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A small dog and big rats (true story)


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Funny (and true) story to lighten the mood. Enjoy!:

Many moons ago, when I was just a wee lad, I spent a couple weeks during the summer at my grandparents' place in northeast Minnesota. You know the scene: small, iron-tinged lake surrounded by vast stands of pine and poplar. Croaking bullfrogs in the morning, splashing bass in the afternoon, and fireflies at night. An outdoorsman's paradise (and one of the best ruffed grouse hunting areas in the state, I might add).

I couldn't have been more than 10 or 11. My cousins and I took to the woods every chance we got, cutting trails, whittling swords and guns out of saplings, or setting snares for critters, even though we never caught any. When it got hot, which was often, we swam. When it got cool in the evenings, we fired up the wood-burning sauna and sweated away the grime of the day before plunging into the icy lake 100 yards away.

Anyway, halfway through this particular week, it began to rain. And rain, and rain. I don't recollect how much water was collected in grandpa's rain gauge, but I do know the lake rose a good foot and a half, flooding lowland areas that hadn't seen standing water for decades. We wasted time playing cribbage or other board games. Grandma even let us ransack the root cellar to see what had been stashed away and forgotten by time. The days flew by, but eventually, the rain stopped and the sun popped out, prompting the immediate donning of swim trunks and a B-line for the lakeshore.

My cousins owned a small dog, a terrier of some sort, named Skipper. He was a stick of dynamite in every sense of the word: Small package, but a lot of power. That dog created more havok and started more fights with the creatures of his territory than all the wolves, lynx and fox combined.

While the cousins and I frolicked in the now-turbid waters of the expanded lake, Skipper made his daily pass by grandpa's cabin to assess his domain. As he approached a small outcrop of pine trees near shore -- pine trees now surrounded by water -- he disappeared into an old ice house long abandoned and forgotten, which was currently waterlogged and nearly floating.

We thought nothing of it, and continued our serious business of collecting frogs.

Suddenly, out popped a rather haughty terrier, carrying a proportionately impressive vermin. It was a rat of the likes I'd never seen, and by now likely will never see again given the propensity for one's mind to exaggerate size and magnitude through the years. It my mind's eye, the rat was enormous, bulging on either side of Skipper's mouth as if he were carrying a large water balloon ready to pop.

In a very matter-of-fact fashion, the dog plopped his prize on the manicured lawn and, without nary a sign or gesture indicating his intentions, devoured the rat in a few bites. My aunt shrieked. We young ones giggled. My uncle and grandfather gazed in awe.

"What was that?!" my aunt asked, her hands in front of her quivering lips.

"A rat!" I yelled, emphatically. "And a big one, too!"

Auntie made a groaning sound like she'd eaten one too many pickled eggs, and ran up the steps to the main house.

The rest of us stayed to watch, as Skipper tore through hide and muscle, crunched bone and, finally, sucked down a lengthy rat tail as if it were a spaghetti noodle.

"I can't believe he ate the whole thing," my cousin remarked, a bull frog dangling from his clenched fist.

But what happened next, nobody could have guessed.

Presumably finished with his first course, Skipper returned to the buffet line and emerged, once more, with a hefty rat.

Again, we stood in stunned silence as he ate the rat; whiskers and all.

After the third rat, my uncle made some comment about Skipper not getting supper that night. After the fifth or sixth rat, a now very strained and gluttonous Skipper decided he'd had enough, too (although it is hard to say whether he actually was full, or had simply cleaned his plate, so to speak). Think Cool Hand Luke after he ate all those boiled eggs. Yes, Skipper was finally full.

And he lived to be 17, so the rats didn't do him in. Neither did fights with wildcats, and dozens of scraps with skunks.

He likely would be alive today, a double-decade dog, had he not eaten the wire twist-tie from a bag of bread a few years back. Skipper successfully digested a half dozen jumbo rats that fateful day long ago, but the tiny thread of metal was too much.

I'll always think of him, rather fondly, as the Joey Chestnut of the dog world.

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I was always impressed with how much corn and cow dung our Labs could eat. A little disgusted when they'd lick up the sloppy terds.

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Thanks for the compliments, and yes, plenty more stories where that came from.

I have two wirehairs now that, given the chance, would definitely eat themselves to death. I still can't believe that little terrier could pack away so much rat-a-tooey without getting sick. Had that happened a few years down the road after Old School came out, I would have begun chanting: "Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank!"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Excellent, Tyler! Great read. You have a knack for creating vivid details (an outdoor book in your future?) wink

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  • 5 years later...

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • Tom7227
      I can't figure  out how enough heat would form to cause a problem. What part could be getting hot?  That sort of makes sense but then it will start and quit again quite quickly.  I don't  know what engine it has and that's a problem with it.  Finding the parts is troublesome even with Jack's Small Engine.
    • smurfy
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    • delcecchi
      The not restarting for hours....   Could it possibly be an ignition thing where as it gets hot it stops providing spark and has to cool all the way down to start again?     That's the only thing besides flooding I can think of.   Typically, isn't the spark on small engines produced by magnets on the flywheel going by a coil?    So when it quits and won't restart, is it getting spark?      And is the plug wet when it quits?        Has it got the Honda motor or something else?   
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    • Wanderer
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    • JerkinLips
      I retired 2½ years ago.  My wife finally agreed to move up north after she retires the end of 2021.  When she retires there is nothing that would keep us in the cities.  Blaine has been very peaceful over these turbulent times, but I have a lot of buckshot for my three 12ga shotguns just to be safe.  Anywhere from Barnum to Soudan would be fine for us (easy day trip to Vermilion).  Would go as far west as Grand Rapids.  Would love to live on Vermilion but the prices are just too high now.  Best of luck to you.
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