If I’d Kept Him Any Longer, I Might Have Named Him
I’ve been sewing seeds in the vegetable garden outside for a few weeks now – the winter stuff you can plant anytime in San Francisco: carrots, spinach, and lettuce – and one by one, the seedlings have been coming up and then disappearing after a few days, little craters left in their place.
I thought it might be birds, which I’ve seen go after seedlings before. Or maybe one of the four little dogs that live here had gone vegetarian. But, no. Today I found the culprit.
I was outside planting Rhubarb (a request from the wife) when I looked up and saw a large rat, casually munching my seedlings, not four feet from me. I froze for a moment, half horrified and half impressed by his brazenness. I swear he looked right at me with a “hey, what’s up?” look in his eye and just kept eating.
He ran off when I stepped toward him, but as soon as I walked away, he was right back there, devouring my future bounty. So, not especially confident that it would work, I grabbed a clear bucket I’d been using for mixing soil, walked over slowly, and brought it down on top of him. And, to my amazement, I’d captured a rat.
That’s about as far as I’d thought this through. As I watched him run in frightened circles in the bucket, digging at the soil with tiny worried hands, my heart sunk. I couldn’t end him. He was, after all, just appreciating my garden. But I couldn’t let him continue or I’d never get anything to grow. Clearly, a solution was required.
I put a potted plant on top of the bucket to keep it there, went in the house to grab the first flat thing I could find, and ran back outside with a cutting board. I slid the board under the bucket and scooped him up. I decided to take him to a nearby park and set him free. A change of venue would do us both good.
This was, I thought, a good idea. What was definitely not a good idea was deciding to show him to the wife before we left. I asked Heather if she’d like to see something cute. She said sure, but when I showed her a scared rat in a plastic bucket with a cutting board top, she screamed and ran to the other side of the room. I really did think he was cute, but then, I once had a rat as a pet. (His name was Lowell and he attended UC Santa Cruz longer than most underclassmen. Long story.)
As I was walking him up to the park, I bumped into a friend who asked why I was taking a rat for a walk. So I recounted the whole story and we sat there for a moment looking at him. He’d calmed down and was wiggling his whiskers and brushing the dirt off his face. I know he’s vermin, but you have to appreciate an animal that combs his own hair, even when trapped in a bucket. For a moment I wondered how our dogs would get along with a pet rat and if it’d be creepy to name him “Lowell Junior.” That’s when I realized I’d better finish this up before I got any more attached.
I set him free in the bushes beside the steps of Buena Vista Park. This may sound insane, but I really hope he’s okay. And that he can’t figure out how to get back to my vegetable garden from there.