‘Mickey Mouse’ strikes fear

Published 11:00 pm Friday, January 11, 2013

With absolutely no doubt, business would be curtailed at a store where rats are running rampant. Especially when the rats are, as my children called them, “woof” rats. So, the name of the store is being withheld to prevent a loss of profits.

One rat was not darting as normal field rats do. It was casually casing the store while another was sitting stone still on its haunches in wait of something.

In the back of the store, a bold and brazen rat was trying to snatch the cheese bait from the trap where another rodent was lying in state.

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These rodents were not mice. They were wharf rats big enough to pull a loaded hay wagon. It was not good for the business, but the sight of it all conjured up some memories for me.

Mama always said that I wasn’t afraid of the old devil himself. Mama didn’t know about me and rats. From the biggest wharf rat to the tiniest mouse, it didn’t matter. I would run and holler. Jump and scream. Climb a tree or jump down in the well. Anything to get away from a rodent. Hysterical is what I would be.

But wisdom gained from maturity and the increasing decline in agility and quickness have caused me to react a little differently when in the presence of rats.

My friend Sarah and I were at an old gristmill watching a corn grinding demonstration. We were late getting there so it was just the two of us and the miller. Or so we thought.

The floor of the mill sloped toward the front, toward the millstone and the miller.

Sarah and I were standing in the back of the mill watching intently. It was getting dark and the light inside the mill was dim. But there was light enough to see a rat, a wharf rat that appeared out of nowhere. The rat was standing on its haunches glaring right at us.

Now, this rat was huge with ears that stood straight and tall like Mickey Mouse. If it had a hat and a baton, it could have led the band.

In a split second, the rat began to scamper, this way, that way.

The miller didn’t break stride. He kept right on with his demonstration.

Sarah jumped on a mill cart and I got the urge to get my feet off the floor. I hopped, sort of, up on a bench where the cornmeal sacks were stacked.

Suddenly, the mill cart started to roll down the sloping floor, toward the miller, with Sarah holding on for dear life and screaming at the top of her lungs.

On and on the cart rolled until it hit the wall behind the miller and came to a stop. The miller didn’t blink. He continued his demonstration.

About that time, I heard rustling in the cornmeal sacks. Nobody had to tell me to run. Sarah was already making a beeline to the door. I took advantage of her downwind.

We were in the car with the motor running and letting the clutch out when the miller came knocking on the window.

He didn’t know “how come” we had to leave in such a hurry but, if we’d come on back in, he wanted to give each of us a sack of fresh ground cornmeal.

Now, there was no way wild horses could drag us back in there with Mickey Mouse on the loose.

We thanked him but told him that, if he wouldn’t mind to bring the cornmeal out to us, we’d wait “rat cheer” to get it.