Thursday, October 09, 2008

Rats, Education, & Gas

This column was originally published in the Smith Mountain Eagle on Oct. 3, 2007.

Howdy, Ida B. Peevish coming at you from Ida’s Salon of Beauty & Live Bait Shop in the heart of downtown Rock Bottom, US of A, where ain’t much happening this week, so lessee what we got in the mail:

Dear Ida B. I understand that over in Big Mall City they are having problems with rats in their schools. Does Rock Bottom have a rat problem?—E. Eking

Dear Eek: Well, the little rats in the Rock Bottom schools generally drop out at an early age, but some of the rats I’ve been married to have been—oh, were you maybe referring to the 4-legged kind? In that case, Rock Bottom rats ain’t a problem; they’re a solution. The Rock Bottom schools have found creative ways to deal with their rats. In the elementary schools, each classroom has its own dog, either a Jack Russell or a rat terrier, which takes care of problems that arise and provide an interesting science lesson in survival of the fittest, fastest, and bittingest. When not dealing with rats, these feisty little dogs also help with classroom discipline. It only takes a few nips to the ankles to let a rowdy kid know he’d better stay in his seat.

At Rock Bottom Middle School, each class maintains a spirit rat, which they dress in class colors and use to compete against other class rats. Teachers decided that class rats provided the perfect way to introduce students to the rat race. Consequently, rat races are especially popular, and figuring odds and handicaps is a fun way for the kids to learn advanced math skills. While a few kids on the football team had been holding rat fights out behind the bleachers, this has been stopped and the rats involved are being patched up and rehabilitated.

At the high school, rats are used in the family life skills class. Used to, every gal in the class was assigned an egg, which she had to pretend was a baby and carry it around and tend to its supposed needs. That did not work too good, because some of them egg-babies got slung at other kids and a few got scrambled for the next day’s breakfast. By the end of the first week, there wasn’t an uncracked egg-baby left. Then, the school changed to having the gals haul around 10-pound sacks of flour, but those flour-babies left a dusting wherever they was sat.

When a bunch of the gals left their flour babies setting on a cafeteria table and returned to find the cafeteria ladies had used them to bake pizza crust, the family life teachers didn’t know what to do until the cafeteria ladies complained about the rat problem. The janitor trapped a bunch of rats and—since they looked too cute to get rid of—the teachers just assigned one to each gal to be her class project in baby care.

Well, it took a while, but eventually the gals really took to them rats. They made them little rat outfits in home ec and taught them tricks in physical education. Some even put ’em in strollers and rolled ’em all over town. If you think they’re not learning proper baby-handling skills, you just try putting a Huggie on a squirming rat. Any gal who can master that skill is prepared for the worst that a toddler can throw at her. At first, parents weren’t too thrilled with having to house and support the rats, but some of the daddies decided the rats, which the girls took with them on dates, were a good idea. Any boy who let his hand wander where it ought not to be was immediately bitten, and the bite marks were proof to the gals’ daddies that the boys were up to no good.

So, while some schools consider rats a liability, in the Rock Bottom schools, rats are considered an asset.

Dear Ida B. Been reading in daily RagStar that purchasing power of our 17 cent per gallon gasoline tax is being "eroded" by inflation. We need a gas tax increase to keep up! Not sure about this erosion thing, but seems to me that if we purchase more gallons of gasoline year to year, then somebody (at the state capital?) gets more and more gasoline tax revenue year to year. More and more gas tax revenue to waste (sorry) no matter what hillside that inflation thing is eroding. —E.T. at Buck Run on Slick Water Lake

Dear ET: For some reason, I want to tell you to phone home. Could be your wife is looking for you. Anyhow, I would not worry about erosion out at Slick Water Lake. It is part of the economy. Every time erosion opens up a gully and it fills with water, a gang of real estate agents start calling it a cove, give it a fancy name, charge inflated prices for lots on either side of it, and sell those lots to yankees who think they’re getting a good deal. Then, when that gully dries up and fills with junk, those realtors will sell the yankees another lot on another gully with another fancy name at an even higher inflated price. If the gully is real big, then some out-of-state developer moves in, bulldozes everything off, builds condos, and sells those at even more inflated prices. All those realtors use a lot of gas driving around, and so do all those yankees who are looking for their retirement homes. Plus they will use more and more gas to drive their big SUVs miles to find somewhere to shop because it is hard to squeeze a shopping center in those gullies. If folks at the state capital get a cut, that is just how the wealth is spread around. Basically, this is how the economy works at Slick Water Lake. If they ever run out of yankees or eroded gullies, the whole economy will likely collapse.

Well, that’s it for this go-round. Thanks to ET for letter #2. Remember, you get what you pay for, talk is cheap, and my advice is free.

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