Rats bring out the caveman in the modern dad
Christopher Noxon goes caveman to protect his family.
 Family life offers few opportunities for the modern dad to feel truly manly. We drive minivans, read bedtime stories, stock college funds.

We are rarely called upon to protect our homes from wild intruders.

All of which explains the weirdly intense satisfaction I got from a battle last week with a giant, acrobatic, possibly bionic roof rat.

By the time it was done I'd gone from sensitive househusband to cold- blooded cave-dad.

We'd had trouble with vermin before. One night a year ago, a rat sauntered into our living room, rose up on its hind legs and rubbed its hands together like a cartoon villain. Leaping up with a girlish yelp, I sent the rat scurrying into the basement.

I fought back the only way I knew how: I went online.

Predictably, this only added to my sense of panic. Real rats, I learned, are nothing like the witty gourmets in my kids' favorite Pixar movie. They leave toxic droppings in pantries, gnaw through wood and wire and have even been known to bite children who leave crumbs in their beds. And they carry disease: typhus, rabies, bubonic plague.

I am not a particularly aggressive guy. I've been in 2 fights my entire life, both of them lopsided beatings at summer camp – the first inspired me to write a heartfelt poem on the futility of violence, the second came after my hippy counselors urged me to read that poem at campfire.

Ever since, I've been averse to the use of force of any kind, with any creature. I am just as likely to chauffeur a spider out the front door than squash it with a rolled-up newspaper.

But something happened the moment that rat looked into my eyes.

Somewhere deep inside my brain, a long neglected nugget of gray matter fired up and began pumping out a potent mix of sludgy male hormones.

And so I quickly dismissed any exterminators that seemed the slightest bit humane and settled on a service known simply as Abolish.

"You dirty rat"
I loved everything about Abolish: their defiantly eco-unfriendly name, their garish and disgusting online photo gallery and especially Trevor, the eerily intense technician who arrived at my door with an impressive arsenal of poisons and torture devices.

Trevor may have set the traps, but I wasn't going to let him do all the dirty work. A few days after his visit, I ventured into the attic to remove not 1 but 3 captured rats.

I felt like quite the warrior until my wife greeted me coming down from the attic in my homemade Hazmat suit of rubber dish gloves, safety goggles and face guard created by tying a washcloth around my head.

Still, I'd done an ugly job. Our cave was safe. I'd vanquished the intruders – or so I'd thought.

If I'd read the literature more closely I'd have known that among their other charming habits, rats leave behind telltale trails of pheromones that attract other rats months after the initial infestation.

Sure enough, last week at 3 in the morning, my wife was awoken by a scratching on her back. Thinking our youngest son was making one of his frequent attempts to worm his way into the family bed, she shifted around and opened her eyes.

There, sniffing at her curiously, was a rat. It scuttled up her back, over her head and into the pillows. A few seconds later, it darted out from under the bed and into our bathroom.

Apparently, this little encounter triggered something primal in my wife as well. After handing me a broom, a box and a can of Lysol, she pointed at the bathroom and said: "One of you is coming out of there."

What followed was a truly epic battle. Backed into a corner behind the toilet, the rat managed to evade my broom and hop into an open cabinet and behind a phalanx of shampoo bottles. After smoking him out with a cloud of disinfectant, the rat did something truly astounding: it scaled the stand of a shoulder-high makeup mirror and began running, treadmill like, on its rotating glass face.

It was a showy move, but it left him with no escape. I was able to knock him down and trap him under the box.

The old me would have been content to take him outside and let him go. But not now. This rat had been in my house, on my woman. He knew the way in. And so I did what I needed to do and filled a clear plastic container with hose water.

Now I know all sorts of useful facts about roof rats. They have grayish shaggy fur. They are excellent climbers. And they can swim – but only for about 3 minutes.

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