Doug and Carol walking in the front yard last fall after Robert's first surgery.)
Robert's front yard

Since Robert's death, his daughter took his two spaniel springer dogs to her home.  And somehow, we've heard, a new problem has arisen. We'd not seen any rodents, but we've seen their "calling cards" outside everywhere. So everytime we open a door to the outside or any door that's closed, we knock and rattle it to alarm any "rodents of unusual or ANY size" that we are coming!  I've been teasing Carol about it constantly.

SO. Last night... We're hottubbing.  It's almost midnight.  We're in the middle of nowhere, miles from anyone who could hear a sound!  We're gabbing about life.  My back is to the back door and the porch, Carol is facing them.  The back patio light is on.  Mid sentence, Carol SCREAMS!  LOOOOOOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Oh, SHOOT!!! SHOOT!!! SHOOOT, SHOOOOOOT, SHOOOOOOOT!  (There may or may not have been less Os in the sentence and a few I's inserted.)  I turned to look and sitting on the step, just inches from the back door, the door that we would have to walk through to go back into the home, was a PACKRAT!!!  A HUGE, as big as my foot PLUS his several inch long tail, PACKRAT!  She was DYING!  Now, normally, a mouse would have had me flying from the hottub to the roof in a single bound.  However, this thing was so huge, I think I was in shock.  He actually had a teddy bear face, with big ears and eyes.

I don't know why, but I'm certain that this was one of those tender mercies in life because, I was as calm and cool as could be. I said, "Carol, it's okay.  He's as afraid of us as we are of him.  We're a thousand times bigger than him."  She's still saying, "I'm dying!   SHOOT!  I'm sick.  What are we gonna do?  We're never getting out of this hottub."  Really, I'm confessing, his size was alarming, but he was just sitting there staring at us.  So, I said, "Let's both splash a wave of water at him and he'll leave."  We did. He bolted down between the concrete porch step and the vinyl fence.  RELIEF!  For about 30 seconds.  We were gathering our bearings and trying to make a plan for what to do next.  All of a sudden, we see these cute little ears and big eyes pop up over the edge of the step again.  Then, he climbed right back up there on the step, no fear, and just stared at us.  Carol was dying.  I'm sitting there praying, "Please give me courage because at this point, Carol's not ever getting out of this water."  She's saying, "Oh, no!  What if he climbs in here?!  Move the steps!"  (Can you say Lucy and Ethel?)

I had this wave of insanity or courage come over me and said, "Okay.  Watch.  He's scared."  I stood up and leaned over the edge of the hottub.  He didn't move!  I stood up completely and made little noises.  Carol's saying, "Don't call it here!!!"  We were half laughing, half in tears.  So, I slid my leg over the edge and stepped out onto the hottub steps.  He still sat there.  I took two steps toward him and he still didn't move.  FINALLY, as I took the next step, he slid down out of sight again.  I couldn't get back into the water quick enough!

Carol said, "We're not closing the hottub.  We've got to get out of here and run into the house.  The hottub can stay open, I don't care.  I'm never coming out here again!"  She even said, "I'll give you a hundred dollars to close it!  I'm not doing it!"  We were laughing and teasing and both dying all at the same time.  So, we decided to make a run for it.  We stood up, grabbed our towels and raced to the door and inside, screaming, "Shut the door, shut the door, shut the door!  FAST!"  We were both horrified that he'd climb up and race inside when we opened the door.  Then we BOTH would have spent the night back in the hottub until someone came looking for us.

We got inside and were just dying.  You can't just leave a hottub open overnight for multiple reasons.  So, I said that I'd shower, get dressed, put my shoes on and then go outside around through the side garage and out to the back patio (about 60 feet) to shut it.  Carol stood at the back door of the patio near the hottub, watching through the window as I, loudly, raced to the hottub, shut the cover, latched it down and came running back around the garage door and inside  All the while, through the closed door, she was singing so loudly that I could hear her through the glass, "Did you ever know that you're my hero?!"  We were laughing so hard!

I raced inside to the kitchen sink, washed my hands and, for some reason, walked to another exiting door, which has a huge window in it, flipped on the light to see the front side of the house.  On the porch, right there inches away, on the other side of the door, was a darker and even larger PACKRAT!!!  It jumped up on the front rock wall of the house and raced along it, making a stop at the bbq grill and then, just standing there, looking at us.  We. WERE. DYING!!!!  There's more than one!  What if they have friends and cousins!?!?!

We raced into the bedroom, turned our movie on and, literally, for the rest of the night, at every sound, said, "What was that!?"  It was really creepy.  I was pretty astonished that I'd been brave enough to go outside in it, but one of us had to!  We then talked about our fears.  I've got such a freakish obsession with flies.  I told Carol that I would have gone out and picked that PackRat up and carried it away to the trash with my bare hands before I'd touch a fly strip.  EEEEWWWWWW!  I hate them!  I'm not a fan of mice either.  I've literally slept on top of a card table the one time we ever had a mouse in the loft at the ranch.  But, this was no tiny little mouse. He was, literally, bigger than the six week old kitten that Alan and Jill had shown us the night before.  While we were watching one of our alltime favorite movies, "Seems Like Old Times", I decided to google and read about packrats, hoping that I would read that they hate humans and would never go near them or that they don't like coming inside when people are there.  Instead I read that they are curious and love going inside.  EEEEEWWWWWW!!!  So, I kept telling myself, all night long, that he was more like a dog or cat than a mouse.  I was mostly concerned because of their lack of fear when they saw us.  Evidently, they are considering Robert's yard their territory, not ours!  EEEEWWWWWW!  Did I mention  EEEEEWWWWWWWWW?!!?!?!?

We finally fell asleep with the movie on and my Mom called at 4:45 to tell us that Boyd has died.  We were both awake, listening to all the sounds and hoping that the rats had gone to visit relatives somewhere far away instead of inviting them to come and check out the treats that the two crazy ladies had brought in last night.  We saw no evidence of them having been inside the home, but without dogs there, they are having a hayday!  EEEWWWWWWW!

My mind was just reeling after Mom's call.  I thought about Boyd, about my mother, about our unwanted houseguests and finally said, "Carol?  Tell me a story."  She'd been trying to fall back to sleep after Mom's call, but I would say something every few minutes.  Finally, she said, "A story?  I'll tell you a story.  Once upon a time, there were two crazy ladies who were awake at 5:30 in the morning.   So, they rolled over and went back to sleep.  Goodnight."  Laughing took the edge away and we did go back to sleep until 7:30 or so.

We left this morning, to come home, and were both jumpy, worrying that an unwanted visitor had climbed into the car while we were loading it up.  We took turns keeping watch so that they couldn't get in... not that we would have known what to do to stop them.  I've had the "creepy crawlies" all day, but I've laughed.  ALL day.  And I told Carol, last night, I could just imagine Robert laughing so so hard at the two of us freaking out in the hottub.  I'm certain of it!  We always make the best of our time together.

Life is crazy, insane and apparently, with a variety of packrats, but good!

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