• Devan

A Giant Rat, A Pine Beetle, And Poor Vision

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

What do you get when you combine a giant rat, a pine beetle, and my bad eyesight? Well, a story of course!

My Eyesight

If I understand my eye Dr correctly, there are 3 levels of visual impairment: Moderate, severe, and profound. My vision is at the ‘profound impairment’ level. With my glasses, one eye is 95% correctable and the other is correctable to the ‘moderate’ impairment level. Which pretty much means I’m useless without my glasses.

The Rat

The Farmland and The Barn

It was the late 80’s and I was married to my first husband, Mark. We had just moved to Franklin Indiana for his job and rented an old farmhouse. We were the last house on the street before it became open farmland.  Behind us, as far as you could see, was also farmland. On that farmland, there was a very large, very old barn.

Shortly after we moved in, they began tearing the barn down. (We would later discover, in doing so, they disrupted the home of a large rat colony.)

The Rat and The Kitten

One evening, as we watched TV in the Living Room, we heard a scuffle. We looked up to find our teenage kitten having a fight with a rat of equal size.  At one point, both were standing on their hind legs facing each other. We both kind of sat there in stunned silence until Mark had the sense to go grab the cat. The rat scurried off.

Still rattled by the events, we called the landlord.  He was sure it was because of the barn being razed and brought over rat poison the next day. (It was the 80’s and I didn’t know how cruel rat poison was then.)

A few mornings later, after Mark left for work, I went downstairs to the kitchen (without putting on my glasses) to start a cup of hot tea before I took a shower. I reached into a drawer to grab a box of tea and wrapped my entire hand around something hairy. Startled, I looked down and saw something grey/brown and blurry.

It took a few seconds to register, but when I realized I was grabbing a dead rat, I screamed and began running around the house like a freak.  Prancing, knees to chest, as if the poor rat was still alive and circling my feet.

Honey, Can You Come Home?

It didn’t take long for me to call my husband at the store he managed and demand he come home.  I explained he needed to do something with the rat. IMMEDIATELY. When he told me he couldn’t just leave work for a dead rat, it didn’t go well for him.

I said something hateful and demanding, something I’m glad I don’t remember, and within the hour he came home and disposed of the rat. (it is a testament to his character that this man still speaks to me, considering the mess I was back then)

Why am I telling you about my eyesight and sharing this rat story? Because it was a distant memory until a recent morning when I got a vivid reminder of the past.

The Pine Beetle

Basil Wakes Me Up

Living with a cat in a 65 square ft van is not without its challenges. When Basil seemed restless a few mornings ago, waking me in the process, it wasn’t anything new. It was early though, so I scolded him and covered my head with a pillow. He kept meowing and bouncing from the dash to the driver’s seat, to the end of the bed, rocking the van in the process. Still, I managed to fall back to sleep.


Basil – chilling out and people watching in the grocery store parking lot.

Creepy Bug Feet

Once the sun was fully up, I got up as well.

I have a morning routine so fine-tuned, I don’t always put my glasses on first thing. Part of that routine is checking Basil’s water bowl. This particular morning, I noticed something black in his bowl. I assumed he knocked something in the bowl so I reached in to pull it out. When I did, I felt prickly feet latch on to my finger. I freaked a little as I brought my hand up close to my face and saw a GIANT bug gripping on to three of my fingers.

I immediately flicked my hand to get the bug off, but it had really grippy feet so it took a couple flicks. It looked like it landed in the driver’s seat so I quickly grabbed my glasses to have a look. Maybe it was because I was still waking up, maybe it was because I was unsettled feeling those little feet attached to my fingers, but it looked monstrous and horrifying to me and I wanted it out of my van. I opened the driver door and flicked it out with a spoon that was in the console.

I’m not particularly scared of bugs but this one really creeped me out. It was just so big. And those clingy feet… *shudders*  Lesson Learned.  Glasses now go on before my feet touch the floor in the morning.

What The Heck Was it?

I later discovered it was probably a Pine Sawyer Beetle. Which makes perfect sense because I was parked under Ponderosa Pines overnight. I can’t find any information on whether it would voluntarily hang out in water though. I suspect it was in the water bowl because Basil put it there after playing with and potentially injuring it. I imagine his early morning antics included torturing the poor thing.

Most of what I’ve read indicates the Pine Sawyer Beetle is 2 cm long. However, I swear this bugger’s antennae were 2 cm long.  His body looked like it was closer to 3 or 3 1/2 cm long. He was big and seemed thick. But again, I was sleepy, did not have my glasses on when he was in my hand, and I was a little panicked.

At least it wasn’t a giant rat. I’ve heard stories of vandwellers and RVer’s having rats or mice in their rigs.

I actually like rats. I’ve kept many as pets. A wild rat lose in the van though? No thank you.  I know how destructive they can be. One of my pet rats got loose in my house in Atlanta and chewed through a vital hard plastic part on my dishwasher.

The dishwasher had to be replaced. Ingesting the plastic killed the rat.  True story.  Here’s a picture.  *nods*

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#rodents #badeyesight #rat #vanlife #vandwelling #pinebeetle #poorvision

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