Dead Rats, Slime, and Dog Poo – Trials of an oldest son.

From age 6 to age 15 I lived in Dallas, Texas on Easton Road in a two bedroom home. The house was a brick pier-and-beam with oak floors, an attic fan (whole house exhaust), an evaporative cooling tower out back, and fortunately for me, a den. My parents occupied the master bedroom while my two sisters had the front bedroom. The den was used for my room. At first this was great, as it was a large room for a lone boy. This was especially nice for a boy who liked to experiment, build things, and more often than not – disassemble things.
When I was 12 years old my mother gave birth to twin boys. I was somewhat shocked when I found out that now I had to share my room with two babies. There was however, one thing that remained the same. That thing was in my closet. On the floor. In the floor actually. It was a continuing item of discomfort for me. This thing was simply a trap door: an access to the space under the floor. There were two things about it that really bothered me. One, of course was the fact that in the middle of the night dark things would push it up just enough to peer at me from under the house. I was sure I could see them doing this, but they were always too quick to get caught by my flashlight when I became too frightened just to lay in bed and stare back at them. The other problem I had with the access door was the fact that if there was an under-the-house problem, I was required as oldest boy to go down there. These “problems” usually took the form of a dead rat. You see, we lived near White Rock Lake. There were occasionally rats in our neighborhood, large rats. Dad had me put rat poison under the house. Then Dad had me go fetch the dead rats from under the house. We always knew when one died under there. We could smell it. I had the privilege of smelling it up close. In the dark. Down there. There were spiders under there, and all kinds of other bugs. I just knew there were snakes, too. And somewhere down there in the dark corners lurked those maleficent creatures that stared hungrily at me in the middle of the night. I tried to be brave, while, flashlight in hand and with every hair on me standing on end, I did my duty.
I had other “oldest son” duties as well. One was the air conditioning evaporative cooling tower in the back yard. It was about 3 feet wide on the sides and about 8 feet tall with a water sump in the bottom. It was a great place to play for a boy, but not particularly fun to clean out. Playing with the green moss growing there was one thing, but having to climb in it and clean out the slime in the bottom quite another. Fortunately this didn’t happen often. What did happen often was worse: cleaning up what our dog left lying around in the yard so I could mow the grass. Our dog was a German Shepherd: large dog, large, uh, stuff. Yuck.
We moved away from this house when I was 15 years old. My little brothers were 3. They didn’t have the wonderful opportunities I had with dead rats, slime, and dog poo. By the way, I screwed down the trap door before we left so the lurkers couldn’t go with us.

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