Rodents don’t deserve bad reputation

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

It’s getting about that time for rats and mice to start making their way into our homes to keep warm.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen a Clovis mouse. I’ve never seen a Clovis rat, but I bet Clovis rats would be normal sized compared to the legendary beasts of my past.

I first heard of giant rats from my dad. His career had him running some big American hotels in some big American cities. He told of hotel maintenance men seeing rats “as big as cats” deep in the basements of some of these hotels.

But the rats my childhood buddy Catfish told of were even bigger.

“At those clubs in the rough part of town,” he said with a big grin on his face, “They have big guys at the door with rats big as bulldogs on leashes.”

I listened with wide-eyed amazement. Catfish was my best pal, so I believed everything he said. It turns out Catfish was a teller of tall tales. OK, he was a flat-out liar, but he sure could tell a good story.

I learned folks seem to be ashamed of having rats on their property. For instance, once upon a time I worked at this radio station along a lazy stretch of the Clinch River in western Virginia.

One day as I sat in the control room I heard a scratching on the door. I had no idea what was on the other side. The secretary’s pet dog? One of my co-workers playing a trick?

I opened the door and there was a big slick brown river rat sitting up on its hind legs. I could tell it was as much taken aback by me as I was of it. It turned around and ran away through a hole in the wall.

I went right out and bought some rat traps and peanut butter.

I knew that peanut butter was a favorite rat treat after hearing how that famous rat movie, “Willard,” was made. To get the Hollywood rats to scramble all over the actors they smeared the people with peanut butter, then dressed them. The actors would then act terrified while rats climbed all over them eating peanut butter.

Can you believe people actually earned money doing this?

Anyway, the peanut butter worked. As the days went by I announced the number of big rodents I’d caught in the basement of the radio station. “Here it is folks, day five of our ‘Rat War’ down here by the river and we’ve nailed four of ’em.”

The following Monday morning the control room door practically exploded as the boss burst in.

“Are you giving reports on how many rats you’ve killed in our basement?” he asked. His neck muscles were bulging, a sure sign he wasn’t happy.

“Sure, boss,” I said. “There’s two more in the traps this morning; that makes half-a-dozen.”

“Don’t tell people about all the rats we have in the building,” he said rolling his eyes. “I was the laughingstock at church yesterday. Rats and mice were all we talked about in Bible study.”

The Lady of the House is a big advocate of white rats as pets. “They’re very intelligent,” she said. “They’re not like sewer rats.”

A pet rat might be fun. It sure would look cool walking my big-as-a-bulldog white rat on a leash through Clovis on a nice eastern New Mexico evening.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: