City Desk

An Adams Morgan Rat Tale, Part I

Like all of those scantily-clad, cocktail-loving kids from the suburbs, rats enjoy fun times in Adams Morgan. Talk of their antics burbles up every few months or so on the neighborhood listserv, as it did recently, when Sid Binks chimed in with a post titled, "RATS Everywhere."

Binks, 44, has lived in Adams Morgan almost half his life. To the residents (many of them newbies) who think the rat problem has gotten worse, Binks says, maybe, but it's relative. D.C. did have a mild winter and maybe some rat families that would have died off, didn't. But rats have been part of the fabric of Adams Morgan for as long as he can remember.

There was the time about two years ago when his nearly new car, parked on a concrete slab behind his house on Calvert Street, wouldn't start. He took it back to Chevy Chase Acura and was told he had a problem: Rats had eaten through the insulation surrounding his ignition wires and the wires shorted out. The mechanic had seen this sort of thing before and offered a solution. "They wrapped the part of the car where rats can get at it with steel wool." He hasn't had a problem since. (Current service manager at the dealership, Mike Wang, says he was not aware of this practice but was glad to know Binks is still able to start his car.)

"I've exposed rats' nests. I've killed babies," says Binks. "I've stuck a hose down a hole—and the holes are fairly extensive—and turned it on. If they pop out, I bash them with a shovel."

He's installed and replaced a "rat fence" around his wooden fence. It's like chicken wire, he says, "but the holes are a lot smaller....Over the years, gaps do appear and they find their way in. Once you get one, well..."

On and off for 10 years, he's fought rat infestaions on his patio. He's never found them in the house, but has a friend who discovered one in the toilet. "He took a plunger and drowned it."

Every morning, he hoses rat crap from the alley, where he and his neighbors are careful about their trash. He uses poison sparingly because of the neighborhood dogs. He does put out rat traps. "One time one of those closed on my thumb and broke a blood vessel. You should have seen it," he says.

"I've been at this a long time," says Binks, and it's given him some perspective. "I don't like the whole thing, but I guess what you can say is that I've accepted it. It's part of city living."

(photograph by yours truly, taken many months ago outside Binks' house on my way to work)

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  • creativemeat

    I remember seeing that picture in the older post. The thought didnt occur to me then, but I'd like to ask now. Is the rat's head smashed in? He (she?) looks to be in pretty good shape, for a dead rat I mean. It looks wet too.

  • Jule Banville

    Thanks for being such a loyal and astute reader! Its head was not bashed in. The rat's intact, or was, although I would say rigor mortis had definitely set in. I just liked the tail and so I cut of his/her head in the photo.

  • Cranky Editor Guy

    It is kind of a cute shot... sort of like the rat, having taken a swim, is sleeping on its concrete beach.

  • al gonzales

    I watched the fireworks on the Fourth in Georgetown. The rats came out, terrified by the explosions, not unlike dogs would act.
    Rats are people, too. I am a rat; you are a rat.
    That said, we should exterminate all the rats in the city - by traps, by poison, any way possible. What disgusting, dangerous animals.

  • si Kailian

    my momma has had rats chew on her car innards six times. She uses coyote piss now to keep em away. Insurance stopped covering rat damage.