More Dogs on Main Street
September 25, 2009
It seems like this summer I’ve been besieged by rodents. Living out in the sticks, that’s fairly typical. There are potgut squirrels, tree squirrels, marmots, field mice, voles, gophers and other subterranean critters. I spent a good part of June locked in battle with a pair of beaver who had colonized the pond behind my house and set about clear-cutting the lot. They have gone on to beaver heaven with the help of a cell-phone-toting mountain man trapper. There are other beaver who decided that our main irrigation canal looked like a good spot to build a dam. They were convinced to move on when the water ran out for the season and the canal was shut down.
So just when I thought I had the rodent situation under control, a new one moved in. There is a pack rat in my tractor barn. Despite the irony of having a pack rat move into a barn that I have stuffed full of useless old junk, this is not a relationship with a future. It’s got to go.
If you have never had a pack rat move in on you, consider yourself lucky. They are stubborn and determined. Some days it will sit there on the top of the wall where it is stockpiling leaves and stare at me. I swear it is giving me the finger. I’ve thrown rocks, whacked it with a shovel, and cussed it in ways that would singe the hide off a bear. I rip its nest out every morning, and by the next morning it’s back in place, bigger, meaner, and more fortified.
In the abstract, in a gerbil kind of way, pack rats are kind of cute, with big ears and a sort of expressive face. That’s in the abstract. In actual practice, they are disgusting. It defies the laws of physics, but a pack rat can produce twice its body weight in poop in a matter of hours, and flows a volume of urine that would float a battleship.
Once they get comfortable, their favorite hobby is chewing the wiring out of vehicles. I had one move into my old snowplow truck years ago. The nest on the exhaust manifold nearly set the truck on fire. It ate the insulation off the wires in so many places that the truck never operated normally again. Random short circuits would blast the horn, turn on the lights or wipers, or shut the engine down without warning. I think I put about ten rolls of electrical tape into it, and never did solve all the problems.
They are smart little s-o-bs, too. This one can clean the peanut butter off a trap and leave it polished cleaner than new without springing the trap. It has moved a wide variety of poisons around the barn, sorting by color one day, then by shape another. The stuff is in constant motion. But while it hauls the rat poison around, it won’t eat it.
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The barn is too full of stuff to start shooting in there. I’m not a good enough shot to pick off the pack rat in the shadows without doing some serious damage to other things. I might try a b-b gun, but again, to odds of me hitting it are slim to none. So the strategy is to move everything out of the barn, wash off the filth, and assume that when the place is stripped down to the bare walls, the rat will leave. But so far, it’s Rat 7, Clyde 0.
Speaking of vermin, I got a bill from the lab monopoly which does most of the testing for the local clinics. I had my annual checkup, and the doctor ordered a couple of the most routine blood tests. He wanted to check the ratio of high-fructose corn syrup to pizza sauce in my blood. This is such a routine test that IHC, over at the Heber hospital, is actually doing it free as part of its 10th anniversary open house.
So I get the bill, and the retail rack rate for this test is $114. That’s what they would charge if you walked in off the street without insurance. I have a crappy Blue Cross plan, but I get the insurance discount rate. If you have insurance, the lab is happy to do this test, and make an acceptable profit on it, for a total of $18. That’s not my copay. That’s the total charge for the test. With the full battery of tests, the rate for the uninsured is $443, and the rate for a customer with insurance is $71.
This is the miracle of the free market in health care, and the wonderful system that our congressional delegation is doing its level best to preserve. Not all the rats are in my barn.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.