What about those rats?
Those rats disturbed us. WB and Joan had purchased four acres of Southern California savannah covered with mesquite, scrub oaks, and all manner of sticky bushes and grasses. If a body got off the drive in and try to push a path through this brush it was a hard go; a machete might have been in order. Certainly, bare legged one would have been scratched repeatedly and probably have given up any attempt at forward movement after a few minutes, and even with pants one would get scratched on the arms and sometimes even the face by a low lying branch. It was pretty thick stuff with an occasionally bare space afforded by a protrusion of rock.
When WB and Joan first moved there in the early 80’s that brush was all there was in the area. Higher in some places, lower in others, but mostly brush, a habitat: home to a variety of beasts and bugs. Deer were seen migrating through the property when they first moved in. Coyotes were spotted, and even as I recollect an occasional mountain lion. It was not a good place to keep your domestic cat since they would end up coyote food. Rabbits abounded and other small rodents. Birds chirped; I especially liked to catch sight of your crazy looking road runner.
But over the years more and more people moved in and, sometimes for aesthetic, some times for safety (mesquite goes up like a torch), folks cut back the native brush. Deer no longer came through; no bob cats were spotted. Dogs appeared and horses. But Joan and WB did not cut back the brush, except such as necessary to protect the house from fire. One of the effects of this ecological alteration appears to have been the mass migration of field rats from the brush where they had been to the brush on the Delridge property.
Those buggers were everywhere. They had gotten into the attic at one point and then somehow removed. But we worried, as we tried to sell the house about their having moved back in. I want to call the rats field rats. Field rats do not seem so alarming; they live in the fields and frolic about like free range chickens. But a rat that lives in a house becomes, ipse facto, a house rat and that is another sort of rat completely. A mean, viscious creature that eats wiring and leaves rat poop all over the premises and is generally a menace to society.
On the day we gathered to clean up the property, I was inside when I heard shouting, yelling, cursing, rocks being thrown, and “Did you see that thing?” For in their picking up of junk they had unearthed one of those rats which they described variously as being one huge sucker and as large as a small cat. I failed to see it sadly. And while we worried throughout the sale of the house about those rats, we never were required to bring in a rat exterminator.