First, the prologue….
When we moved into our house we found that the previous owners had left a lot of junk down in the ‘half’ finished basement. Among the items were paint cans, moldy National Geographic’s and four gigantic rat traps! My Dad did not seem to deal very well with the possibility that we may have rats the size of smoked hams. Half the basement was well constructed with a concrete floor and brick walls. The other half was still unfinished earth, spider webs and of course, large yellow rat eyes peering out at you from every corner! This part of the basement was creepy.
Because the summer temperatures topped out in the high 90’s, Mom had Dad put in one of those little swinging doors on the bottom of the basement door for my dog Chiggers to come through and get out of the heat during the day. Dad was hoping Chiggers was a rat killer….end of prologue.
Every year, Mom used to put out a serious bean garden every year. Always a good size one and from it she canned enough green beans for the winter not only for us, but most of the neighbors and the National Guard as well. But it was a pain going out and watering it everyday.
Now, Dad had episodes of genius just about every week or so when he and Mom went down to the VFW for shrimp and beer night. Most times, Mom just told him to put the beer down and took him home, but one time he made some sense! He wanted to make it easier for Mom to get her garden watered, so he decided to punch a small hole through the basement wall and connect an old water hose to the drain hose on Mom’s washing machine down there and run the hose down to the garden. That way, each time she washed clothes, the garden would get watered from the drain off. Dad lived for moments like this.
Saturday afternoon…..Dad got a big hammer and a stone chisel and went outside behind the house and measured off where the washing machine would be on the other side of the brick wall. Finding what he believed was the right spot he commence to pounding. In the cool basement, relaxing, was Chiggers. When the pounding started, that poor dog went nuts! Seemed like the entire basement was coming apart. Chiggers ran around whining and trembling in the dark basement while Dad did his thing on the outside. After about ten minutes, Dad had finally punched a small hole through the wall. He then reached through the hole pushing the loose masonry out to the other side. At one point, he pushed his hand clean through to the other side.
Chiggers was a mess by now. The poor animal was running around in circles and pissing all over the concrete floor. Then Chiggers saw something digging it’s way through the wall next to the washing machine. That’s when he really lost it! The dog ran and leaped through the air and clamped down on Dad’s hand with a ‘Vulcan Death Grip‘! On the outside of the wall Dad screamed! “Holy shit!! A rat’s got me by the hand!!!” I’m upstairs watching TV and don’t hear Dad. Mom’s on the phone with her sister jabbering away and she don’t hear Dad either. But our next door neighbor, Mr. Benze, does and comes running over to Dad’s aid. “What’s wrong Sam?” Mr. Benze shouted as he watched Dad twist and kick his legs in all directions.
“A damn big ass rat has me by the hand!!”
Mr. Benze jumps back like he thinks the rat’s going to gnaw it’s way through Dad and then come after him! “What do you want me to do, Sam?”
“Go in the damn basement and beat it off my hand for Christ sakes!” Dad cried.
Mr. Benze ran to the basement door and cautiously opened it. “Hurry Benze, before the vermin chews it to a stump!” Mr. Benze went into the dark basement and looked towards the corner where all the commotion was. It was dark and cluttered and he had to strain to see.
“My God, Sam!!” cried Mr. Benze. “Your dog’s in here and he’s in the corner of the basement fighting with the rat!!!”
My Dad then shouted, “Get em Chiggers! Tear em up boy!!” At that, my dog bit down harder on my Dad’s hand and this caused my Dad to start screaming like a sissy on a roller coaster. A few moments later Chiggers’ ears perked up. He could hear the ice cream truck coming up the street and chasing that truck held a priority over any basement varmints. Chiggers let go of Dad’s hand and ran out from the dark corner of the basement and then between Mr. Bentz’s legs and out the open door racing around to the front of the house and out to the street to wait for the ice cream truck. Dad jerked his injured hand out of the hole in the wall and collapsed as Mr. Benze came running out of the basement.
“Your dog took off after it,” said Mr. Benze. “Couldn’t quiet make out what it was with everything happening so quick.” Dad just sat and moaned.
Now the epilogue……
Several things happened later that summer, concerning the events I have written about. Dad got more than his share of free beers at the VFW by the retelling of the rogue rat attack. Then Mom’s entire garden died the first time the washing machine drained wash water that contained bleach, and last of all, Chiggers got premium nothing but premium butcher bones all summer……what a hero.