Michael Gallagher

Michael Gallagher

assistant editor

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It’s my job. I know it’s my job. You don’t need to tell me it’s my job.

I kill rats.

Actually, if we’re being truthful, I kill rats and mice. Maybe I should say I kill rodents, but the rodent family also includes squirrels, hamsters and porcupines. I don’t kill any of those. Not that I’m above killing those creatures, but it hasn’t come up.

Several years ago, Ellensburg’s “rat infestation” was in the news, mainly because people on Craig’s Hill complained, pinning it on the demolition of the old hospital building on Third Avenue. Others blamed disruption caused by the uptick in construction on the Central Washington University campus. I tied it back to the construction of Interstate 90 in the early 1960s, but that’s just me.

The gist of it was people wanted the City Council To Do Something about the rats. I agreed that a taxpaying resident of the city of Ellensburg should be able to call a council member at any time day or night and have them come kill a rat — the Rat Attack Hotline — but the idea never took hold.

And then, well, you can’t write about the same thing every day unless it’s COVID or Trump. Rats slipped off the front page but, otherwise, they didn’t go anywhere.

Everybody has their own rat story. The one commonality is no one else wants to hear it.

The fact that I said, “I kill rats(mice)” and none of you raised an objection, says a lot about the state of our society today.

Did you know that mice and humans share 97.5% of their working DNA? I had far less in common with most of the women I dated in college.

But we kill mice and rats pretty much on sight. Why? Because they carry diseases.

Think about that for a minute. What lesson have we learned over the past year about how we treat potential disease carriers? We have learned that if you kill them or, worse yet, make them wear a mask they get really ticked off.

OK, if you’re of the “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics” school of thought, let me share an isolated anecdote that will rock your world.

Rats and mice for the most part confine themselves to our lovely earthen basement — that’s where I set the traps (baited with irresistibly deadly Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup). One morning I put on my coonskin cap, ventured out to check my trap line and stumbled upon a gut-wrenching tableau.

There was a rat in a trap, its head crushed, and next to it a rat lay untrapped, but equally dead. Upon the death of its partner, it determined there was nothing else to live for, its rat heart broken. At least, that’s what I figured. It’s not like I could call CSI-Ellensburg Basement to come crack the case.

Rats are seeking shelter from the cold this month so there’s been a lot killing going on in our basement. Technically, the traps are probably reusable, but I’m not going there. Every couple of weeks I make my pilgrimage to Woods Hardware.

I have a routine. I walk by the counter and ask, “Where are the rat traps?”

The answer never varies, “Aisle 25. Take 25 steps forward, turn sharply to your right, take three steps and turn sharply to your left. Take 13 steps, pause and turn facing south. Tilt your head down 5 to 8 degrees. The rat traps should be squarely in your field of vision. If you get lost, come back and I will give you the GPS coordinates to plug into your phone.”

(As an aside, if Woods did not create customer service they stole the idea for the first person who did,)

You’d think I’d know the route by now, but I’ve had to reprioritize what I remember. I’ve found myself forgetting stuff lately, so I’ve decided to try to remember less. It’s a bold strategy and we’ll see how it works out.

When will the killing stop? Well, bad news for humans. For those of you keeping score at home, rats have been around for 66 million years, humans for 1.4 million. I might as well eat the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups myself.

Contact managing editor Michael Gallagher at mgallagher@kvnews.com


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