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I have just had an epiphany. I am a pack rat. I must clean, clean. clean to organize and catalog all the shit that I keep. And trust me, my shit is shit. I am reminded of George Carlin’s “…their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff…”. Well, I am the exception. I keep shit I’ll never use. And I keep multiples of it, too. There is also the fact that I am drawn towards other people’s shit. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is entirely true. Last week I found a table in the basement, I kept it. Thankfully this time it actually was a nice object, and it was put to use. I replaced a table of lesser quality and got rid of the old one, so I made a nice trade. Still, I was just so damn pleased with myself and what I found. This is wrong. This type of behavior is one of an addictive personality. I am addicted to stuff. It is a disease, it is contagious, and it does not have a cure. Today I am going to try and part with some of my precious stuff. I hope I can deal with the separation anxiety.

If you live in the desert, and own anything, anything at all...pack rats are the bane of your residence. They are named for their persistent thievery...they'll steal your nuts and bolts, your keys, your wires, your batteries, large pieces of material shredded from your towels, your clothes, your plastic thermal pool cover, your guitar case, your wallpaper, your suitcase; they'll shred your documents (after urinating and defecating all over them), they'll steal your food, they'll devour anything they can stomach, and what they can't stuff down their greedy throats they'll carry away to their filthy lairs, and what they can't carry -- I swear -- they'll vandalize.

That said, the pack rat is a brown-gray rodent that is smaller than a breadbox but will only barely fit in a tennis ball canister. They have large, Mickey-mouse like ears, long tails, and fierce, fierce claws. They are quite clever and are very difficult to catch or kill directly. The only thing that will tip you off that a rat is in your garage at that very moment is a faint scrabbling noise. Very occasionally, if your rat control has been poor, they will brazenly steal your stuff right before your eyes. This is humiliating.

Pack rats are most easily controlled by a system of live traps that change locations periodically and a reliable BB gun. Posioned ammo is an option, but I didn't hate them quite as much as my father did. Rat poison, unless you personally inject three times the lethal dose into the rat's major blood vessels, is ineffective.

Place baited live traps close to the walls of the house during the day, bait with peanut butter. Check the traps every day. Cart any rats away at least 5 miles. If you happen upon a live rat that's not in a trap (this is relatively rare), call for help immediately. Such rats are usually hiding behind something, and having a second person to block the other escape route is very important. Load the BB gun, and shoot, shoot, shoot. Aim for the body -- the skull is hard enough to where the pellets don't always penetrate -- and put the rat out of its misery immediately by submerging it in a bucket of water. Wrap the corpse in several layers of plastic and dispose of in an appropriate manner.

If the rat is trapped, say, in a box or bag, or it's caught in the live trap but you'd prefer to kill it, put the whole thing in the freezer. The rat will usually become comatose and/or die. This is more humane than it sounds, as humans who have come near death of cold report that it's a peaceful, sleepy sort of near-death experience.

How can we kill all these rats, you ask? How can we live with ourselves? Well, for every one we kill, ten more spring up...there's no shortage of pack rats, that's for sure. Try to avoid going into a berzerk animal rage while trying to kill the rats, though, because they're better at being animal than you are and they will escape.

I kept a pack rat that I caught as a pet for awhile once. Didn't work too well. The rat tried to bite me when I tried to pet it, and the one time it didn't, it was trying to relax my guard so it could escape. They're funny to watch, but they're irrevocably wild. Anyone could have told me that, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to try. My father could only barely tolerate a live pack rat under our very roof, so eventually it had to go.

Don't be fooled by appearances. They're kinda cute, but pack rats are more evil than scorpions, coyotes, rattlesnakes, field mice, gila monsters, cholla cactus, or any of that other crap with posion fangs, needles, or stingers that lives out here.

The Great Pack Rat

When I lost teeth, I didn't want anyone to take the teeth away. My goal was to save all my teeth, so that when I was a grown-up, I could make a cool necklace out of them.

So, I would put a metal washer or bolt under my pillow. My dad told me that the Great Pack Rat would come and take it away, and leave me a shiny coin in return. The Great Pack Rat carried a bundle tied to a stick, full of shiny stuff that he liked to collect. He roamed around like a furry, kindly hobo. I pictured him as about three feet tall, standing on his hind legs, with a face rather like the illustrations of the Water Rat in Wind in the Willows.

The Tooth Fairy was way too frilly and girly, and I still prefer the Great Pack Rat.

I still have my baby teeth, but have not made them into a necklace. Perhaps that means I am not a real grown-up.

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