Posts Tagged ‘house’

I know.

You’re wondering what happened to Houdini the Rat – you want to hear the rest of the sordid tale don’t you?  OK, I’ll tell you the sad, sad story of how Houdini finally met his maker.

As we left him last, Houdini had been forced from his home in the garage and his carefully constructed rolling compost heap had been torn apart, restoring it to the classic 1974 Cadillac DeVille that it was.  I’m sure it was very traumatic for the little guy to watch. 

Where, oh where could our fine, furry friend find a new home?

I can almost imagine the little rat stepping out of his beloved garage and taking a look around.  There was Grandpa’s house but he had already tried a house without much success.  Why not the barn across the corral? 

Why not, indeed?

Even though there wasn’t a big old Cadillac to fill with veggies there was a new source of food and shelter.  The oats for the horses and alfalfa cake for the cows is stored in the barn.  It’s also where we keep the tack for the horses.  Just think of all the great nests you could build from a sweaty old cotton horse blanket, not to mention all that great leather to chew on!

It didn’t take Houdini long to settle in and it wasn’t long at all before he made his presence known.  There were holes in the saddle blankets.  Several saddles had teeth marks and a brand new cotton cinch disappeared completely.  When we did finally find it tucked behind a barrel of oats, the only parts that were left were the brass buckles. 

At least we knew that Houdini was alive and well in the barn.

The traps and poison were moved into the barn and within a couple of days Houdini was once again staring back at us through the wire mesh of the catch-em-alive trap. 

This time Hubby didn’t take any chances.  Houdini had already cost us a lot of time, money and horse tack so Hubby had no qualms at all about shooting the rat through the sides of the cage, leaving two small holes in the metal screen and one dead rat.

Fairwell to a worthy opponent. 

We salute you.

Well, all things must come to an end – so it was with Houdini the Rat.  But just because he was dead it didn’t mean his adventures were over.

Our two sons had grown as fond as anyone to the tale of the wood rat and once they knew we had dispatched the little critter once and for all they asked to see the body when they got home from school.  They were curious – Houdini had always been moving at a pretty high rate of speed whenever they did catch a glimpse of him so they wanted to take a good look at him now that he was…  well…  a little slower.

I guess you could say Houdini had left his body to science.

At that time our family was technically living in two places.  We were working on remodeling the old house at the ranch but still owned the house 32 miles away at Custer, SD.  I would work on the ranch house all day then go home to the kids who were still in high school at Custer while Hubby took care of things at the ranch. 

That afternoon Houdini’s body was placed in the bed of the pickup and I went home to make supper for the kids.  They were thrilled to finally see the wood rat up close. 

I know – ranch kids are weird.

The next morning, for some reason that I can’t remember, we swapped vehicles and the boys drove the pickup to school, not even thinking of the dead rat in the back.

Of course, boys will be boys and the death of the infamous wood rat was a hot  topic in the parking lot before school.  Amazingly, none of their friends had ever seen a bushy-tailed wood rat so they all congregated around the back of the pickup for a close look at the native wildlife. 

One thing led to another.  One kid had an idea – another kid had a roll of duct tape and before you could say Abracadabra, Houdini was taped to the antenna of someone elses car.

Now, don’t get upset – it wasn’t done in anger or spite.  The kid who’s car they chose to’ bless’ with such an honor was actually a good friend of theirs and obviously one with a well-developed sense of humor (and another roll of duct tape) as Houdini was soon moved and thus began his tour of the parking lot. 

All day long there were comments in the halls of the school.

“Did you see that thing taped to my antenna?”

“Yeh, what was it?”

“I don’t know but it’s on (so and so’s) car now.”

No one knows for sure how many vehicles were visited that day as Houdini traveled throughout the parking lot.  There were even rumors that some of the  teachers were introduced (up close and personal) to the wood rat as the day went on. 

By late afternoon, Houdini was the talk of the school but then the body went missing.  No one knew what happened to him and to tell the truth no one really thought much of it.  More than likely, someone had finally taken the bull by the horns (or more aptly, the rat by the tape) and disposed of the body.  School let out and everyone went home with a new knowledge of the bushy-tailed wood rat.

The boys came home and shared the story of Houdini’s wild day at school with me.  Of course, I was horrified and knew for sure my beloved but slightly warped children would be expelled from school.  But they weren’t.

The next morning I needed the pickup to haul building supplies to the ranch so we swapped vehicles again.  The boys left for school and I headed to the lumber yard then on to the ranch.

It was a beautiful fall day with warmer temperatures and lots of sunshine.  As I pulled up to the house I saw my hubby working outside.  He glanced up, then did a double take, a crease furrowing his brow as I pulled to a stop beside him.

“What’s up?”  I asked.

“I don’t know.”  He answered still looking puzzled.  “What’s hanging under your truck?”

It couldn’t be.  But it was.

We both got to our hands and knees to look under the truck to find a plastic grocery bag tied to the center of the pickup frame. 

The mystery had been solved.

Houdini had come home to the ranch. 

He’s buried out in the back yard.


 Maybe I’ll put up a headstone someday.


Maybe we should have named him Boomerang.


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As we left our soggy rodent friend yesterday he had just escaped a watery death at the hands of his arch nemesis (I always wanted to say that) and our hero Hubby.

Houdini had scurried around the rim of the stock tank – no easy feat in itself, narrowly missed being smacked by a wildly swung shovel, raced through the garden to a small opening in the garage and disappeared in the cool, dark shadows within.

No amount of cussing, screaming or digging through the accumulation of boxes, spare parts and who know what else was in the garage produced hide nor hair of the rodent. 

Houdini had vanished once again – and in the process, he had discovered a new and exciting kingdom.

This is the real Harry Houdini – what an inspiration to our rodent friend.


We neither saw Houdini nor any sign of him for a couple of weeks and probably would have forgotten all bout him – allowing him to live out his days in peace if it hadn’t been for Houdini’s bad habits. 

Suddenly, Grandpa’s car started having problems.  Nothing big – just little things like the heater had quit working and the lights on the dash weren’t quite right.  Could it be that Houdini hadn’t ridden off into the sunset like we had hoped.  Had he had moved into Grandpa’s car and begun feasting on the wiring?


So one fateful day, Hubby and Grandpa decided it was time to fix the car.  We were well into fall and the cold days of winter weren’t far behind.  Grandpa would need the heater fixed.  They opened the hood of the big old 1974 Cadillac and stepped back in amazement – their jaws slack and agape.

It was a modern marvel of ingenuity – perhaps the 8th wonder of the world right here on our very own little ranch.  Houdini had created the first mobile compost heap in history! 

Being within easy access of Grandpa’s garden had, as it turned out, given our furry little rat a ready supply of veggies which he had carefully stored away for the winter.  Every nook and crannie of the huge V-8 engine compartment in Grandpa’s big old car was packed with a variety of veggies, baling twine, corn stalks and whatever else Houdini could lay his fuzzy little fingers on.  Empty squash and zucchini shells, rotting peppers, tomatoes  and old, moldy cabbage leaves were just a few of the veggies he chose to store away with an occassional bean or onion top thrown in for a well balance diet.  Believe it or not – everything Grandpa had tossed into his compost heap had found its way under the hood of his car.

I can only imagine how many trips to town Houdini and his rolling compost heap had made and how many veggies were now scattered on the side of the road – perhaps after first being shredded by the fan of the massive engine – a giant 8 valve food processor.  And just think of poor Houdini, if he had ridden along he had probably been a nervous wreck, watching his food so lovingly stored for the winter falling to the ground below with every pothole and washboardy stretch of gravel road shaking more of his precious cargo loose. 

Oh the horror of it!  The pain and anguish!!!

And as if that wasn’t bad enough – his stash had now been discovered by the two men on earth who hated him the most.

Amid more cussing (a lot of cussing), the remains of the rolling compost heap were removed from the engine and the chewed wiring was repaired. 

Rat poison and was spread throughout the garage along with the dreaded catch-em-alive trap and several rat-sized, spring-loaded, not quite what you’d call humane traps. 

War had been declared!

But Houdini wasn’t afraid, and he wasn’t a quitter!!!  I honestly don’t think he knew the meaning of the word.

Since things had become unbearable in the garage, Houdini packed his bags (figuratively speaking) and left – headed straight for his new life…

His life in the barn.

To be continued, again…

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A couple of years ago when our house looked like this:

We had a little problem with pack rats.

Actually the critters we have are called bushy-tailed wood rats.

Neotoma cinerea if you want to get all scientific.

They’re really kind of cute in a ‘ratish’ rodent type of way.  Full grown they are roughly the size of a small rabbit only with a long furry tail and cute little rat ears.

But do not be deceived by the adorable ears and fuzzy tails.  These are not the kind of creatures you would willingly invite into your home.  They chew on everything from food to furniture and they especially love wiring and plumbing.  They generally make a mess – not to mention the shock of coming face to face with one in your home!  I think I got about 147 grey hairs over a few weeks of construction – thank you very much.

As we started work on the house we were introduced to one particularly determined wood rat who eventually came to be known as Houdini.  We would see him as we worked on the old house.  He would show up at the most inopportune times and always when you didn’t have a weapon at hand to dispatch the furry little creature.  You’d move a piece of sheet rock or a box of nails and there he’d be.  You’d see him scurrying down the staircase or climb a ladder and he’d be there amongst the rafters to greet you.  He was everywhere!!! 

We tried to be humane – really we did.  We tried for several weeks to catch the little bugger in a catch-em-alive trap but Houdini had a way of springing the trap, eating the bait and disappearing all in a matter of seconds. 

He was good!

One day we saw him zip into the old hide-a-bed sofa that had been left in the house.  We quickly drug it out the door but once we opened it up Houdini was nowhere to be seen.  The same thing happened with an old cast iron wood stove.  It took four of us to haul it outside while holding boards over the openings just to find it was empty when we all collapsed outside.

Houdini was a master of escape but his days as master of our castle were numbered. 

After several alterations to the trap, my husband did finally catch him.  With his shiny little black eyes pleading to us through the fine mesh wire of the cage he faced his defeat. 

My husband didn’t want to shoot him, not because he had feelings for the rat – he didn’t want holes in his newly improved trap nor did he wish to risk Houdini’s escape by opening the cage to get a clear shot so after a fond farewell from me (OK – it wasn’t too fond) my husband hauled the trapped rodent down to the stock tank at Grandpa’s house where Houdini would meet his watery fate.

But don’t cry for Houdini yet!  The story didn’t end here.

As the cage sank into the slimy green depths of the stock tank the latch released allowing one of the doors to float up with the rising water.  Houdini, never one to pass up an opportunity, made quick work of this last-ditch shot at freedom.  He swam out the end of the cage and amid many shouted curses and a wildly swinging shovel that nearly ended it all, Houdini climbed to the lip of the tank and ran half-way around the edge, out of reach of the long-handled shovel. 

Hubby was no match for the soggy little rodent who was spurred on by a genuine fear for his life.  Houdini cleared the tank, shot between rows of tomatoes and onions in Grandpa’s garden and darted through a small hole in the back of the garage.

Hot on his trail, Hubby tore through the garage, throwing boxes and spare parts aside but the varmint had vanished once again.

Houdini had lived up to his namesake by making an amazing (and hair-raising) escape from the claws of deaths’ icy grip.

I hear you cheering out there. 

 I know – I wanted a happy ending too – and it could have been if Houdini had moved on.  

But he didn’t and unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story…

To be continued…

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I would like to give you a short tour of our new home. 

Bob Vila – where are you?

Here’s our front porch.  Y’all come sit a spell. 

Can you say ‘redneck’?  I knew you could.

Actually the sofa isn’t usually on the front porch but we had to haul it out.  There was a pack rat living in it and we finally decided enough was enough when he started eating our Little Debbie snacks.  We can put up with a lot but when you mess with Little Debbie it’s over – Houdini the rat had to leave.  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, he wasn’t in the sofa when we hauled it out – hence his well deserved name.  But that’s another story.

Is that sewer pipe on the front of the deck?  And check out the front step made from huge cement pallets that are used for transporting transformers (the big can-like things hanging on power poles).  Did I mention my husband retired from the power company?  Now you know ‘the rest of the story’.

Actually, thank goodness, this front porch is no more.  This was what our place looked like when we started.  Hard to believe – some people thought we should just drive the D-8 dozer through it and start from scratch.  There’s just no accounting for some people’s taste.

C heck out the well-oiled, go-get-em work crew.  They are ready to spring to action at a moments notice.  Can you tell?  That’s our oldest son on the left, John – the best cement man in the world, our youngest son – who will grow up to do anything but be a carpenter and my hubby.  Yes, I have to admit they did deserve a rest.

This is me after I collapsed in the doorway.  No – not really.  But I deserve a rest now and then too.

Here’s our living room.

And hubby’s standing in the crawl space under the master bedroom. 

This cute little house was built in the 30’s.  We’ve heard rumors it was a Montgomery Wards house.  I guess you could order a whole house from the catalog – impressive isn’t it?  Anyway it did have some unique issues.  They must not have actually had the windows when they framed them in because some of the framing had been cut out and kinda just improvised.  I really wish I had taken some photos of that.  This house never had insulation (before it’s time) or plumbing and the wiring was done rather haphazardly.  And the biggest obstacle was the house wasn’t square.  It was like you had taken two opposite corners and pulled – boy did that make for some fun building!!!

And just look at this kid – nice nails sticking out of his hat.  He was having fun wasn’t he?

He’s the baby,  got to love him.

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