Rat Tails and Rat Tales

By Dottie Maxey Dewberry, March 23, 2015

I lived longer in the old ram shackled shack than in the concrete block house that Daddy and his brothers built. So most of my tales will be about the little three room house we lived in until I was 13 years old. If we were poor, can you imagine what those rats thought: These people are too poor to even have crumbs.

One night we kept hearing something go bump after we turned off the lights. So one night Daddy stayed by the kitchen door near the light switch, when he heard the bump he flipped on the light switch. Guess what he saw? Yep, it was a rat trying to carry a potato and he kept dropping it.

Even though we had cats by the dozen, we still had rats. I'm not sure how they survived the cats, but they did because they would leave evidence that they had been in the kitchen. Guess what they left? Yep, rat pills.

There was not any way to keep them out of the house. We had holes and cracks in various places: the walls, the floors, the ceiling, the doors, pick a place I am sure there was a crack some place. It doesn't take much space for a mouse to get through. They were always looking for food, so Momma had to make sure everything edible was enclosed in a rat proof container: in tin containers-like lard cans or molasses buckets, in Tupperware containers, fruit jars (canning jars) or put the stuff in the refrigerator. If they could get too it, they will eat it.

We also had rats at the barns; you will have them wherever they can get something to eat. Rats loved to chew through the feed sacks (gunny sack) where there was feed to eat. They would then have their babies. We kids loved to play with them. Daddy and the brothers did not think too much of our playmates. We were usually told to: "Go drop them in the well."

I am not fond of rats, but they were not allowed in the Grade A Dairy barn, so every effort was made to get rid of them. Rat traps: the kind that snapped shut on their heads, the kind where they got caught in the sticky stuff and could not escape-kind of like Tar Baby, and the kind where they crawl into a contraption to get feed and then can't get out of. Sometimes you found rat skeletons; sometimes you found a live one, but not for long. Cruel and unusual punishment!!

When my sisters and I grew up, married, and had children, we would visit our parents on the farm with our kids in tow. There was nothing the boys (4) liked better than to catch a live mouse so they could scare the heck out of their Mothers.

At night we slept wherever there was room, sometimes it would be pallets on the floor---not anymore. At night the mice would come out and run right over you where you were trying to sleep. Talk about having screaming/giggling fits. It would take a while to get everyone settled down. Every little sound had everyone up, literally up on their feet wide-eyed awake. Finally we just all piled on one bed. The boys would always sleep up at Daddy's where they delighted in catching mice alive to torment all the girls and their Mommas. There was only one thing that scared us more and that was snakes.