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Thursday, July 12, 2018


My two neighbours' composting bins have attracted unwanted squatters, and the crass trespassers have been showing up at will any and all time of the day.

Those once-on-a-rare-occasion sightings in the backyard have become daily, so...

I'm not Trump, so I can't build a wall and then say I'll just bill my neighbour for it... but Plan B was on the table.

On Wednesday, July 11, 2018, I declared my own private war on rats and mobilized the troops. The first casualty fell within an hour.

Heavy weaponry deployed on the border at the primary source of infiltration.

 My version of Homeland Security... and it works.

Several years ago, immediately after the first sighting of a rat running under Oddblock Station, I installed quarter inch grid-wire all around the building's base. 100% success rate against infiltration. Seated on a concrete slab prevents burrowing and the little blighters haven't appeared with wire cutters... at least not yet.

Guilty only of friendly fire, (squirrel caught in the crossfire) this trap has yet to score a hit on the enemy.

Obsolete weaponry, but it's all-out war.

Poisons don't work but those can kill something else, such as someone else's pet.

As I said earlier, "It ain't pretty" so if you don't like grisly images, then this is the place to stop looking. 

Day 1

I didn't think to record the first casualty, but I did the second catch of the day. 

Rats have long been considered deadly pests.

Day 2

Greedy to snag another one overnight, I left the traps outside. 

Bad decision. 

This next morning all traps had been sprung. One contained a half-eaten mouse, the other nothing and the third had vanished without a trace.

The battleground reeked of raccoons, so I suspect the missing trap may have contained a victim which the other trespasser disappeared with to consume elsewhere. Scratch $9.95 plus tax.

When introduced into locations where rats previously did not exist they can cause an enormous amount of environmental degradation. (Wikipedia)

Day 3

You'd think I'd have learned something, but... I left the traps out overnight again and sure enough this following morning, another had vanished without a trace. My last one had been triggered but was empty.

So much for that, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Some friend... and scratch another $9.95 plus tax.

Rats can serve as zoonotic vectors for certain pathogens and thus spread disease, such as bubonic plague, Lassa fever, leptospirosis, and Hantavirus infection. (Wikipedia)

Day 6

After three days they stopped coming. I was beginning to think I'd caught them all because at most I'd only seen two at once running around.

I could not have been more wrong... so back to Home Depot for reinforcements and more fire-power.

After three days the rats had learned to avoid the bait and ignore the traps. This one had been snagged trying to jump over the trap after I'd moved it in a change of tactics.

The common species are opportunistic survivors and often live with and near humans; therefore, rats are known as commensals. They may cause substantial food losses, especially in developing countries. (Wikipedia)

Day 7

You cannot imagine how frustrating it is to step outside the back door and see three more rats on the lawn run for cover and safely bypass all the traps.

More redeployment of the traps snagged another jumper late in the day.

The ship or wharf rat has contributed to the extinction of many species of wildlife including birds, small mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants, especially on islands. (Wikipedia)

Day 8

This trap didn't even have bait in it but the rat ran out of the cement block head first into the jaws of death. I'll take it.

I have trouble wrapping my head around the caption I've added below, especially Wikipedia's second part naming West Virginia.

Rat meat is a food that, while taboo in some cultures, is a dietary staple in others. Rat stew is consumed in American cuisine in the state of West Virginia. (Wikipedia)

Day 9

As a youngster I heard a story from Grandpa about him finding a rat in the toilet. Grandma didn't dispute it so I know it was true; just another incident of everyday life on his farm. Anyway I know firsthand that mice in the house were a constant problem.

This one was caught by the leg, so obviously it was very much alive when I found it, but seconds later I made sure it was dead so I could safely record this image.

Rats have the ability to swim up sewer pipes into toilets. (Wikipedia)

I've already caught 9 rats and they just keep on coming. 

I don't think I can win this war, but if they keep coming, then I'll do what I can to increase the body count. 

Honestly, I don't like having this problem and having to brutally deal with it, but I shall NOT make any apologies for my actions.

The Canadian province of Alberta (population 4.25 million) is notable for being the largest inhabited area on Earth which is free of true rats due to very aggressive government rat control policies. (Wikipedia)

You can tell I don't live in Alberta.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Day 10 

The ink had barely dried on this blog posting and only this morning another enemy attempted to sneak across the line by playing Evel Knievel but failed to clear the jaws of doom. 

This tenacious pest ran off with my trap and was burrowing its way beneath next door's retaining wall. 

Appearing on the crime scene at the right time, I put a stop to its escape in progress. One less disease carrier to worry about.

And if you thought rabbits are busy...

Rats, generally, are baby-making machines. Female rats can mate around 500 times in a six-hour period and brown rats can produce up to 2,000 offspring in a year, according to Discover Magazine. Brown rats can have up to 22 young at once, though eight or nine is more the average. (LiveScience)

Day 11

Catch of the day.

Last evening I decided to secure two traps with 16 gauge wire nailed to the wooden retaining wall, thinking if this test proved successful, then I'd put all traps to work 24 hours as well as keep them from walking off during the night.

Checking from a window early this morning, both traps had indeed been sprung and both looked empty. Going out to investigate, the first was definitely empty and the other had been pulled into my neighbour's stone retaining wall. Grabbing on the wire to drag it out, something yanked it back. Thinking I'd caught a large rat, I pulled harder only to discover a leg stuck in the trap's jaws and too large a leg even for a big rat.

I had no idea what I was messing with now, only that it was alive, looked black and had wedged itself between the concrete block and stones. Feeling certain it wasn't a rat, I removed the trap, retreated a safe distance and waited. Sure enough about a minute later a skunk surfaced on Neighbour 1's side of the fence and let loose anyway.

Talk about a narrow escape! I'd been close enough to touch the skunk but I guess it was wedged too tight in there to spray.

Those Tomcat rat traps really work well... and definitely better than the neighbourhood's wandering felines.

Day 17

Following my unexpected catch on Day 11, all my traps have since remained untouched and I haven't sight enemy intruders in spite of watching for them; I haven't see any white flags either.

One of last night's infiltrator didn't make it back because old weaponry can still pack a punch.

Rats are scavengers. They have an excellent sense of taste and a good memory. A rat can identify certain substances, including rat poisons, after just a tiny taste of it. (Pest World for Kids)

The rats next door are no longer interested in the bait... in fact, this trap wasn't even baited. The challenge has changed to trying to identify where these troublemakers are running and then set the traps like land mines.

This one was nabbed running across the trap into that gap.

And I can still smell skunk odour most mornings.



Saturday, October 28, 2017

3000 Miles!

This cloudy rainy morning I quietly walked and recorded my 3000th mile.

Honestly, I can't say that I felt like attempting to do a handstand to celebrate the event; not in the least... but I can post an image to show one.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum January 26, 2018

On December 17, 2017, I quietly passed mile board 3100.

Unseasonably cold winter weather has been crimping the mileage count but I get out when those warm enough days turn up.

Some days I'm starting to feel like one of these... an old steam engine... but at least I'm not in a museum yet.

Addendum July 18, 2018

On Monday evening a break came in the thunder showers so I went out for my usual mile or so walk. While doing so I passed mile 3600.

Upon reflection, I find it hard to believe that since my heart attack I've logged 3600 miles of foot travel, mostly around where I live. Five years ago I was just home from the hospital wondering if I had a future, and if so, what type of future.

No one knows the future; not even ten seconds hence.

All I can say is that each day of life I'm given is a remarkable gift from God. Use each day wisely and walk each mile of life with gratitude.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Grandpa's Album

One of Mom's old photos taken beside Lac Megantic in summer 1973 at a once-upon-a-time place known (avec signe en anglais) as Jim Grant's Pleasant Point. Left to right: Mary McLeod and Helen Macdonald, both of Milan, Quebec.

In this age of instant images rather than thoughtful imaginings, I find that I'm inundated with scenes of everything everywhere, real and/or unreal; I can't always discern. Many are eye-catching, personal interest related and/or curiosity invoking, but one constant eventually comes to mind, "What do I do with all these?"

That era of using a light-sensitive film roll of 12, 24 or 36 exposures and then hoping that one certain shot comes out okay... finding out in a few days of course, isn't that long ago. Even my children remember those times... restlessly posing while their grandma fidgeted with her then ancient Kodak Instamatic... and then weeks later seeing hands, feet and/or tops of heads cut off.

Anyway, times have changed and continue to change, and today that one special shot may come with dozens of clone-like variations taken imperceptible fractions of a millisecond apart. Remarkably, these digital scenes are of amazingly good quality... better than film I think.

Regardless, I get dozens of these images sent to me in addition to the ones I take myself or I've download from on-line, however, that one question remains, "What do I do with all these?"

I suppose the answer is the same, and then I do as a grandparent has always done. Stick them in albums and then show them, with some bragging of course, to anyone and everyone who makes the mistake of revealing the remotest hint of curiosity to see what's between the covers. 

The variation today is post them on-line anywhere and everywhere with the other billions of images already there first... and maybe someone somewhere may actually take glance at something... but don't try holding your breath while waiting for that to happen.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Journey's End!

The name of this post sounds like a former motel chain but regardless, the name fits well here because mile 2770 was walked on August 02, 2017.

As I've mentioned in other postings, walking is an integral part of cardiac rehabilitation programs that hospitals provide to heart attack survivors. I know because I'm a cardiac arrest survivor who went through an excellent rehab program, therefore walking became an integral part of my recovery. I continue with my daily walking as part of my effort and struggle with heart disease. 

If you're wondering, unfriendly dogs, hidden skunks (have been inches away but never sprayed though) and ice-covered sidewalks are probably the worst but not-too-often headaches to contend with.

"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever more."
(Psalm 121:8)
Daily walking does indeed involve constant going out and coming in.

All are post-heart attack miles recorded using the Nike app on my iPhone.

If I was actually able to make the foot journey, this is where I would have started... Union Station near Front & Yonge.

Started: November 22, 2013

Decades ago my first ever visit to Toronto was through Union Station to visit the CN Tower. I can't say that my first impression of Toronto has ever changed though. 

Likewise, if I was arriving at my Vancouver destination, then I would have crossed Burrard Street Bridge and ended my journey at Kitsilano Beach.

Finished: August 02, 2017

Quite fitting a choice I think, because once upon a time I lived in Kitsilano and walked over this bridge many times on the way home from work.

A few of the miles recorded in this journey were actually walked in Kitsilano when Kie and I visited there in 2015. 

Following are a few distance stats over the route I would have used but I can't say how long it took me to walk the equivalent of each leg.

Toronto Sudbury 256.5
Sudbury Thunder Bay 634.4
Thunder Bay Winnipeg 439.6
Winnipeg Calgary 831.3
Calgary Vancouver 608.2

Total 2770

Month with the least recorded miles walked: February 2014 - 10.7 miles
Month with the most recorded miles walked: April 2017 - 91.16 miles

I suppose the most logical question to ask now is, "What's next?"

Honestly, I have no idea but I'll keep on walking as long as I'm able to.

Deo Gratias

The Oddblock Station Agent

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada at 150

Happy Canada Day!!

Do fifty years a difference make?

Once upon a time the symbol for Canada's 100th year.

In the lead-up to Canada's 150th birthday, I just didn't see or feel that same tremendous sense of celebratory anticipation that July 1, 1967, genuinely stirred-up in Canadians, including those years in the lead-up to the actual centennial date.

In the early 1960's, this country really came together and pulled out all the stops to celebrate Canada's 100th birthday.

Here's an example...

Try to imagine private enterprise doing something like this today.

Remember these?

First, you'd have to be old enough to remember.

One can only wonder how many millions of these are squirreled-away in the hope that they may one day be valuable. Not likely ever in my opinion... and it won't buy today what it could 50 years ago.

Is that right?

This unchanged and enduring Canadian symbol has been around longer than the Canadian flag.

The dollar bill may have disappeared along with most passenger trains but the CN noodle is still around.

The more things change the more they stay the same...

but maybe they shouldn't stay the same

Canada's 2017 PM
Canada's 1967 PM

What was that line about history rhyming but not repeating itself?

Never mind.

Lines that rhyme don't necessarily make for good prose and poetry.


Happy Canada Day!

The Oddblock Station Agent

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2500 Miles!

This morning while walking with Kie to the GO Train station I passed the 2500 mile board in my journey.

In my continuing walking journey going nowhere, today I would be in Pritchard, BC, a name on the map about 24 miles east of Kamloops, BC.

Becoming complacent, yawning and then with ennui thinking, "Just another hundred miles" is at time tempting, but the fact is each mile is a challenge to accomplish. 

Some days I just don't feel like walking, but as a worst-case scenario heart attack survivor, I push myself to keep going. I have seen other cardiac patients in the hospitals, people who may never be able to walk a mile again, or lead a normal life, and maybe never be able to go home again.

God has been generous to me, and I am reminded of this every single mile.

Deo gratias,

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum May 16, 2017

Yesterday afternoon I quietly passed mile post 2600 in my continuing journey to nowhere, but if I was still heading west, then according to the map I would be in the Fraser Canyon about 5 miles east of Spence's Bridge, BC.

This past April I walked 91.1 miles, the first time I've been able to achieve more than 90 miles in a single month. The cooler than normal spring weather certainly helped.

Addendum July 05, 2017

Today I quietly passed mile post 2700 in my ongoing trek to nowhere, but continuing as if I was walking to Vancouver, then according to the map I would be exiting the Fraser Canyon into the Fraser Valley about 2 miles east of Ruby Creek, BC.

Vancouver is now less than 100 miles distant, a destination that now seems achievable instead of next to impossible.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Waiting for that Building to Fall Down

Once upon a time... this event actually did occur, but so long ago now that the story can legitimately begin with once upon a time... 

Anyway, I was a patient in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1958. I'm no longer certain of the time of year but I seem to recall the season was spring, after all the snow melted but before leaves came out.

This was the image of the Royal Vic that I recalled seeing when I looked out windows - thinking those were stairs leading to the top of a mysterious castle - and of course wishing I could climb up there to explore.

At the time of my hospital stay I was just short of my fourth birthday and I required what was always referred to as a hernia operation. Of course most details about that visit have completely faded from memory but a few odd tidbits still hang around in the cobwebs.

I do not recall being afraid or upset about being alone and away from home; I was just there because I had no choice.

My hospital bed was in the middle of some type of large ward because I remember seeing all the other kids - mostly "big kids" to me. Some were not able to get out of bed and others had tubes and bottles hooked up to them. A few others had bandages and one older boy in particular had bandages on his neck and throat; he was unable able to speak. Another girl in a corner seemed to be very ill in bed but one day she seemed a little better and someone had tied her long dark hair into braids with ribbons.

An astonishing last-minute prior to posting internet find! This 1950's scene was actually recorded in Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital and is very much the way I recall that children's ward.

Back in 1958 parents were not able to visit and stay in the hospitals with their children the way they are able to do so today. I recall that all of us there were alone by ourselves most of the time except of course for nurses and helpers. This said, I do remember my paternal grandmother and mother visiting but not for very long.

A few days later when I was able to get out of bed, I found a small tricycle and remember riding it around in the ward, then in the hallways to the elevators. That elevator had an operator and that elderly gentlemen kindly but firmly refused to let me ride the trike on to the elevator.

But after all these years, one particular mystery has stuck in my mind.

I encountered a man who was alone in one of the hallways; he was silently staring out of a window. I had no real idea why he was there or what was attracting his attention, so I asked him.

He told me he was waiting for that building across the street to fall down.

I remember being absolutely astonished by what he had said and of course fully believed it too. Yes, I then spent some time watching and waiting for that building to fall, which of course it never did. I clearly recall repeatedly asking him when the building was going to fall because nothing was happening. He just kept telling to wait and watch so I would not miss it.

Impatient I suppose, minutes later I was running around a-la Chicken Little and telling everyone I saw, nurses, patients, strangers, everyone what was going to happen. Of course no one believed me. 

Yeah... Chicken Little does exist.

Anyway I never saw that man again and I quickly forgot all about him and that incident until these many decades later. Again, I wonder why he was there.

As a parent I've decided that he was likely a father with a child who was ill in the hospital; probably shouldering that heavy, awful and unwanted burden of waiting. Perhaps he was in anguish and despair at being unable to do anything about whatever circumstances he may have been wishing were different.

Of course I have no knowledge whatsoever what may have happened to him and his waiting or whether or not all turned out okay for him. I shall never know.

When I started looking for pictures of the Royal Victoria Hospital for this post, I had no idea the hospital had closed.

My vignette was not prompted by and has nothing to do with the closing. Simply coincidence and a short story to tell... the type that are the ramblings of an old man getting older.

The Oddblock Station Agent