When those pesky, brazen rodents take over the barn

Published 11:16 pm Thursday, November 5, 2015

By Pam Stone

One of the things that I’ve noticed, as the dogs grow older and dim of sight, is the cautious, and in some cases, brazen return, of members of the rodent family to the farm. 


How affectionately I remember having such great yields of apples from our small, heirloom orchard, that I had to carry them into the house using both a bucket with the windfalls stashed in the rolled up bottom of my t-shirt. This plethora of fruit was made possible by Bonnie and Rosie, following both instinct and passion, as they chased every squirrel from the vicinity and those that they treed were subjected to an hour of high pitched, frenzied yapping that in some cases resulted in suicides as the squirrels preferred a quick death by falling in front of them rather than hearing a moment’s more canine cacophony.

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The barn, always considered a Super 8 Motel for other destructive, furry, animals, remained immaculate and free of chewed feed bags and rodent droppings, thanks to the terriers tenacity, and we really had a terrific system. The only mess that ever occurred were by the girls themselves, when I had been careless enough to toss an empty Burger King or candy bar wrapper in the trash, resulting in a mutinous attack of them dragging the plastic garbage can across the front yard and tearing every item apart in a determined search for a French fry.


However, in the past two years, our apple trees have been picked clean by grey colored thugs that strip each limb bare merely a day or two before the fruit is ripe enough to pick. The dogs, now both 14 and 13, respectively, give only half hearted chase to squirrels and give up after a few feet, not unlike a middle-aged tennis player that can no longer be bothered to chase a ball close to bouncing out of bounds.


And then just this morning with the girls following me about the barn as I began our mundane routine of mucking out stalls and sweeping the concrete aisle, I went into the tack room to retrieve a broom and evidently disturbed an enormous field rat who, even though noting both Bonnie and Rosie only feet away, couldn’t be bothered to flee with alacrity but rather jogged – as God is my witness – jogged out the door, crossed the aisle into the outdoor wash rack and meandered into the back paddock.


The dogs merely blinked.


“Seriously?” I gasped at them, “That’s it? I know you saw it – you still see me unwrap a slice of cheese when my back is turned – but that’s it? No chase, no nothing?”


They blinked, ignored my chastising, and turned to investigate the manure pile for recent hoof clippings left by the farrier, otherwise known as ‘Jack Crack.’


And when we turned towards the house and breakfast, a young squirrel, halfway down a Pin Oak tree and twitching its tail with curiosity, felt bold enough to hop to the ground, pick up an acorn and nibble it as we all passed by, clearly feeling no threat whatsoever. Knowing a baked chicken breast in its own, juicy, broth, over rice and greens awaited them, the girls can no longer be bothered with hunting. Not even for fun.


With age, it is said, comes wisdom. Or, at least, a catered meal.