There are two cabins built on the saddle of Sheepshead Ridge. They were built in the mid-‘70s and are the base of operations for most of the mining done in this area. I was living in the east cabin when the following took place.
In preparing to work in the Morrisonite area for any length of time, water is one of the main concerns. There is no water available once you are at the mine. All water for drinking, washing, radiators, etc., must be brought in. Typically the anxious miner will fill up every available container at the last moment before leaving on the long trip in. I credit this activity with producing a number of empty I gallon plastic mink containers which end up lying around the cabin.
I know of no study, nor in my experience can come up with any reason, logic, suspicion, or idea as to why a pack rat will desire a particular object for its nest. Mice will go to great lengths to make their nests soft and warm. Other animals will select with great care items that suit their structural purpose. A pack rat seems to desire something just for its collection.
One night, I was awakened by the clatter of plastic milk jugs on the floor of the cabin. The rat had returned for his nightly inspection of the cabin floor. I almost hit my head on the ceiling at the suddenness of the racket -- the bunk in this cabin is built off the floor, a few feet from the ceiling. I thought to myself: I must get rid of those plastic containers.
An empty milk jug gazing off into the distance.
Just after falling asleep again, I was awakened by the sound of plastic milk containers scooting across the floor. I got up, chased the rat away, organized the plastic container in the corner where I thought the rat would not bother them, and went back to bed. Rats will be very quiet while you are moving around at night and will not make any noise until you have fallen asleep again.
This cabin, like the others built in the Morrisonite area, is built against a rock wall. This wall slopes from its junction with the roof down to the floor at a steep angle. The junction of the host rock wall and the roof is where the rats live or gain access to the cabin.
While I was lying on my mattress contemplating what to do with the plastic jugs, I saw the rat methodically shove a plastic jug across the floor to the rock wall. Much to my amazement, the rat then tried to push it up the rock wall! The plastic, gallon jug was about three times the rat’s size. The rat would put his front paws on the jug and try to move it up the wall. Like a gigantic beach ball, it would then fall back onto the floor. He tried and tried, but it was not going to work for him. The jug was just too big. He was not going to push it up the wall or through the small hole between the roof and the wall, or into his nest – wherever that was. Too bad, it probably would have been the centerpiece of his collection.
The closest source for water is a mile away and 200 feet down from the cabins.