With a supply of corn and oats that ran into the tons, it was no wonder that growing populations of rats and mice claimed the old tin roofed carriage barn on our farm as their own. When they crossed the line by threatening our animals, it was left to me to settle things.
The barn served as a garage, horse tack area, corn crib and oat bin. With such a food supply, the number of rats reached a point when the beasts grew fearless and many were seen in daylight. The incalcitrant beasts often gathered beneath a canvas tarpaulin on the floor of the horse tack area. I always made it a point to flip the sheet and watch the rats leap away in all directions. They would streak away to hide underneath the nearest object. I sometimes was able to stomp a boot onto one.
At other times I would catch one and toss the captive into an empty five gallon paint bucket. It was safer to have only one in the bucket, I tried two and they attacked each other in their panic and both boiled out of the bucket. I would dump the bucket in the yard and then soak the rat with a garden hose as it hopped and ran towards the nearest cover, our birddogs pen. The two excited brittanys would try to chew through the wire fence when the escaping rats scooted along it to disappear in the weeds.
This entertainment evolved when my neighbor Larry and I started using BB guns on the fleeing vermin. We could always count on two or three rats to hop and run from under the tarp, offering a quick shot. We missed our fair share and had rats run over our feet to get away.
Our brigade of barn cats had fought the rats to an equilibrium of sorts. They kept a distance from each other. One August afternoon, I watched our old, tough female cat we called Starlight stagger out of the garage onto the gravel driveway, head shaking in bursts, both ears torn and patches of skin showing from her plucked fur coat. The rats had fought her off as she tried an ambush and she took a beating, I figured ol’ Starlight was down to 2 or 3 of her original 9 lives.
When our smallest and sweetest dog came out the worse after a tangle with a mob of barn rats, it was war. I had parental clearance for mop up operations in the carriage barn. I was almost 13 and was pretty handy with my lever action Ithaca single shot 20 gauge. My first field of fire was the far end of the corncrib. The grey or brown rats worked beneath the boards of the almost empty crib and would often creep up the wall boards thirty feet away to the eve. This offered the best shot, before they scampered along the eve to the oat bin. The heavy boards easily stopped my scattershot. I had to be careful not to shoot the metal roof.
In the evenings, just minutes after I sat in the corn crib planning my last shot of the day, I could hear them beneath me. I’d catch sight of shadows drifting beneath the cribs shrunken floorboards. The rats had a system of sorts. When one rat met another in a well used ‘runway,’ the dominant rat would crawl over the other and continue on his way before the other would start up again. I would remain still, sitting at the ready in the corncrib, rats only inches away beneath the worn boards.
The brass bead on my barrel wasn’t that easy to see in the fading light, but I would draw down on a rat, cover the moving shadow and blast away. The orange yellow flash from my shotgun filled the corncrib. The roar echoed for miles into the evening The farm fell silent, then hoof beats could be heard as my sisters horses spooked and ran around the pasture.
After a few ear ringing nights, I decided the better location to be was on the roof peak over the corn crib.
After a day of eating grain, the rats would lope from the crib beneath me, across the barnyard to the new pole barn that had fresh hay and a water supply. The shooting was good under the blue-green light of the mercury pole lamp half way between my perch and the new barn. Dust would flare like flames into the night air around my quarry with every discharge. In my mind, the Rajahs in India never had it as good from their elephant top tiger hunting.
The rest of the family would be safe in the farm house, enjoying some prime-time TV as I waged my pesticide. I would pass the time composing in my head a rat hunting story for Outdoor Life or Field and Stream magazines. Nifty nuggets re-cycled from other adventure stories made their way into my mental draft. “It was an unguided hunt in untapped territory,” “The game was at a peak of their population cycle and I was the first white man to witness the herds,” or “I hunted the great browns, the famed Norway rats.” I would offer tips, best shotgun round, when to hunt, and how to spot a trophy rat (females were the biggest). A rat coming my way became a charging menace that I had to miraculously stop with my last bullet in the last sentence. In a more lucid moment, I realized those magazines may not consider it in their best interests to promote night hunting from rooftops.
I was able to catch a number of pigeons on the same peak with my bare hands. For some reason, the birds would roost there at night and would not flush with my approach. I could crab-walk on my fingers and tennis shoe toes up the shadowed side of the gently pitched metal roofling right up to the birds. After gathering one under my shirt, down the roof I’d slide and then jump from the eve 7 feet to the ground. I’d run to my sisters to proudly show off my catch and stalking skills. The girls would inspect the bird for lice, give it a name and let it go. We’d watch the bird flap up into the blackness as I’d scratch my chest and wonder.
Read more of Alex’s younger years- www.Thegrasslaketimes.com and click on “close calls on the farm
Mike Fensler stands next to one of the two stoves actually used in the historic Grass Lake Whistlestop Depot. Behind Fensler is a turn of the century cash register that was used in the store across the street.
The “Frost Killer” model 220 was installed in 1887 and used until 1956, when the depot closed and the stove was bought by the donor’s uncle for $20.
The donor family, Rich and Diane Bower of Grass Lake, restored and donated the stove to the Whistlestop Park in 2008. It was placed in the Depot on September 27, 2010. The stove is in a different position than originally situated for convenience purposes. While the coal scuttle is a replacement, the shovel and tongs were also originally used in the Depot.
Erin Weber, waving, and her clown buddy, Jessica Fransted, attract downtown Grass Lake shoppers to the Coppernail Community Resale store on Saturday, September 24.
A severe geomagnetic storm that began Monday, September 26 with a large coronal mass ejection (CME) is now subsiding. A CME is a massive burst of solar wind, other light isotope plasma, and magnetic fields rising above the sun. At the peak of the disturbance, auroras were sighted around both poles and in more than five US states including Michigan, New York, South Dakota, Maine, and Minnesota:,
Sky watchers at the highest latitudes should remain alert for auroras as Earth’s magnetic field continues to reverberate from the CME impact.
The source of all this solar and geomagnetic activity is sunspot AR1302. Measuring more than 93,000 miles from end to end, the sprawling active region is visible even without a solar telescope.
The sunspot has quieted down since unleashing dual X-flares on September 22 and 24, 2011.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters estimate a 40% chance of more X-flares during the next 24 hours. X-flares have the highest amount of energy of solar flares. Any such eruptions would be Earth-directed as the sunspot crosses the center of the solar disk.
Coronal mass ejections release huge quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation into space above the sun’s surface. The ejected material is a plasma consisting primarily of electrons and protons, but may contain small quantities of heavier elements such as helium, oxygen, and even iron.
CMEs typically reach Earth one to five days after the eruption from the Sun. As they travel through space, the speed is affected by the solar wind and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF). Some bigger CMEs drive a shockwave before them.
Addtional waves of energy are expected to strike earth the first week of October.
thanks to spaceweather.com
Fall Saturday mornings in Grass Lake often bring cool weather, some fog and lots of soccer. This past Saturday was no exception for AYSO Region 610. Hundreds of kids, parents, grandparents and volunteers turned out for a great day of soccer, a shiny new Chevy Camaro, some fund raising and lots of free stuff.
Grass Lake Chevy Saturday Soccer came to the Grass Lake Community Sports and Trails Park on Willis Road as part of AYSO Region 610’s appreciation to Grass Lake Chevy for their support this season and in previous seasons.
Grass Lake Chevy, through the Chevy Youth Soccer program, donated $500, soccer balls, coaches ball bags, 100 scrimmage vests, 100 cones and 100 t-shirts this fall to AYSO Region 610. In addition to all the free items, they are also sponsoring the raffle tickets being sold by AYSO players and volunteers. 100% of the raffle sales go directly to AYSO Region 610. The raffle is part of a Southern Michigan, Northern Indiana program where the grand prize is a brand new Chevy Equinox, or Chevy Cruze, the winner’s choice, plus each ticket has discounts off an oil change and service.
“This is Grass Lake Chevy’s second year donating to AYSO Region 610” said Regional Commissioner Scott Bray. “Through their donations last year as well as their help and support the past several years in the Grass Lake Chamber Golf Outing, they have helped us raise monies for many new projects at the park. This year AYSO bought all new goals for all the age groups. The new goals and nets are top notch and should last for 20 plus years. Monies raised through donations the past several years have helped develop the fields. The kids and volunteers helped level dirt, plant grass seed, install the split rail fence and much more. We have been really blessed by the community,” Bray added.
AYSO has over 300 kids, mostly from Grass Lake, some from other communities playing this season.
The season lasts 6 weeks in the fall and 6 more weeks in the spring. “It is quite an awesome feeling early each Saturday morning, when the grass is mowed, the lines painted and the fields are setup for the kids. When those excited kids come running out on the fields, ready to play, it reminds me why we all do this.”
On behalf of Whistlestop Park Association, a sincere THANK YOU is
extended to everyone who participated in Heritage Day on September 10th. First, the financial assistance from the DDA and committee support from the Chamber of Commerce was immeasurable. Chairperson Diane DeBoe spearheaded the committee with the help of Carolyn Rees, Marilyn O’Leary, Mike Fensler, Thom
Baird and Pastor Bill Walbridge.
The Depot’s silent auction chaired by JoAnn Karle was the best ever. Special thanks to every business and person who generously contributed items for the sale. The success of the event also belongs to the artists, crafters and vendors who braved the morning rain. Thank you, also, to the Jackson Antique Tractor Club, Thom Baird’s Classic Car Club, individual vintage car owners, the Grass Lake Local 4-H Club, entertainers Cleary Sessions Group, Matt Danko, Josh Barton, Black Berry Jam, Calvary Brass Band and Claude Low, the horse and wagons from the Sherwoods/Mike Hamilton and Mike Coppernoll .
DPW guys Bob Dunham and Paul Lammers provided set up and tear down help—always there when we need them.
Most of all, to those who came out in support of this event to showcase
the Grass Roots of Grass Lake both downtown at the Depot and park and at the Coe House Museum, we invite you back next year to share the best Grass Lake has to offer on Sept. 8, 2012.