Rats were like house pets for us on Pulau Bidong. Except we did not pet them.
Rats were in the sewage. Rats were in the house. Rats were in the rice bags. Rats were inside a noodle pack. Rats were on the roof tops. Rats were on the mountain. Rats were in the public restrooms. Rats were everywhere. At night, rats would run over your body.
Rats did not like to come out during the day and they thought that it was safe for them to sneak out at night. Usually, we ignored rats during the day time. When we saw rat or rats, we just walked past them or left them alone. However, we hunted rats at night.
Usually after 11:30 PM, which was the curfew on the island, rats followed their leader to come out from underground tunnels. Have you seen a group of ants? We saw rats just like that. There were big ones, small ones, and some were just giant.
Rats were a beneficial source of food for us, too. We could exchange 2 rats for a pack of noodles or 10 rats for a small bottle of milk. The sanitary office did a very good job to keep the rat population down by giving out prizes. The best way to capture more rats was by smoking them out of underground tunnels or by shooting them at night.
(I remember Cu Chi tunnels. The Americans did try to smoke Vietcong out during the day but I don’t think they tried to search them at night.)
Rat Military 101:
Just like the Cu Chi tunnels, rat tunnels had so many doors. Some doors were hidden under bushes or rocks. Just before we smoked out the rats, we would cover all the entrances, leaving just two or three openings, which led to a trap in the form of a large and long bag. There were times that an inexperienced rat hunter tried to smoke the rats and failed to cover all the openings. All hell broke loose. Rats came out from everywhere.
How did we know rats would be inside a tunnel? Well, either we studied their food prints, their poops, or we covered the openings a day before with a small rock or leaves. The rats always left a track for us and they loved to leave poop around their territory.
We had this special hand-made gun that had a 2 foot long arrow made of a steel fence. At night, without flash light, we searched and shot rats corner after corner. The arrow had a string that tightened to the gun and in most cases the rats could not escape. Unfortunately, the string would break sometimes and the rats would run away with the whole contraption. The only way to catch these rats was to wait for them to die somewhere and someone would smell the dead rat.
One time, there was a rat underneath a wood board, which I was washing dishes. It was about 7 PM and I felt a rat’s presence underneath me (Don’t ask me how I could feel the rats). I knelt down and saw the rat, ran into the house, cocked the gun and pointed the gun underneath the board without bothering to knee down again to locate the rat. I shot the rat right on the forehead.
That was my last killed rat. I held up the arrow, looked at the poor guy and I felt sorry for him. Since, I had retired.
If I always had a flash light, I would bring more milk home. These rats loved flash light and I could have all the time in the world to aim and shoot. Without the flash light, I had only 2 seconds to shoot into the belly.
One tip about shooting the rats: never look into their eyes. You look at their big fat belly and aim at the smallest point on the belly. You aim small, you miss small.
(You have passed Pulau Bidong trained Rat Military 101 course.)