Although we live in the country, way out in the wild and wind-swept country, this has not always been our home. We moved to this rural setting of ranches, rivers, mountains and forests from the high-speed world of the San Francisco Bay Area.
As former urbanites, we are constantly learning the ways of living in the country. One thing we’ve learned is that, despite the beauty surrounding us, every day is a life-and-death struggle.
The critters here struggle to live. From the ants that invade our kitchen to the deer, bobcats and skunks that wander through, everything is searching for food. The bats that sail around at dusk eat the mosquitoes. The praying mantis that climbs up our screen door puts away flies and moths. The coyotes and fox stuff themselves on field mice and wild turkeys. Everything eats something else in the struggle to live.
When Sweetheart Al bought a new pickup, we got a shocking lesson in wild appetites.
Al found the truck on the Internet and it seemed perfect for his needs. We drove to the Bay Area, completed the necessary negotiations and he drove it home. That good-looking midnight blue pickup hauled cement and wood and drywall to his various construction and remodel sites throughout the summer and fall.
Most nights, Sweetheart was so tired when he got home that he didn’t even drive the truck into the garage. He just parked it near the wood shed.
As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum, and the garage soon filled up with tools, cans of paint and who-knows-what. So the new truck just parked outside every night.
One night late in the fall, Al headed out after supper for a meeting of his amateur radio group, and about a quarter mile down the road, the truck lights failed. Totally. Inside lights, outside lights, everything electric just stopped working.
There are no streetlights where we live. No outside lights of any kind, actually. Once the sun sets, our widely scattered neighbors and we are enveloped by the dark. And, wouldn’t you know it, there was no flashlight in the glove compartment.
So Sweetheart literally stumbled home in the dark. When he finally arrived, he was in a very sour mood. What had caused the electrical failure of his new truck? Had he bought a lemon?
The next morning, I drove him to the crippled truck. He lifted the hood, and I heard a loud, "NO!"
"What is it?" I asked, climbing out of the car to go look for myself.
"I can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it!" (He used a few other, stronger words, too).
I looked inside the engine compartment, but didn’t know what I was looking for. Then he pointed it out. All the automotive cabling – the plastic around the various wires -- was eaten away. Little tooth marks in the remnants of the plastic testified to the busy gnawing that had taken place.
Every night, as we’d slept, hungry wood rats from the woodpile and other little varmints had chewed away at the innards of the truck.
Our insurance company and the dealership that made the $5,000 in repairs informed us that the plastic used in automotive cabling is made from corn and soybeans and other such ingredients.
Who would’ve known? Our beautiful new truck had been providing a cruise-like midnight buffet for the small, hungry critters on our property. Bon appetit!
We immediately cleaned out the garage. And the truck has been parking inside ever since. One more lesson on living in rural California.
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