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Sometimes, it is best to avoid discussing certain subjects, however this isn’t one of those times.
Let’s be honest here, folks never have (and never will) want to discuss rats. It’s not nice to talk about them in refined company.
Seriously, people will give you a funny look when you mention wharf rats.
Growing up, we called ’em “wolf rats” cause they were big, mean and usually ran in packs.
Old homes have always been surrounded by plunder houses, garages, cow barns, buggy sheds and chicken coops.
Given that, each one of them was likely to have a nice, big plump king wolf rat in residence.
Now, I’m not talking about your typical run of the cotton mill rat. I’m talking about one so big the family cat runs off and hides when the king shows up.
That usually meant his royal court was around, too. It wasn’t unusual to see a couple of them scooting around the edges of our out buildings.
However, as soon as his royal highness showed up, they scurried off just like the cat.
And we had one, too. He was big, ugly and had a little bit a missing fur, sorta like he had the touch of the mange. Heck, even me and ol’ Tiger couldn't scare him off. It was almost like he was laughing at us. That laughter was about to stop.
Mama was the only girl in a large family of male hunters and had an eagle eye, be it with marbles or rifles.
More than once, I saw her pick off a moving target with her excellent shooting.
Come to think of it, Daddy was a crack shot, too.
That meant I had a natural feel for it. Years later on a military firing range, I was somewhat on the scale with Sergeant Alvin York. Right now, I was light years away from that.
They were good marksmen, but my folks didn’t let me to fool around with the rifles that were wrapped in gray flannel gun sleeves and stored in the back of their big bedroom closet.
Whenever I asked Daddy if I could handle one of them, his answer was always the same.
Nope,” he said. “Most people with guns often end up killing somebody whether they mean to or not,” he said in a serious tone, which made me drop the whole matter.
But sometimes, well...Mama and Daddy aren’t always around.
One sunny afternoon, me and Tiger were sitting on the back stoop, minding our own business, when the king rat slipped out of the car shed.
Bless Pete, the king rat was mocking us, and I had seen enough.
Somehow, all of Daddy’s stern “stay away from the guns in the back of the bedroom closet” warnings flew across the backyard as this unwanted varmint made fun of me and the best bulldog the world had ever seen.
Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Daddy was working and Mama was at an afternoon church circle meetings. The coast was clear.
I ran to the closet, swung open the door and grabbed the Winchester single shot 22-caliber rifle and took it out of the sleeve.
That whopper rat had thumbed his nose at me and ol’ Tiger for the last time.
“It’s only a rifle and don’t use big bullets,” I thought.
My heart was about to jump out of my chest when I slipped a couple of bullets out of the top dresser drawer. I shucked one of them in the rifle chamber, and stuck the other one in my pocket.
Tiger was outside barking something fierce.
I was fully loaded and cocked. Tiger met me at the back door and we commenced the great Chesterfield Avenue King Rat Safara.
By now, the king must’ve figured his days were numbered and had disappeared from his car shed vantage point.
I was determined not to back down. Me and Tiger cautiously crept around each out building looking for him, but he never showed his mangy hide.
Suddenly a commotion was coming from the chicken house.
Those white leghorn hens were a scary bunch anyway.
With one full step inside the chicken house, it happened.
When I wheeled around, a huge furry animal about the size of a small bear leaped at me. My quick trigger finger pulled back and POW! – a bullet was sent down the long barrel into the red clay.
Falling all over myself and Tiger in the melee, I fumbled through my pocket and dropped my remaining ammo into the sawdust.
Things were so confusing that I didn’t get a second look at beast that attacked us.
To make matters worse, Tiger was missing. Surely, he was hot on the trail of this monster rodent.
Getting myself back together, I stepped out of the chicken house and shut the door. Things would have turned out differently if I had a repeating rifle, I thought, but right now, I can’t dwell on that. I gotta find my dog. I hope he’s OK.
Here Tiger, here Tiger,” I shouted, as I searched pillar and post for him.
I felt bad and feared the worst was yet to come. Maybe this rat killing stuff wasn’t such a good idea. The monster rat missed me, but he must’ve gotten Tiger.
As I headed back inside, I heard something stirring beneath the porch steps.
“Tiger, is that you?” I asked.
He immediately crawled out from his hiding place.
I was glad Tiger was bobtailed.
If he had a long tail, he would have it between his legs right now.
I was just grateful to see him and scratched his head before going back inside the house. I cleaned the Winchester, replaced the flannel cover and put it back in the closet as if nothing had happened.
I learned my lesson and vowed right then and there to never bother a gun again.
I broke that vow, but never forgot that day. I have never been fond of single shot rifles, which is why my first hunting gun was a 16-gauge Remington pump-action shotgun.
Come to think of it, I ain’t never been too fond of rats, either.