Sunday, June 3, 2012

mortis nocturne

Two of the hours I normally would have spent sleeping last night were instead spent confirming myself as a bona fide Congo resident (or so I hear), as well as confirming a few things I've learned recently about rodents:
  1. They will stay where they are hidden until at least 90% of their cover is blown (which is usually about the time you start to conclude that maybe they aren't there after all).
  2. They aren't particularly smart (given that #1 may make their whereabouts clear, even if they think they are hidden).
  3. They are quite quick enough to make up for #2, and are almost impossible to hit when they are running.
This makes the third time in the last couple weeks that I have spent 1-2 hrs clearing out an area with an alleged rodent, and I hope the end of the Rodent Wars saga. If you haven't done this yourself, Episode I went like this:
  1. Find evidence of rodentry where it shouldn't be, e.g., droppings in your (outside) pantry.
  2. Decide to "do this right" and clear out everything from the porch which provides access to the pantry.
  3. Start removing items from the pantry piece by piece, checking for anything living, and sorting as trashed, to clean, or ready to restock.
  4. Continue until the pantry is almost empty.
  5. Sweep out the pantry.
  6. Notice, while sweeping out the pantry, that there is actually a bit of garbage in the corner that has lots of chewed buts of stuff it in.
  7. Start dissecting the pile, and sweeping bits away.
  8. About half-way through the pile, see an actual rodent, who just afterwards sees you, and runs.
  9. Chase it around the pantry with something you grabbed, alternately stabbing and slashing at it.
  10. Realize that what you grabbed was an old umbrella that, in place of a handle, has sharp edges -- and that you're bleeding profusely.
  11. Close the pantry door, and go into the house and bandage your right hand with your left hand.
  12. With the bleeding stopped, and an impressively large bandage on your hand, return to the pantry.
  13. Finally chase the big rodent out of the pantry, into the one part of the porch you didn't clear (the far side).
  14. poke through the nest and set scurrying two younger specimens.
  15. Watch your children spasm through the motions of trapping them under a couple canisters, then refuse to kill or remove them.
  16. Decide on a compromise of feeding them to the neighborhood cat.
  17. Finish cleaning out the depot and securing a number of possible entry points, all while wondering what happened to that one that got away...
Episode II was basically the same story, only it was the woodpile outside, instead of the depot. A week or so after the conclusion of Episode I, we continued to see rodent sign, and heard occasional scurrying around some wood we bought some time ago and stacked to dry (since it is sold pretty green around here). We moved 10+ madriers (8cm x 25cm x 5m) and three planks (3cm x 30cm x 5m) --none of which were light, of course-- and again just as I was giving up on there being any rodents in the vicinity, we moved the last madrier, and out they ran. This was probably where the other ones had come from, since this group had four adults, as well as a few younger ones, and they had been tunneling (I forgot to mention that there is somehow a hole tunneled up through the cement floor of our pantry...). So, after a bit of ditching for cover, chasing, beating and flushing out, only one adult got away --but into our house and through the first door on the right, into the kitchen.
I took some rather long implements and a flashlight to poke/look around behind the range and fridge, as well as the cabinets that I cobbled together, but no further activity. Given the 90% rule that I was formulating, this made sense, so we asked everyone to keep an ear out, left the back door open, and hoped that it would just leave.
But it didn't...
It had been a couple weeks since the tenuous conclusion to Episode II (in which no one lost a hand), and I was feeling rather satisfied that the rodent had decided that it had had enough, and had simply left our house for greener pastures. We heard nothing anywhere, and saw no droppings. Until last night.
Episode III took place in our bedroom, where evidently this pest had found it's way (I'll thankfully say that even afterwards we found no droppings, so I still don't know where he had been the last two weeks). It made some noises around 2am, at which point the half of us that is more skeptical of night noises was awoken. I poked around where the noise was thought to come from, but didn't find anything, so skepticism and the hour took over. But few minutes after returning to bed (reminiscent of the weeks following childbirth now), I heard the noise myself.
So the entire room was cleared and picked through (we have some crafty and camping things there, as well as the usual clothes). Again at the last minute, this guy jumped out of no cover, to hide behind a bag in an otherwise empty nook of a cabinet.  If I had had my wits about me (it was 2:40 by now?) I'd have just considered the bag a loss, and pierced it through with some (sensibly) sharp object. But no, I grabbed a bucket to trap it, and removed the bag.
That one mistake gained me the "quite quick" insight above, but lost me over an hour off chasing it around our bedroom and bathroom. I eventually gave up on the 2 ft. length of pipe I keep handy for security purposes, and went for what I now call "Goliath's Spear", a somewhat ornate but thick (and 5ft long) piece of wood we had removed from the foot of our bed.
He and I were in and out of the bathroom twice, and around the bed (skirting, but never actually entering the mosquito net!) about five times. Once it was hiding behind Kim's cookbooks, and it's last best hiding spot (where I hit the 90% rule again) was under some tile we hope to lay in our bathroom some day... Needless to say, on about 4am, the thing was finally no longer moving, and it was removed from the house to our back porch.
Where I left it, because I didn't want our dogs eating it (someone else's cat is another thing...), and I didn't want to go out into the rain (praise God, after weeks with almost no water!) to throw it in the trash pile. I could easily wait to deal with it in the morning.

Only, in the morning, it wasn't there...

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