This piece originally ran in The Ohio County Times-News in Hartford, Ky., on Dec 21, 2006. The column was written by Sam Ford, Director of Audience Engagement at Peppercomm, our strategic communications and marketing partner. At the time, Sam had moved from rural Kentucky to Boston for graduate school. He wrote a column in his hometown newspaper comparing life in small town Kentucky and a big city on the East Coast. Sam has since returned to Kentucky with his wife, Amanda, and their two daughters. His Pekingese, Brando and Sissy, have also enjoyed going back to Kentucky living.
A few weeks ago, while I was in for Christmas break, I wrote a piece about the new member of the Ford family, the little mouse that had invaded our apartment. Little did we know, though, that lurking outside the door was the little mouse’s distant cousins from the streets.
We first ran into our outside guest one night when I was preparing to take my dogs for a walk. I had leashed them up and gone out our back door, where the trash cans for our building are lined up in a row.
I heard a sound, almost like feet shuffling, and looked around, but I couldn’t see anything. Then, I heard it again. This time, I was sure that it was coming from the trash cans.
Brando was quite sure as well. While Sissy was completely uninterested, Brando gave the trash cans that distinctive Pekingese cocked head look and backed up, trying to muster up the courage to growl.
I was as curious as he was, but perhaps I just wasn’t smart enough to back up and growl like he did.
Instead, I decided to figure out what it was, and I thought I would do so by kicking the trash cans. Here I was, in the middle of the night, sitting in front of three trash cans, curious and scared at the same time. I approached the can at the far right first, and with hesitation, kicked it.
As I kicked it, I jumped back…but nothing happened. No shuffling noise, just two bewildered dogs and one scared human.
I was a little more emboldened when I approached the second trash can, though, and gave it a little bit more stern of a kick.
Again, nothing happened.
Finally, I approached the third trash can, half-convinced that the noise I’d heard had been something else entirely. Perhaps just the wind blowing something through the alleyway.
When I extended my leg for that final kick, though, I got quite a surprise. I guess the lid on that trash can had not been fastened properly. Just as my foot connected with that trash can, the biggest rat I’d ever seen came flying out of the top of the can.
In that moment, Brando and I leapt back, and I think I let out quite a holler. The rat quickly scurried off, and the three of us quickly retreated back inside. A few times since then, when the dogs and I have been headed out the back, I’ve heard a little rustling or seen a darting movement from behind the trash cans. Brando notices too, but this coward of a human pulls him away quickly and scurries on.
Apparently, some of my neighbors have finally seen the rat, too, so they’ve called in the appropriate forces. I think the rat must have been stuck in the container over night at some point, because there are holes chewed in the plastic in several places. Now there is quick entry into and out of the trash. This actually may be the first rat I’ve ever encountered in such close quarters. There are a few running along the subway rails from time-to-time, but I never had to deal with a rat back in Kentucky. I really don’t want one living outside my door here in Cambridge.
Since seeing the rat, I’ve been on high alert for varmints and other critters scurrying around the streets. For those of you who have asked me if I miss the wildlife up here in the big city, the fact is that we have more wildlife than we know what to do with in Boston.