(a Barnstorming reblog)
Seventeen years ago we were in the middle of a hot August like this one. With no air conditioning then, as now, we use fans and at night hope for comfort from any cooling breeze drifting through the window curtains. Sleep is elusive when one is very busy sweating.
I remember waking suddenly from a fitful sleep in the dark of night, startled by a sound I could not readily identify. I lay still, my eyes wide open staring into the black space of our bedroom, discerning the sound of intermittent splashing in the adjacent bathroom. What the heck?
Our five year old daughter’s bedroom was the next room in the hallway on the other side of the bathroom. I called out her name, wondering what she could possibly be doing in the middle of the night, making splashing noises in the bathroom.
No answer. More splashing.
Now I was worried. I got up, walked into the hallway, peered into the dark bathroom, unable to see anything amiss. I flipped on the light switch. As my eyes tried to adjust to the sudden illumination, I was able to see one thing that most definitely did not belong in this picture: a rat’s hind end and long tail disappearing back down into the toilet. I gasped, shut the bathroom door quickly and gathered my wits. There is nothing that will turn one’s stomach quite like seeing a rat in a place it absolutely should not be.
I checked my daughter’s room, flipped the light on quickly to scan the floor and her bed, and she was soundly sleeping and all seemed fine. I shut off her light and shut her door quietly.
Then I woke the man of the house, the only reasonable thing to do in such a situation.
I’m not sure he believed me. Maybe I had only imagined I’d seen a rat? Maybe it was all a dream? Maybe the heat was getting to me?
I went and got a broom and handed it to him. He opened the door to the bathroom a crack, and saw little puddles on the bathroom floor and dirty wet marks on the toilet seat. He quickly closed the door again and looked at me. There definitely had been a grimy little something in that bathroom. But where was it now??
He opened the door again and went in, getting the broom handle ready to clobber the varmint. He peeked into the toilet and there was nothing to be found except some scummy debris floating in the water and scattered on the seat. He flushed. He flushed again. Nothing.
It was really hard to believe that a rat would voluntarily dive back into a toilet bowl and swim into the pipes …. unless it was headed for another toilet bowl. We quickly closed the toilet lid, piled books on top and went to check the other bathrooms–no signs of disturbance, wet paw prints or other ratty evidence of invasion.
There is little rational thinking that goes on in the middle of the night when a rat has swum up your pipes into a toilet. I admit to being a little emotional. That’s when we went for the bleach and poured a gallon down each toilet bowl, flushing a dozen times each, thoroughly disrupting all the healthy bacterial flora in our septic drain field. It did make me feel better momentarily. We closed all the toilet lids, closed all the bathroom doors and didn’t sleep a wink the rest of the night. When we inspected the toilets in the morning, one of the other toilets had been “visited” as well, but with the lid shut, the rat had disappeared back down the pipe.
In the morning, we coolly told lies to our three children. We told them two of our toilets were plugged up and they had to use one only, and always put the lid down afterward. We decided if we told them about a rat in the bowl, they would never feel safe about sitting on the toilet again. There is the potential of a real psychological PTSD (post-toileting stress disorder) entity. I certainly didn’t feel safe about sitting on the toilet and kept furtively looking down, which doesn’t make for a very relaxed bathroom visit. It can be positively constipating.
We did a search under the house, around the house, trying to figure out where rats could have found access to our septic system. Finally, we discovered that a pipe previously connecting the septic drain field to our temporary single-wide trailer living quarters during our major farm house remodel the previous year had never been completely sealed off when the trailer was removed. It was an open invitation to rodents seeking a cool dark (and wet) place to hide during a hot summer.
It wasn’t the end of our rat woes, but it was the last time they breached our plumbing. We later had a major invasion of our barns, requiring the ongoing services of expert exterminators as well as super duper cat defense. I’m proud to say I’ve not seen evidence of rats or their homely furry selves for years now.
We never told anyone about this little middle-of-the-night episode. In fact, our children thought for years we had sudden massive toilet failure at our house.
Until I blogged about it because it is a good tale (tail??) to tell…