Monday, January 17, 2011
Sometimes you just have to get suited up and go slay the dragon.
And by "Slay the Dragon," I mean cover every square inch of exposed flesh and shimmy through our crawlspace in search of something that died under there. Let me explain- we have a partial basement, and the rest of the house contains a really creepy crawlspace with 18-24" ceilings. Three years ago the city started a big sewer project down the hill from us. The popular theory expressed by the city was that all the commotion down the street pushed a whole passel of sewer rats up the hill in search of whatever vermin seek (I assume it was peace and quiet in this case).
One beautiful summer evening we were eating on our neighbors patio when our son ( age 2 at the time) began squawking "squirrel!! squirrel!!" We all looked over to see a large brown rat standing 10 meters away. He ran off on his Black Plague-covered legs, and the neighbors informed us that the city would soon begin poisoning them. At this point, I'm guessing you can see where this is going. Several days later, our dog caught an obviously soon-to-die-from-being-poisoned rat and delivered the coup de grace. I assumed the dog had announced that our yard was not a safe place for rats to die, but I was horribly, horribly wrong.
A few days later we began to notice a faint and unpleasant odor. All the usual suspects came up clean (garbage, litter box, etc.), and the odor grew in intensity by the day. It soon reached a level where one would be met with a wall of stank as soon as you walked in the door. It was clearly the sweet, sweet smell of rotting flesh. I opened the window to the crawlspace and was met by a wave of putricity (not sure if this is a word, but I like it and am leaving it in). It was time to GET. IT. ON.
First, the special equipment needed to be donned, in the following order:
1. Flightsuit- covers the arms, legs, and torso, and has a large collar to protect the neck
3. Ballcap, backwards- the only time a man over thirteen should turn a hat around is if he is searching for a dead rodent
4. Head torch- I like that the Brits call a flashlight a torch, but wish they wouldn't spell GRAY with an E (GREY? What the hell is that?)
7. Garbage bag
Here is a pic of the crawlspace, taken during daylight hours:
Yep, that's it. Pretty dark.
After my initial entry, I realized I needed more layers between my and all the rodent feces, so I backed out and strapped on a few garbage bags to protect myself from all the goo I could see. This outfit was lovingly captured by my bride in the picture at the beginning of the post. She was laughing her ass off at me, but you have to admit the plastic bags and tape really accentuate my package.
I now set off under the house again. 18 inches is just high enough to allow you to keep your head up and low crawl. I started a standard grid search; after 20 minutes or so, I was coming up empty. Finally, at the end of my grid, I saw something moving 20 feet away; as I crawled closer, I realized the movement I saw was MAGGOTS CRAWLING ON A DEAD RAT!!! He must have crawled under the house to die through a rat-sized hole. It was time to "Cowboy Up." I pulled the garbage bag out, and began to pull the rat toward me. It had the consistency of jello wrapped around a skeleton. I used the shovel to pull the rat into the bag, and backed out in a most undignified and hasty manner. Keep in mind, I had barely enough room to roll onto my side under there.
Since then, I have taken several trips under the house to investigate strange odors, and all have been fruitless, or shall I say dead rat-less. We had a serious scare that took two trips under the house last summer, but it turned out to be rotten mustard greens our son had placed in a vase and put up high in the corner and out of sight. Strangely enough, rotten mustard greens smell a bit like dead rat.
I tell this tale not just to amuse, but in order to pass on a very important lesson (I'm sure that in 2000 years, Aesop's fables will be replaced by Mr. French's)- sometimes the quickest and best solution to a disgusting and horrible situation is to jump in scoop up the dead rat.
Not the actual rat)