….. is Hal, the defender of the ranch, and a somewhat naive newcomer to the rural scene, in need of plain old experience. And in the opposing corner, Willard – otherwise known as Rattus, of the order Rodentia. And the bell rings –
ROUND 1: Hal is so naive, he doesn’t even know that there is a competition underway. Day in and day out, blissfully unaware, Hal undertakes his tractor work, and when finished for the day, parks the New Holland back in the equipment barn. All seems well, until one day, Hal begins his day of bush-hogging, which is rudely interrupted by a cloud of steam billowing out from beneath the hood of the tractor. “Oh oh, this can’t be good” Hal mutters, as he lifts the bonnet to assess the situation. He soon discovers the cause of the overheated diesel engine. A rat had built a nest atop the engine intake manifold, which had apparently become dislodged as the tractor was started. The nest fell down, and became wedged between the fan belt and the belt pulley, thus flipping the belt off the pulley. With the fan belt gone, the engine eventually overheated, which was the cause of the cloud of steam. A few gallons of anti-freeze and a new fan belt later, the tractor was good as new and parked back in the equipment barn.
ROUND 2: Hal is so naive, he doesn’t suspect that this will ever happen again, and he deludes himself into thinking that this was a freak, one-time occurrence. For a while, fate cooperates with this delusional thinking. Hal judiciously checks under the bonnet of the tractor prior to each use, under the misguided premise that all rat attacks occur in the same fashion as in ROUND 1. As long as the engine is clear of any debris before being started, Hal reasons, then no problems can possibly arise. For a year, no problems arose. Until one day, when Hal checked under the bonnet and found another rat’s nest. Congratulating himself on being so foresightful as to check the engine compartment prior to starting the tractor, he proceeds to clear away the nest material from the engine. But much to Hal’s chagrin, he discovers that the rat had chewed through 2 of the tractor’s wiring harnesses. One week and $500 later, the tractor is back to normal.
ROUND 3: Hal is so naive, he once again underestimates the determination of the order Rodentia to make life miserable for man. Now, as a result of the outcomes of ROUND 1 and ROUND 2, Hal figures that besides checking under the bonnet prior to each use of the tractor, he should also store the tractor in the barn with the bonnet wide open. Hal confidently figures that this will discourage the rat from again nesting upon the engine (which the rat seems to have taken a liking to). And once again, the brilliance of Hal’s reasoning stands the test of time. A short time. One day (those “one days” always seem to come about, don’t they?), when Hal turns the ignition key to start the tractor, he is greeted by the sound of silence. Confident that this was merely a mechanical problem, as the pre-use checkout of the engine compartment revealed nothing unusual, Hal proceeded with the usual troubleshooting procedures called for in this situation. Ruling out the battery as the culprit, and then the starter as well, Hal began the tedious task of tracing the starter circuitry to diagnose the problem. What Hal eventually found was that the rat had now found an entryway to the area situated between the dashboard and firewall of the tractor. Removing the instrument cluster from the dashboard, Hal was greeted by the sight of a rat scurrying away from the scene of the crime. Left behind was the evidence of his unwelcome stay – four wiring harnesses completely chewed to pieces. Three weeks and $1000 later, the tractor was again good as new.
ROUND 4: What is that old saying? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on you; fool me three times, shame on you; but fool me four times, and SHAME ON ME (I think it goes something like that). So as not to be shamed by a rat, I decided it was time to get tough with this guy. But I also believe in the principal of “live and let live”, so extermination was out of the question. I could try to trap the rat and relocate it, but that solution would require lots of activity on my part, so I quickly abandoned any further thought along those lines. And then it dawned on me – snakes – and lots of them! Snakes would be the ticket to a rat-free tractor ownership experience. So, after some comparison shopping on the internet, I ordered an assortment of snakes. Not real, live snakes, mind you, but realistic looking rubber snake replicas.
ROUND 5: Has not taken place, as the rat has not shown up again since I put the snakes to use last year. So I guess that I won the bout in the fourth round, due to the disqualification of my worthy opponent! Or so I hope…….