Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mouse Hunt

This week we’ve been in Orlando, Florida at some resort Staci booked us into; the name escapes me. I don’t always pay attention to such details as long as she handles things and tells me what to bring, when to be ready (what to wear, appropriate times to laugh and when I really should stop talking… This has worked out quite well so far.) and so on.

It’s a nice enough resort, I guess, though the staff is a bit creepy. (Everyone keeps wishing me a “magical day” like members of some strange sort of Doug Henning cult.) I have found something truly disturbing about this place though.

It’s completely overun by rodents.

Seriously; everywhere you look there are rodents of every size and type imagineable. I haven’t mentioned it to Staci as she’s apparently oblivious to it and I don’t want to weird her out. At home, I’m pressed into service to capture and release every bug, bird or chipmunk that wanders into the wrong area. I know if I say anything here, I’ll end up having to trap, feed and relocate every one of the little vermin I come across. (Probably with its own little squeaky toy and a stern talking to about looking both ways before scampering across the road to spread disease.) Therefore, I’m keeping my mouth shut around her.

However, I can’t believe that the management is this lax with its pest control policy, especially when there are so many kids around. Kids just seem drawn to these things (I blame their parents for having such a cavalier attitude about sanitation and safety, as well as the kids' apparent limited diet of juice boxes and Ritalin.) It’s just a matter of time till someone gets bitten. Fortunately, I have some free time between taking the grandnephews on rides, explaining to Staci "just-what-I-was-thinking-taking-the-5-year-old-on-Space-Mountain/Yeti Plunge/Tower of Terror/The Regurgitator etc." and tucking her into bed early with some aspirin and a cold compress, so I’ve taken action to help address the problem.

Fortunately, I've not seen any “no hunting” postings so I'm assuming there’s no limit on these things and have been picking them off at will. It’s rather challenging as these things are pretty clever and grow to an enormous size. I thought, at first, that they were big mice or rats but now believe they may be a South American rodent of some kind like a capybara; probably forced north by global warming or habitat destruction. Some of the bull rodents reach the size of a man with a rack of ears 4 feet wide! (One of those heads would look great over my mantel.) I’ve also heard that capybara is very tasty and, considering the exorbitant meal prices here, have decided that supplementing the larder with a little wild game would only be prudent.

Stalking the beast was surprisingly easy as they seem to have lost their fear of man. This is when they can be most dangerous, though. I’ve seen what happens when tourists walk up and try to pose for pictures with bison in Colorado. (Bison don’t like this. They’re very self-conscious about their appearance, especially after a moult.) I’m not sure what these giant rodents could do with those ears, they’re probably more related to sexual display or dominance, but no point in taking chances. They could be made of bone or some antler-like material; you wouldn’t know till it lowered it’s head and charged. By then it would be too late.

I dropped my first big specimen from the cover of an Italian-ice stand by the periphery of the roller coaster. (They probably range in from the surrounding swamps.)

It was surprisingly tough to kill. After several shots, it was still screaming in a disturbing fashion which seemed to upset the women, children and one or two of the men in the area. I finally managed to dispatch it by snapping its neck, although even that involved twisting the head around two or three times before finally hearing that crunching-celery sound as the beast kicked twice and went limp.

I hung the carcass from the branch of a nearby artificial tree to bleed out (which seemed to take forever) but had to leave the bulk of the meat as I was being assailed by people shouting angrily at me and waving their fists. Probably some of those PETA activists. (They need to learn to control that anger as it scares their children, a number of whom in the area seemed traumatized to the point of catatonia. Some people probably shouldn’t have kids.)

I had to content myself with slicing off a couple big ham steaks before beating a hasty retreat. Tasted sort of like good quality pork; oddly familiar texture.

I still needed my big trophy rodent, though, and got my chance the next night during dinner when one actually got into the restaurant. It was going from table to table, probably looking for scraps. I was able to get in very close.

It was while skinning it that I made my horrible discovery about how these things attain such size. What tumbled out of the carcass when I opened it up was horrifying. Its unexpected food source, which is plentiful in the area and which it somehow swallows whole… Well, I can’t bring myself to describe what I saw as Staci probably wouldn’t handle it well. I’m counting, instead, on all the parents and children who were in that dining room to spread the word about this threat. I’m sure they will as they all ran screaming hysterically from the building; having realized, I guess, how close they may have come to sharing the fate of the poor unfortunate that lay splayed out on the floor. (I don't think of myself as a hero, by the way. I'm just a man; like any other man you'd meet in Greek mythology...)

As for myself, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough after that and won’t be going back. Well, not soon, at any rate, though I did see something else down there that may draw me back to Orlando some Autumn.

Does anyone know when duck season starts in Florida?