Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Monday, July 12, 2021



Oh, and there was a rainbow

It seemed like an ordinary photo camping trip, hanging out in the forest and enjoying the rare company of my good friend Jeff.  We pitched camp on Thursday mid-day, had a nice long chat and then went our separate ways for naps.

Around 6:00 I felt a hint of guilt for being sort of shiftless and hauled myself out of the hammock to gather my camera gear from the backseat of the truck.  I opened to door and met the challenger in this little drama.  I’ll call him Randy the recalcitrant rodent.  A pack rat. Sitting on my camera bag.  Yeah.

Salsify flower detail

My husband and I thought we’d scared him away before I’d embarked on this trip, but he’d ridden the three hours from home with me.  He seemed confident.  Bold, even.  I had not seen anything yet.

So, I yelled to Jeff that the critter was still in the vehicle. Together we took everything out of the back of the truck cab and found him staring up at us again.  I didn’t want to touch him, so I scooted him out with the jumper cables.  I thought that was the end of it; that he would live out his days in the forest.

Not so much.

Eventually we realized that he had scooted up into the perceived safety of the engine compartment.  At first we just heard him skittering around.  After a bit he’d stand on the battery and stare, or peek around the end of the little air-intake tunnel which seemed to be his safe place.  I’d had a pack rat in the truck cab before, at a trailhead at Grand Canyon’s North Rim.  Since then I’d carried peppermint oil, so I was scenting the truck cab (the smell will never go away) and his little tunnel.  At one point he was standing in a puddle of said aromatic, I’ve become confident that it was not a deterrent.

Over a couple of hours we tried bright lights, yelling and banging on things, and starting the engine, all to no avail.

We started happy hour, setting up chairs nearby and talking about options.  I called my husband, who’s a natural problem solver and Bruce Taubert, our friend who is an Arizona wildlife specialist.  They gave the situation some thought, but to no avail.

At one point Jeff came back from his vehicle wearing one leather glove and holding a shovel.  I had no hope that he could grab the critter, but darned if he didn’t.  It all happened pretty fast, but what I know is that Jeff grabbed Randy and threw him 20 feet from the vehicle.  A vigorous round of whack a mole followed.  Immobilized by the kind of laughter that gives you a substantial core muscle workout, we helplessly watched Randy scoot back into the engine compartment.

LED lights continued to blaze under my open hood like a campfire while we conceded defeat.  Daylight was about gone when an owl circled silently and perched on a tree limb just above us. It seemed time to give up and hope for the best.  Pack rats like to gnaw on wiring, and while (as they say) “hope” is not a plan, we retired hoping that the vehicle’s electrical systems would still be operational in the morning, which they were.

The next day we made the weirdest camping resupply ever, driving to Home Depot in Flagstaff for traps.  24 hours later we had hope (there’s that word again) the owl had taken care of our problem.  The traps were undisturbed, and we didn’t hear any more skittering.

Lying in bed that last night, it occurred to me that my next stop was in the Phoenix metro area, where temperatures were expected to hit 115F.  I figured that, If Randy were still with me, he’d not stay in the vehicle six hours at those temperatures, at least not alive.

Too graphic?  Sorry.

The resolution is a little anticlimactic.  My husband disassembled the air intake tunnel when I got home and found that our adversary had passed. 

RIP Randy.  He gave us a good story.

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