The following is reprinted from Sept. 7, 2016.

Some time ago I received a personal telephone call from one of our representatives in Washington. He said, “Frank, I have gotten several calls from an elderly widow lady in Northampton County. She says that her house is being overrun by large rats, and she has seen several moccasin snakes in her yard. She says that she has been unable to get an exterminator or anyone else to come out and help her. It’s not exactly my job to get involved with rats and snakes, and I would consider it a personal favor if you would go and see whatever can be done to help her.”

I never could say no to congressmen and little old ladies, so I agreed to go check it out. When I arrived at the address, I saw a neat brick home with a well-manicured lawn and a nice lady standing in the yard. She said that she was not particularly afraid of rats and mice as are some of her friends and kinfolks, but she didn’t want them in her house. I could understand, especially when she said that some of those rats looked as big as possums. Then she said that snakes were something else. Said that she was scared to death of a snake, and she had killed several in her yard. I explained to her that as long as there were rats and mice on her property, there would be snakes, but they are black rat snakes and that they would not hurt her. She said, “Yes, but they will make me hurt myself.”

I walked into her backyard and immediately saw a faint but obvious little trail leading up to her house. I knew that it was being used by rats and mice that were going into her house. The next question was where were they coming from. I backtracked, following the trail in the opposite direction. It led me to a tall wooden fence that surrounded the next-door neighbor’s yard. There was a well-worn crawl way at a spot beneath the wooden fence. Trouble was, the fence was too tall for me to see over. I walked back to tell the lady I needed to go into the neighbor’s backyard to see where the rats and snakes were living. I told her that they were living in something in the neighbor’s backyard, coming down that little trail to feed on something in her yard and then going back to where they were living.

I told her that I needed to do two things. First, I needed to locate the source of whatever it was that they were feeding on in her yard and then locate where they were living in her neighbor’s yard, because the rats were coming to feed on something, and the snakes were coming to eat the rats. Trouble is, the rats were multiplying faster than the snakes could eat them, and that drew more snakes into her yard. I didn’t tell her at the time, but if something was not done, and soon, it was going to get much worse. It could be that she would get out of bed in the middle of the night, turn on a light and see several two-pound rats in her kitchen.

At first I suspected her garbage cans behind her house, but I determined that they were not the problem. A little old lady who lives alone does not generate very much trash and garbage, and she had the cans tightly secured.

Next I asked if she was feeding any animals, such as pet dogs, anywhere in her yard. She replied, “Only my two cats, and they eat in my carport.” I walked over to the carport. Bingo! Here was what was drawing the rats that were drawing the snakes. There were cat food pellets covering a part of the floor of the carport and large rat droppings mixed in. Two bowls half full of cat food were sitting there. She was vastly overfeeding the two cats, and I told her so.

I said, “If you have cats, why aren’t they catching some of the rats?” She replied, “Mister, those rats are so big that the cats are afraid of them.”

Now that I had found one end of the trouble, I needed to locate the other end. I took one of the lady’s garbage cans that was empty and turned it upside down beside that wooden fence surrounding the neighbor’s backyard. I then climbed up and stood on the garbage can, and I could see the whole yard. Bingo! Right before my eyes was what I was looking for.

Several junked cars were sitting there, and the little trail across the little lady’s backyard clearly ran under two of the cars. I told her that rats loved to live in old junked cars, and her neighbor was almost certainly operating an illegal used parts business. I told her how to get in touch with the proper authority, and when those old cars were gone, the rats and snakes would be gone. And stop feeding those cats too much.