I’m a big fan of Peanuts as you know (and if you don’t, scout up the post “Genius”), so I happily use Charlie Brown’s exclamation of dismay quite often.  It makes a non-vulgar substitute after mistakes in some highly charged tennis matches. Sadly, today’s blog is about the actual furry creatures and not cartoon comments.

Part of my preparations for my road trip to Washington D.C. includes making my patio hurricane safe.  This entails moving all small or light objects from the patio so as not to provide weaponry to a storm while I’m away.

Originally, I planned to just move everything into the living room on a tarp.  Then it occurred to me that with Halloween just ten days away after my return, I would need to empty the storage closet of all my Halloween goods and begin setting up shortly after I came back (we’ll have at least a week of posts related to my Halloween activities).

So, I sez to meself I sez, why not just move the Halloween stuff in the house (on tarps) and move the patio stuff into the storage room?  An elegant solution, if a bit more lifting and carrying than my initial thoughts.

A big portion of my Halloween routine is creating gift bags for the trick or treaters.  There’s a lot that goes into that and, as mentioned earlier, I’ll tell you all about it later next month.  What you need to know today is that I usually have extra bags and I box them up and put them in the storage room with the decorations.

Two years ago, I was pulling out the leftover bags (quite a few; long story) and noticed the boxes were partially destroyed.  Opening the boxes I saw the bags were similarly torn up, along with many of the items inside.

After several boxes of terrible results, I found the culprit.  Apparently, I had missed one small package of candies in a gift bag.  Normally, I clean out all candy bags, empty the loose candy and then give it away (sheesh, I don’t want all that sugar lying around!).  My big concern has always been ants, but this was clearly chewed.

Now, I have seen plenty of squirrels munching on unprotected trash bags on pick–up day, but I doubted that was the furry animal that caused this damage.  Although I had never (up to that time) seen a rat around my home (or my neighbors’), they are certainly around in South Florida.  I concluded this had to be the work of one of them.

That forced me to throw out 3 boxes full of gift bags (probably about 60 bags).  Not all of them were damaged, but these bags go to kids and I didn’t want to take any chances.  Obviously, I redoubled my efforts to clean up my gift bags before storing them last year.  Plus, I did a better job predicting my turnout, so I had only a dozen or so left over.

Imagine my surprise (and shock) when I noticed the exact same damage on the lone box of gift bags in the storage room.  To quote Mr. McEnroe:  “You cannot be serious!”

I searched carefully in the bags but there was no candy or loose bag to be found.  I knew I had properly cleaned up the bags.  So what had caused the return of my devilish rat-fiend?  My answer was provided when I saw another box that was gnawed on…the only other box that had any damage.

This was a supply box, holding extra gift bag stuff (games, toys, etc.).  Amongst its many items were some packs of baseball cards, which I slip into boys’ gift bags (long story).  Some of these packs are very old.  So old, in fact, that they were made back when they put gum in the packs with the cards.

Anyone who has ever bought baseball cards “back then” will remember that those sticks of gum had an incredibly strong smell to them.  No wonder it attracted the furred visitor.  Even if the gum was 30+ years old.

Of course, that was more stuff thrown away.  And another cautionary lesson learned.  On the plus side, I think it’s only ever been one rat and (spoiler warning:  skip to the next section if you’re squeamish) a couple months ago I found a dead rat floating in my front pond.  Perhaps that 30-year old gum was too much for him.

The upshot of all this is that for the first time in many years, I am starting with zero gift bags made, meaning I will have a heck of a lot of work ahead of me when I get back:  decorating inside and outside, preparing for the big barbecue (including restoring the patio from the storage room) and building 60 or 70 gift bags from scratch.


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