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home : opinion : opinion November 25, 2017

9/1/2017 1:11:00 PM
Collecting Eggs With A Shotgun

Marty Reep, Author
Speaker, Forward-Thinker

“Boom!”  went Ol’ Betsy, as I pulled both triggers of the double-barrel 12 gauge shotgun.  The rats I was aiming at disappeared into thin air. 

“Holy crap!  Did you see that?” I asked my sister.  “What?!” she yelled back at me.  Both of us were a little deaf from the sound of the gun.  “Where’d they go?” she asked.  “I don’t know, but I don’t think they got away.”

Two rats had been in the corner trying to add to our consternation by increasing their population.  We had entered the chicken house at that moment just to gather the eggs, but, well…timing is everything, I guess.

Meanwhile, all the chickens had fled to the other side of the building.  They stared at us for a moment and then went back to pecking, cooing, and cackling.  The amount of manure had increased slightly in that area for some reason, though. 

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We stood there for a few moments looking at the gaping hole in the back corner near the floorboards.  Where I had aimed and fired now had a jagged, new opening instead of a rough, closed look to it.  We laughed, and then I added, “At least it worked.  Well, I guess I should go find a piece of wood to nail over that.”  “Yeah, probably,” was my sister’s nodding reply. 

For weeks, the rat problem had been getting worse.  The last straw came after I had shaken down the feeder and two rats jumped out instead of beautiful, golden chicken feed.  That was when I had had enough. 

It was one thing for the rats to live under the chicken house and mind their own business.  That was fine.  But when they started eating up the food that was for our livestock  and taking baths in the buckets of water… oh, no… and then to scare us… yep, that was it. 

Yes, we had set poison for the rats, but instead of it killing them off, they just seemed to eat it like candy and stand around waiting for us to bring them another bag.

When I realized that neither the poison nor the traps were working, I did what any 14-year-old kid would do out in the country on a farm – I got creative.  I started taking different kinds of sticks with me to the chicken house, but they proved to be either too short to reach or too long to swing. 

So, I moved on to a bullwhip.  That worked sort of okay, but it mostly just made the rats mad instead of taking them out of the picture.  Next, my souped-up slingshot worked pretty good, as long as got ‘em square in the head, otherwise the rocks deflected and wound up hitting the chickens instead. 

What to do…What to do?  After thinking about my options for a while, it finally hit me.  I went to the closet and pulled out a shotgun.  It was a .410 single bolt action.  My aim was good, but the pellets just seemed to bounce off the rats’ hide as they ran and ducked into their holes.  And I wasn’t fast enough to unload the empty shell, reload, and get off another shot before they had scattered and run for cover.

That week, I happened to be down at my aunt’s house visiting and told her what was going on.  A twinkle appeared in her eyes and an innocent, yet devious, grin spread across her face. 

She said, “You could always borrow the 12-gauge if you like.  Of course, it’s a bit more powerful than the .410, but if you use it right, it should do the trick.”  “Can I?”  “Sure.  Just be careful.” 

She handed it to me, along with a few shells.  The smell of oil, spent gunpowder, old leather, and previous hunting trips poured off of the gleaming cylinders of steel and filled my nose.  As I carried it home that evening, I decided that “Ol’ Betsy” seemed like a fitting name.

My approach to finding a solution to the rat problem seemed a bit eccentric – according to some other people I told at the time – but they weren’t the ones getting their feet overrun by hungry rats.  And, it worked. 

We weren’t afraid to go collect eggs anymore, after that.  Every afternoon we exited the chicken house victorious with a shotgun in one hand and a basketful of eggs in the other. 

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