Trouble named Rufus runs overhead

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

I just heard Rufus again as he ran across the attic in my sons’ house in Mbale, Uganda.

Though we hear him fairly regularly, mainly at night, we’re not sure that anyone has ever actually seen Rufus. But we’re 99.9 percent sure that Rufus, who is actually Rufus II — he had a predecessor — is a rat. I figure that in lush Uganda, where plants and animals all grow as if on steroids, Rufus is probably about the size of a small housecat. Though we bear him no particular ill will — he seems energetic and might even be a decent sort, as rats go — we’d really like him to be dead before he can meet a she-rat and they decide to start a family up there.

The problem is that rodenticide, even in Uganda, presents some challenges.

I’d love to chuck a cat up into the attic, listen for sounds of the ensuing battle, and then see who emerges victorious. But no cats have volunteered, and the people I know here who have cats are irrationally attached to them. Rufus would probably win anyway.

Probably the easiest way to quickly dispatch Rufus would be to simply toss some rat poison — a good bit of it — into the attic. But I see two problems connected with this approach.

First, Rufus might indeed eat hearty, then clutch his chest or his stomach, keel over and expire. But the smell of a decaying Rufus might be less appealing than the sounds of the pitter-patter of Rufus’ feet.

Or, Rufus might expire, lose his grip, and fall free from the attic to land dead on the ground, only to be eaten by one of the three dogs that help guard the compound — and then we’ve got a dead Rufus, a good thing, but also a sick or dead guard dog, which is not a good thing.

A good old-fashioned rat trap would likely be the best thing, but good old-fashioned rat traps aren’t particularly plentiful here. A mouse trap, which I’m not sure is any easier to find here, would probably just make him mad. He is not small.

It’s probably a good thing I can’t see him and don’t have access to a pellet gun. I almost put my eye out shooting at a mouse in our garage at home one day. Cement floor. Ricochet. BB to the forehead. Not smart.

We’re still brainstorming about ways to kill Rufus, debating doses of poison, and considering possible ways to reel him in once he’s dead. Maybe we’ll figure it out before he dies of old age.

A great Kenyan proverb says, “Don’t trouble the trouble before the trouble troubles you.”

If Rufus was just quieter, he would be less troubling. But the ironic thing is how often we trouble troubles by fretting over problems that haven’t yet even entered our attic, much less, our lives.