I live in an old French farmhouse. It is at least 600 sq. metres. The house has three storeys. The top floor is living quarters. The bottom one, the cellar, consists of rooms with vaulted ceilings intended for animals.
I don’t have any sheep or goats. But in the rooms I kept hay for my horse and vegetables/oats for the rest of the family.
Once when we got a load of hay in the summer it was good and dry. Everything was idyllic.
But when the autumn approached, we discovered that the load of hay had been full of rats. Lots of rats. Big rats.
The lower storey of the house had become an eldorado for rats. For there was food enough. My family had expanded. It was quite a task to go down to fetch oats or potatoes while it teemed with big squeaking brown rats, which ran up the panelling and into the nooks and crannies there are in thick walls consisting of stones from the fields.
The sound of scraping claws inside the walls was terrible because the rats were able to climb up inside the walls in the whole house, so that you could hear them everywhere. However they could not get into the living rooms. Whether it was due to discretion or weakness I cannot be sure. But I felt that I was living in a rats’ nest. The noise was bad enough.
The first thing I did was remove all the food from the lower storey and take the hay out into the fields. I still remember the feeling of having six bales of hay in the car, knowing that they contained rats’ nests and rats. I could feel their beady eyes on the back of my neck while I drove out.
Rat traps and poison were laid out. A week later there was peace and quiet again. Almost. For of course I had forgotten one red cabbage. I could see that something was still gnawing at it. I caught sight of the miscreant – a giant rat. I think we stared at each other for five minutes before I reacted.
I quickly got hold of a trap, put cheese in the trap next to the red cabbage. I could see that it went on eating the red cabbage. The cheese hadn’t been touched.
I put some cheese next to the trap – the cheese disappeared the next day. I put a large red cabbage out. Some serious gnawing was done.
It ate and ate.
All the while the trap remained untouched nearby. The rat was meant to get used to it. I put some chopped cabbage in another trap until it was completely covered. The rat ate some of the cabbage every day.
But gradually there was less and less cabbage. Finally it was all gone. Three days went by. The trap was set up again with a piece of red cabbage in it. The next day a rat was in the trap.
But to this day I have the feeling that it had cheated me. It had lured one of its cousins into the trap. Because I can still see it, smell it and hear it in my mind.
It still stares at me challenging me all the time…