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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Stories in Place: A Rat Tale

(This pandemic has put a cramp in our camp, so I thought I'd start a series of short stories from our travels. You know, those kinds of stories that go around the campfire after a day of exploring, and may get repeated more than once over the years. I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoy telling them. Pull up a camp chair and grab a beverage. Let's Story in Place together.)

We had just pulled in to the campground in Mojave National Preserve, tired from the 10 hour drive that began at five o'clock that morning. Mark popped the camper up as I set out our chairs and brought out the traditional pre-dinner drinks and snacks. It was a lovely afternoon, the sunset casting that desert glow on the surrounding mountains. I took out the camera and tried my best to capture the uncaptureable - that magic light you can only see in the desert with your own eyeballs.

As we settled into the chairs and congratulated ourselves on the beautiful weather, we saw something moving across the road. Rabbit we figured, there are hundreds of them around here. Nope, too small. What is that? It hesitated in the sage brush a moment, then suddenly dashed across the road. Rat! And a big one. It made a beeline toward us, and while we sat dumbstruck with our mouths hanging open it suddenly hooked left, scrambling up the front tire and out of sight under the truck.

What the hell?

We've had trouble with kangaroo rats in the desert before; once one was able to break into our storage bin in the camper and nibble into the bottom of our spare bag of pretzels (always have a spare bag of pretzels!) but they usually have the decency to attack in the middle of the night, when we are blissfully unaware. This one was outright brazen.

Mark popped the hood to see if he could find it in the engine compartment, where it appeared to be headed. I went into the back of the camper to make sure the turnbuckle hatches were closed, the perfect little doorways for unwanted visitors. All was buttoned up.

There it was! Sitting on the frame rail under the engine, it's little black eyeball staring straight into Mark's outraged gray ones. Mark pounded on the fender, shouted, and pushed on the truck, rocking it on the axles. Rat held on, in defiance. Ok fine, Mark started the engine, revving it louder and louder, hoping to either blast it out with noise or the heat. Rat scrambled down the rail and held on under the truck bed. If our ears could pick up that particular octave I think we would have heard tiny squeaking laughter.

That's it! Mark slammed the hood closed, climbed in the truck and started driving around the campground loop. "He'll either jump or get squished! I don't care which but he's not going to chew the wires up tonight!" I stood in the campsite and watched as the truck, with camper popped up and waste container dragging at it's side, disappear over the hill, then reappear 5 minutes later as he made his way around the big loop, taking a second lap for good measure.

When he returned we inspected all the areas we could think a rat might be, and it was nowhere to be found. "I got him!" Mark declared, not all that confidently (rats have a way of making one feel a bit uneasy). Guess it's time to cook dinner.

We opened the camper door and found everything that had been on the counter and bench seat had crashed to the floor. Our cups, the veggies, a can of beans and tortillas we had taken out for dinner, our sunglasses, an empty can of coke. Lying right in the middle of the pile, our camera that I had thrown on the counter when I was checking the turnbuckle doors. Shit.

If there is luck to be had, it was in the way the camera fell. It landed on the edge of the lens, and the outer most layer was the polarizer filter. The rim was bent and the filter was cracked, a bummer, but it had saved the actual lens and camera from further damage. It was pricey, but nothing close to a brand new Canon EOS 7D with a wide angle lens.

Much to our relief we were able to pick up a new polarizer filter in Moab and get some spectacular shots in Canyonlands later on in the trip. The truck kept running like a champ throughout so we assumed the rat found another more amenable vehicle to hijack. That or it jumped ship in Utah before it snacked on wire insulation.

Because I know you were wondering, our backup pretzels were safe, untouched by rat lips. We shared them with our buddies as we told this story around the campfire, a satisfying end to a trip that could have taken a considerable turn for the worse.

1 comment:

  1. What we won't go through to save that bag of pretzels.