Ratted out

Missy Votel - 08/25/2016

I would like to start off this column by acknowledging that, with the controversy lately over the harassment of defenseless wildlife, no cute furry animals were harmed in the writing of this piece.
But it was not for lack of desire.
See, if I could’ve caught the beady-eyed vermin that destroyed my pop-up camper while it was dry-docked in storage out in the country last year, I would’ve gladly taken a bazooka to them.
I know, there is nothing funny about firearms, or air-arms – something I learned the hard way in eighth grade when a mean boy shot me point blank in the thigh with a BB gun. Luckily, it didn’t get lodged under the skin or cause a nasty infection, but it did leave a pellet-sized welt and hurt like a mofo.
I find consolation in being pretty sure that kid is now in prison.
So yes, violence never pays. But a little revenge would’ve really taken away some of the sting.
Let me also point out, I am the type of person who refuses to kill a spider or a bee, but instead – very carefully – escorts them outside to freedom. I am a huge proponent of rescue and shelter animals, consider boxelder bugs pets and keep worms in my basement, for god’s sake. All living creatures are equals in my eyes.
Until it comes to a months-long rodent orgy in the same place where I like to lay my head at night. Or chewing through irreplaceable canvas, plastic and tenting; leaving millions of tiny skidmarks all over a brand-new, 4-inch memory foam mattress; or shredding through cushions and curtains like a scene from “Saw 2.”
Those things are not cheap to replace, people. Nor are they easy to “unsee” once the image is burned into one’s overactive memory. And I don’t care what you say, the mice were not there first. They invaded, like a bunch of drunken frat boys on spring break, or free-loading couch-surfers who eat all your food, foul your house and refuse to leave.
But unlike the frat boys or couch surfers, these four-legged interlopers carry disease. OK – technically, so can the frat boys and couch surfers. But here, we’re talking airborne, terrifying pestilence that just won’t give you a weird rash that clears up with antibiotics but can knock you dead.
So the fact that I had to don full-on hantavirus gear on a 90-degree day and burn my clothes after nuking the entire camper with bleach – twice – really only added insult to injury. Not to mention it was two days – a weekend not spent taking in the view with a frosty beverage in said camper, mind you – of my life that I will never get back.
Then there was the sense of complete and utter violation – almost as bad as the time I busted the neighbors, shall we say, “christening” the “Pop-Up Motel” after we naively left it up in front of the house one night. (Perhaps we should start charging by the hour, but that’s a story for another day.)
Sure, I was tempted, upon cranking up the Coleman for the first time this summer and seeing the telltale holes in the canvas and the devastation inside, to remove the license plate and quietly push it off a cliff. It was cursed, sullied, ruined.
But if you give in, the terrorists win.
So instead, armed with shop vac, rubber gloves, goggles, gas mask, spray bottle and an industrial tub of Clorox wipes, I went into battle. No furry, bucktoothed insurgent was going to soil my pursuit of recreation and leisure. And I sure as hell wasn’t going back to tent camping.
Besides, I looked at it as a chance to do a thorough clean, and in reality, the mice did me a favor by forcing me to get rid of the ’90s polyester Cabella’s decor once and for all. Not to mention it was a learning experience in pest management.
For example, who knew those innocuous little sugar packets stowed in a drawer in a plastic bag were the rodent equivalent of an eight-ball of crack (if there is such a thing)? These filthy critters did more damage than a Keith Moon and Johnny Depp tag-team could ever dream of.
I must admit, too, when my blood stopped boiling long enough to marvel at their handiwork, it was downright impressive.  To turn an oven mitt and roll of paper towels into a comfy bed for the winter was more than I could do, and I have a college degree and opposable thumbs. I guess there’s a reason they say these things will survive the apocalypse.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am not warming up to these disease-ridden scourges of society. Nor have I taken too kindly to the gaping hole they left in the roof which surely will leak like a sieve come the first rain.
Rather, let my story serve as a cautionary tale. If I can save just one weekend warrior from the trauma of discovering their beloved home sweet home on wheels was used as a sleazy rodent motel, my work is done.
Stuff those holes with steel wool, caulk the heck out of those nooks and crannies. I’ve even read that Bounce dryer sheets keep the filthy scoundrels at bay.
Oh, and it might not hurt to keep it locked when the neighbors are around.


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