Some say cockroaches will outlive man and one day rule the world. Those folks may have never met the pack rat.

Part of pack rat nest/Ryn Gargulinski

These tenacious little beasties, who make their cozy homes all over southern Arizona, have much more going for them than the crusty old cockroach.

For starters, pack rats are much cuter than roaches. People are immediately inclined to squash a cockroach to pulp. A pack rat, on the other hand, rather begs to be petted or fed.

The pack rat is also bigger than the roach, making it possible for the former to eat the latter. That’s Survival 101 right there.

But the real reason the pack rat will conquer the cockroach, and even man and the world, is the rat’s incredible hording skills. They gather enough stuff to last through 10 bouts of doomsday and kingdom come, with a couple of apocalypses in between.

This fact was uncovered firsthand when I finally decided to clean out the yard on the side of my house.

For the past two years or so, the area has been an ever-growing pile of metal table legs, air vents, various ducts, tubes, fence posts, accessories, aluminum sheeting and chunks of random steel debris – things I call art supplies.

Art supply pile - BEFORE/Ryn Gargulinski

Beneath this pile a pack rat’s nest was rapidly keeping pace, growing at much the same rate. Yes, for two years a pack rat’s nest doth fester.

Since I hear my pack rat friend scurry about every morning, and the dogs dig digging around the debris, I figured I’d run into the pack rat himself. I did.

He scampered swiftly out of his nest with the first thrust of my shovel and spent the next few hours careening about the yard, much to the dogs’ amusement.

Digging deep through his nest was not quite as amusing, especially since the entire nest was infused with enough pack rat poop to fuel a nuclear power plant.

Like the rat himself, there were others things I surely expected to find, and did.

These included scraps from the light green lawn chair that sits in the corner with holes chewed out of it, scraps from the aqua blue yard chair that sits in the corner with holes chewed out of it, nibbled palm fronds, gnawed wood slats and jagged pieces of plastic fabric from one of those utterly useless Topsy Turvy tomato planters.

Piles of mesquite bean pods perched atop areas like little roof tiles.

Pack rat nest close up: mesquite pods and poop/Ryn Gargulinski

The next layer of pack rat nest contained stuff that was not necessarily expected but did not come as a surprise. Here we had metal shards, more metal shards, carpet fibers, half a throw rug chewed into fluff, rocks, insects, feathers and a load of plastic plant leaves.

And then came the surprises. The bottom layer of the pack rat nest was lined with things I’d never expect – or even think a pack rat would enjoy. The big three of these were dog bones, dog chew hooves and random pieces of dog poop.

No wonder the dogs always dug by the rat nest. They were not interested in the pack rat, but merely wanted their bones and chew hooves back.

My poor lawn chair chewed by pack rat/Ryn Gargulinski

I also found parts of my metal saguaro wind chimes that went missing in early 2008.

Hauling the four garbage bags packed with the dismantled pack rat nest into the trash did make me feel a bit sad, as if I were destroying a home. Because I was.

But knowing the pack rat, he’ll be bouncing back in a jiffy and has probably already chewed new holes in my lawn furniture. For the rat, it’s just an exercise in persistence.

For humans, it’s one in futility.


Overview of pack rat nest/Ryn Gargulinski

Art supply pile - AFTER/Ryn Gargulinski

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who likes rats of all types, even when they steal my wind chimes. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail