I have several funny stories that deal with rats, but my most favorite story involved my father, a baseball bat, and the big house.
Imagine the excitement bubbling over inside a little girl when she is informed that the family will be relocating from the small dilapidated home that had housed her since she was born, to a poor man’s version of a mansion. It was a larger dwelling that provided the entire family with much needed space, and for this, everyone in the family from the oldest to the youngest was overjoyed. All of us had become tired of bumping shoulders while passing from room to room in that first house.
The big relocation was not one hundred miles away to the next state. In fact, it was not even a few miles north to the neighboring town. Our big relocation took us around the corner, exactly two blocks west, and then onto a dead-end street that sloped downward towards a surprisingly beautiful landscape decorated with trees. This larger home was located diagonally from one of the two Baptist churches in the neighborhood and a stone’s throw from one of the three nightclubs.
I thought that I was in heaven because this house was not only bigger but it came with a large yard that had two weeping willow trees—one in the front and another in the back. There was a lone maple tree on the side of the house. The yard was trimmed with a quaint little walkway that led up to the house. The surrounding outdoors presented a nice playground for me and the rest of my siblings. It never dawned on me until decades later that we displayed so much enjoyment for a trip around the corner.
I playfully referred to the big house as a “poor man’s version of a mansion” because the increase in living space did not translate into a better built home. Over time, this house too began to fall apart. I believed it started with the back door. It seemed that all the problems in our houses started with the back door. For instance, the thin wood frame around the door became rotted which made it possible for anyone to jiggle the door knob and unlatch the lock for instant access.
The big house came with two stoves. There was a big pot belly stove in the dining room that could easily heat the whole house and a small stove in the living room. Being young and careless at times I found myself getting burned when accidently bumping into the small living room stove. The family spent most of their time in the living room watching TV except for my grandmother who preferred to watch TV from a table in the dining room. I can still envision my grandmother sitting in the dining room with the big pot belly stove and baskets of unfolded clothes on the table beside her.
We also discovered that we were not the only occupants who enjoyed residing in the big house. Besides the wind blowing through the cracks, we had rats and they refused to vacate the premises. They had just as much access to the house as we did. Living in that house resulted in many run-ins with these persistent rodents, and this resulted in many delightful stories to pass down to the next generation. There was one in particular that became a family favorite for years to come.
One day my father decided to take care of a rat that was hiding under the living room couch. He gave my older brother instructions on how to chase it directly towards him where he would be waiting with a baseball bat. In this game, my brother was the baseball pitcher and my father was the batter. My brother did his part by chasing the rat to my father. However, my father must not have been a very good baseball hitter because when the rat came at him, he must have jumped two feet off the ground and yelled, “Yowza!” The rat ran right through his legs—untouched.
I wonder who was more surprised—the rat or my father.
P.S. No rats were harmed in this story.
Photo by Ellen van Deelen @EllenVanDeelen