The Day of the Rat
By Alan Russell
It was nothing to do with a Chinese New Year but it was definitely the day of the rat.
One of the gamekeepers that I knew was standing at the back of his Land Rover having a mug of coffee. Inside the back of the car were a couple of Patterdale terriers straining at their leashes. I had a chat with their owner and found out that he and another gamekeeper of the shoot were going to spend the day clearing the barns and the areas around the pheasant feeders of rats.
I turned out our horses and when I came back to the yard the rat clearance was underway. The terriers were tearing around jumping in behind bales of hay, underneath old equipment but in all the time I watched them I did not see or hear them have any success. The next move was to turn on the leaf blower to try and flush out the rats from any hidden corners but again without any success.
As I left the yard for lunch the ratters were putting the terriers back in the car and getting ready to go up the hill to the pheasant feeding areas. I wished them well in their mission. As I left I saw the straw move in one of our stables. This was a sure sign that there was a rat in there that had escaped the canine death squad. In an ironic way I was glad it had survived.
When I came back later in the afternoon the ratters were nowhere to be seen. They must have been working at some far corner of the estate.
As I was bringing the horses in for the evening and getting them ready for the night the Land Rover I had seen earlier in the day came into the yard. The two men got out grinning from ear to ear and let the terriers out for a run around. They had obviously had a good day. Terriers being terriers they started nipping and chasing one another making a canine ball of fur kicking up the dust on the dry yard.
I went over to speak to the men and ask them how their ratting had gone. They had both had a “great day”. After a couple of more questions what they called a “great day” resulted in a total catch of four rats on the whole estate.
It definitely was the day of the rat.