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Conduit Capers:

The Real Reason I Needed To Cap Off
My Garage-To-House Conduit

In December 2004 I began to hear the sounds of a mouse crawling above the kitchen ceiling. My bedroom is above the kitchen, and at night I would often hear this scurrying sound below the floor. It sounded too loud to be a mouse, actually. In the laundry room adjacent to the kitchen, I noticed that the dog food bag was torn to shreds. The critter would spring my mouse traps but would not get caught. I figured it was a chipmunk, since I knew chipmunks liked dog food. I also realized that the uncapped 4-inch pipe I had installed between the house and the garage was the animal's entry "vector", since mice and larger rodents could easily get into the garage.

So I bought some big mouse traps, I guess they're usually called rat traps. Here in the cold north people buy rat traps to catch animals like squirrels and chipmunks. I've never known anybody who bought a rat trap to actually catch rats.

I began a frequent and diligent effort of monitoring the traps and making sure the bait (dog food) had not been stolen. It became frustrating because I could hear this critter crawling around almost every night.

One night in January I awoke about 3 A.M. to hear a ruffling sound in the bathroom closet, which is just behind my bed. I leaned up in bed to listen, and then CRASH. Something fell off the closet shelf. In the dim glow of the night light I saw a gray-brown blur zip past my nightstand and under my bed. I was so startled, I thought my heart was going to explode. I grabbed a flashlight and searched for the creature. Fully awake, I set more traps. This time I used buckets of water with small pieces of foam insulation, baited with peanut butter and dog food. For weeks I monitored the traps, but the bait remained.

In February I returned home from a week away. I checked all three rat traps. One had been tripped, but there was no critter. The next morning I woke up early, about 6 A.M., which is quite rare for me, especially in the middle of winter when it remains dark until after 7 A.M. I went downstairs and had my usual long breakfast. I did some work on my computer, which had been parked on the kitchen table instead of my office upstairs. Around 9 I went back upstairs to have a shower. Just before stepping into the shower, I walked into the adjoining "big" bathroom to turn up the thermostat for the floor heat, so the marble floor wouldn't be so cold when I stepped out of the shower. I turned to go back into the small bathroom, but I noticed something out of place. In front of the tub in the big bathroom, there was something on the bath mat. The critter. The chipmunk was laying there dead. Yikes. I did a double take. Wait a second, that's not a little chipmunk, that's a big 'ol r-a-t. My skin crawled. I hollered "A RAT... A ****ing RAT". I was absolutely surprised by my reaction. I had never heard a grown man scream so loud. Of course, I was standing there, without a stitch of clothes, and my next reaction was to cover my "personal department" with my hands. And all the while I was screaming like a cross between a ten-year-old girl and Richard Pryor. "Son of a b**ch!... Damn... S***" I carried on for probably five minutes.

Now, half of you folks are saying "B.F.D., a rat... so what?". But you need to see things from my perspective. I grew up in Northern Ontario. It's cold. Houses are well sealed against drafts, and rodents don't survive the winters, at least not in my old neighborhood. I never even saw a live mouse until I was in my twenties... there just weren't that many rodents around. I had heard of rat problems in some cities. I had lived in some larger cities. But I never encountered a rat. At the age of 42, I had never seen a rat, dead or alive, except in pet stores. I wasn't surprised to see a critter in the house, I was just shocked by the fact that it was laying dead on the bath mat, and the fact that it was a rat, a totally foreign animal.

But the way this rodent lay on the bath mat was bizarre. It looked like it was just sleeping. One back foot was bloody, which made me suspect that it had gotten caught in the trap and pulled itself free. Then it must have bled to death, but not before crawling onto the bath mat. In hindsight, it really was a very considerate rat. It had been living under the bathtub, and it could have died there and made an awful smell. But it chose to die out in the open, which is very thoughtful, if a rat can be thoughtful.

And I realized that I had walked directly over this critter at least once, and possibly twice, that morning. Barefoot too. Eeeew!


Bruce W. Maki, Editor.





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Copyright 2005

Written July 20, 2005