So – let me start this post with one of my book drawings. To remind those of you who haven’t seen it yet – here it is:
Hmmm. I’ve had a couple of folk express their distaste at the page above. Somebody said that – although she might select my book from a bookstore shelf and start reading… she would replace the book if she came across this page. Somebody else mentioned that she found the page distasteful and unnecessary – and she felt that it might upset children.
I’m not going to go in to a (very) long-winded response about the rat-popping… (because I’ve been working hard on attempting to manage my disclaimeritis)… but, there’s a few things I want to point out:
Firstly… the rats were dead already. I don’t like killing things. And I have certainly never tortured or hurt any animals.
The rats from my story were big field rats that had fallen into our partially-buried septic tank (on the smallholding where I grew up)… and they had drowned in the sewerage.
I was a curious child – and I wanted to open the septic tank to understand what a tank full of poo and wee looked like. Yes… gross! – but – as I say, I was a VERY curious child. What I discovered – instead – was about 12 dead, bloated rats… floating on top of all the other stuff.
I couldn’t reach them with my hands (kinda like reaching into a half-full well… and I had no intention of falling in to the septic tank whilst trying to retrieve the rats)… so I grabbed the pool net (Dad would have had a melt-down had he known)… scooped them up one-by-one and examined them closely.
My first thought was: WHY have they swollen up like balloons?
My second thought was: if they look like balloons – I wonder if they will *pop* like balloons? Will they make a loud… popping sound? Will they explode? If they DO explode – will their guts splatter everywhere… like on the movies??
My third thought was: how can I go about popping these rats to find out?
I didn’t want to try and pop them with a pin or a knitting needle – simply because doing so would mean that I would be within close proximity of a potentially exploding rat. I did not want rat guts all over me. Especially not rotting, stinky rat guts.
So – I decided to pop them… from a safe distance. I lined them up in a neat row on our driveway… took a few steps backwards… took aim… and tossed bricks on top of them.
To be honest – it was pretty disappointing. They didn’t explode like little rodent bombs. They didn’t make a nice, loud balloon pop noise, either. It was more a dull, squishy, muted phlooooppfff sound. The guts kinda oozed nonchalantly on to our driveway. There was no dramatic, splattered rat-gut-shrapnel (as I had secretly hoped).
But there you have it… it was a fun science experiment. Carried out by a curious child.
And you know what? I don’t think this kind of curiosity should be discouraged because it makes people squirm and wrinkle their noses and say: “Eww! That’s disgusting!”
As much as I’m an artist (and my rat-popping days are long over and I have no desire to concoct any further experiments on dead things)… there’s a whole bunch of kids out there who could be future scientists, biologists, doctors or pathologists. And those kids are curious about this kind of thing! And they want to know… and understand how stuff works… and I think we should encourage them.
Dead things… are a part of life. We need people who will be curious about that kind of thing. Sure, it’s not everyone’s cup of proverbial tea… but… for the kids who DO want to dissect the dead things… and figure out how stuff works or why dead things bloat… I say: let them! Encourage them to question. Encourage their curiosity. And later – ask them what they discovered and what they learned.
Personally… I learned that popping dead, bloated rats wasn’t worth the effort of retrieving them from the septic tank… cleaning up the aftermath… and trying to hide the poo-encrusted pool net from my dad.
I also learned that dead rats bloat because the decomposition process releases various gasses. These gasses accumulate and cause the bloating. Too much gas accumulating (or – a brick)… could cause the gas-inflated cavity to rupture… but not explode… or blow the entire carcass to bits. Therefore, my experiment rendered significantly less dramatic results than what I had anticipated.
As the saying goes, we learn something new every day.