am a mature and moderately brave hunter who has bloodied his spear
in the noble pursuit of all manner of varmints. I've faced weasels,
ground hogs, foxes, coyotes and even caught a glimpse of a wild
puma once–all without the least hint of fear. But rats leave
Mind you, I am not afraid of
the rat— not if I can see it and I’m armed with some
type of automatic weapon, an AK 47 preferably. But in the dark?
Lord give me room to fly!
strange rat-o-phobia of mine all harks back to my childhood and the
nights that we used to tell ghost stories about anything our Poe-driven
imaginations could dream up about strange sighings and nibblings
going on somewhere behind our farm-house’s plaster walls.
like 'Little Orphan Annie' where 'two big black things' snatched
the naughty Annie 'through the ceiling ere she knowed what she
was about' didn't help; but it was really the ghost stories that
did the most to create our fear of things that go bump in the
TV, kids used to think up all kings of ways to have fun. One of
ours in those days of 'Inner Sanctum' Radio, with its squeaking
door and eerie organ music, was to sit in a little circle in a
darkened corner of the old farm house and let our half-sister,
Virginia, scare us to death with her lurid tales. For us, she
was better than Poe or Inner Sanctum because she was live, and
we watched her in livid color, wide-eyed and jaws dropped as she
daubed her gory, fear-infected tales.
were always brought in somewhere, (Virginia was ingenious at working
in rats)–nibbling off sleeping faces here or crawling all
over various dungeoned or chained lost souls there. Truly, her
stories would have out-ratted 'Willard' in a competition.
we'd all head off to bed and try to sleep with side-staring eyes
and minds as tormented as Lady MacBeth's.
of those winters (the exact year long lost among the shuffled cards
of memory), became especially frightening because we had a rat,
a real rat in the house. Every night, just as I was about to doze
off into tormented dream, this creature would begin to gnaw somewhere
behind my bedroom wall: gnitch, gnatch, gnither, slither, gnick!”
you ever have a dentist get carried away in scraping away at a
poor, semi-drilled tooth with a hand probe? That’s about
the way that rat’s gnawing affected me. It was sheer torture.
I mean the fear was palpable. And I would lie there bathed in
sweat waiting for those teeth to slice their way completely through
the plaster listening for the thump that would surely announce
'like syllable of dolor,' that like the red death, the rat was
in the room!
all the while I lay there iced with fear, brother Charles, one of
those blessed souls who sleeps instantly upon contact with a bed,
would lie there snoring like some blissfully constipated Vesuvius.
Well, the thump never came or I would likely not be here to write
this, but I still occasionally find myself listening in the night–hoping
not tp here a rat.
spring of that year brought me my most harrowing rat encounter.
I was in our pig house with my pellet gun waiting for a rat to come
out of a hole on the far wall, when I suddenly became aware of a
strange weight upon my left foot. Glancing down I nearly turned
into a pillar of rock salt: there on my shoe, nibbling placidly
upon the tip of one of my laces was the most gigantic rogue rat
I had ever seen.
can’t recall weather I was propelled by liquid or solid fuel,
but I know the lift-off occurred without count-down. It was the
first time I ever achieved levitation without pre-meditation. My
feet never touched the turf.
never killed that rat, but I bowled over at least three pigs on
my out, and one of them limps to this day.
have been other Pinkonian rat experiences; some even worth a Wild
Thyme column, and these I may divulge another wild thyme.
GP (1974) re-edited from “Where
the Wild Thyme Blows” a column.
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