Being a farm kid, I have countless stories of times that I did something that put me in harm’s way or got myself in trouble. This story is about how I learned not all animals are meant to be picked up.
Harvest was one of my favorite times of the year. It meant that I could ride in the combine with Dad, get a sucker at the elevator when we dumped the beans, and fall asleep on the floor of the combine. But one of my most favorite activities during harvest time was to play in the soybeans. I was always begging Dad to let me out of the combine, so I could climb into the grain cart and play around in the beans. I could just lay there for hours, scooping the beans over myself to hide my body, or plunging my hands into the pile to see how far down I could get them. It was a playground of its own.
One evening, my whole family was packed into the combine. It wasn’t long before my brother, sister and I felt the familiar itch to “jump in the beans”. Finally, Mom and Dad let us out when they stopped to dump some beans into the grain cart. My sister, Maya, was only three, my brother, Owen, was just two and I was not much older at four, so we all needed a little bit of help climbing up the steep ladder that led to the opening of the cart. Dad carefully helped us up the side of the grain cart, and then steered the combine across the field with our mom and baby brother in the passenger seat.
My siblings and I quickly took to exploring the soybean playground before us. My brother initiated a fight by grabbing handfuls of beans in his chubby hands and throwing them around. Most of the time, Maya and I were his targets, and we would squeal while trying to run away.
But this time during the great bean fight, Maya screamed and ran back towards Owen and his ornery grin. Confused, I turned and looked at what could possibly make Maya run back towards the armed menace. Huddled in the opposite corner of the grain cart was a big, gray pack rat. Unlike my sister, I did not scream and run away. Instead, I just stood there and curiously stared back at the terrified pack rat. I could hear my siblings screaming at me to join them in the corner furthest away from the rat. I looked over at them to find them huddled together, staring disgustedly at the rodent. Any other normal four-year old would have joined their siblings in the comfort of the huddle, but I was not a normal four-year old. Being the HUGE lover of all animals that I was, I decided to walk towards the rat. It cowered into the corner more and more as I got closer. I stared with sympathy as I knelt down beside it. Finally, the desire to hold the pack rat took over. I reached out and scooped it up, and for a moment I was really proud of myself for “helping” the poor thing.
But soon there was a sharp pain coming from my thumb. I quickly dropped the pack rat as a natural reaction to the pain in my hand. As I looked down to examine my thumb, I realized the pack rat had bit me and a steady stream of blood ran down my hand. Of course, I started screaming and crying at the sight of the blood. This sent my brother and sister into a heightened state of panic. What were we to do? Mom and Dad were at the other end of the field and wouldn't be back for at least 5 more minutes. The ladder was also too steep for us to climb down by ourselves, leaving us trapped in the small bin with the vicious beast. We desperately peeked over the side of the grain cart, looking for any sign of the combine getting closer. There was no way we could really get their attention either. So, we did the only thing we could really do. We all stood far away from the rat and cried and screamed at the top of our lungs.
After what seemed like hours, Mom and Dad finally arrived back with a full load of beans to dump. We jumped and screamed with relief at the sight of the combine. It took Dad a while to realize that we were in hysteria, but he quickly climbed up the ladder when he saw our panic. By the time he safely got us all out, the blood on my thumb was dry and crusty. Mom was set into a worry when she heard it was a pack rat. What if it had rabies? After helping to calm us all down somewhat, she called K-State to get an answer. To everyone's relief, the answer was that pack rats do not carry rabies. But they instructed that I still needed a tetanus shot and some high-powered antibiotics.
While being bit by a pack rat did scare me, I still love (most) all animals; I'm just smarter about the ones I pick up. I still love playing in the beans. Harvest is still my favorite time of the year, even if I don’t get to ride with Dad in the combine as much. And I still continue to find a way to cause trouble on the farm.