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Supermouse and Super Rat

Alison Osius
Staff Photo |

Like some scion of Dogpatch, Roy slouches at the counter in jeans and no shirt, pellet gun in hand. He is scowling.

“That thing’s going down,” he says.

My teenage son has just seen the rat that I know is in the house, rustling around. No one has paid much attention to my complaints.

“It’s big, isn’t it?” I ask.

He swivels around. “No s—t! When I first saw it, I thought it was a rabbit.”

I dig out two rodent traps from the last time a pack rat came down the chimney, and we bait them with cheese. My husband, Mike, is away hunting.

The next evening Roy and I come home together and, darting a glance around the mudroom, I haul my absent older son’s cowboy boots on, under my summery capris. In the silence Roy ventures forth, peers cautiously around the kitchen corner.

“Oh my god,” he breathes.

The kitchen trap has been dragged 10 feet across the floor, is upside down, lodged under the counter. With a broomstick, we flip it over. I fear a snarling, half-crazed rat, or an amputation and sense of tragedy. Nothing.

The next evening I enter as nervously, in the boots, to find the trap simply gone. Eventually I spot it wedged under the stove, battered off anew.

•••

In one of my favorite mountaineering books, Enduring Patagonia, one scene concerns lauchas, Patagonian rat-mice that raid the food supplies of alpinists bivying in huts. Stuck inside during long storms, the climbers devise traps, such as a ski pole lain across a water bucket and smeared with sardine oil, to drown the mice. At one tiny high hut, the author, Greg Crouch, and his Swiss friend David are kept awake so often by scratchings that, lacking a bucket, they employ their cook pot.

•••

On the third day of my rodent siege, my friend Quent advises that we nail the traps to a 2 by 4. Mike, newly returned, finds a board and pegs the traps to it. I bait them with peanut butter.

That afternoon I clomp carefully inside in my boots. The traps are untouched, now eschewed. Our houseplants are ragged.

The rat lodges in the fireplace, where the other rat also hid and did $400 worth of damage to the wiring. Mike moves the bristling board over to the hearth.

•••

In Patagonia, upon one splash in the pot, Greg and David turn on the their headlamps, as Greg will write, “just in time to showcase a three-inch mouse as he springs from the water to the rim, pulls himself over the edge, and escapes.”

When it happens again, David says, “He is a Supermouse!”

•••

I dare leave nothing on the floor. Twice I drive away without my purse, because it customarily sits on the floor by the kitchen. My car almost runs out of gas because I never have a wallet.

One night Roy makes his lunch and puts the bag on the couch with his books. The next morning the rat has pulled his sandwich out and eaten half.

•••

The Patagonian storm continues, and the mouse escapes drowning for the next two nights, and then “counterattacks” — eating David’s tobacco. Incredulous, obsessed, Greg and Dave build a mega “Super Trap” out of a barrel. And the Supermouse almost jumps out of that, but in a climactic scene of bedlam is vanquished, to the jubilation of the humans, who dance around outside in the snow in their long johns. The next day two other friends, hiking up after a 10-day furlough in town, are treated to such an animated account of the Battle of the Supermouse that they steal a look at each other, as the author says, “convinced that we’ve been out here too long.”

•••

I grow paranoid about reaching into the pantry or shelves.

One day Mike awakens pre-dawn, slips down the hall, and half-yells. In the dark, the rat has run past his bare foot.

We borrow a live trap, bait it with onion.

•••

Even with the Supermouse gone, the alpinists can’t sleep through the long nights.

“S–t,” David says the next day when they rise for breakfast, “Last night was boring. We should not have killed the Supermouse.”

•••

The next morning I wake to no trap and no Mike. He lets the rat out five miles away, and there is nothing boring about it at all.

— “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at aosius@hotmail.com.


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