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July 7, 2020 Comments Off on Furry foes deserve a chewing out Latest, Nature

Furry foes deserve a chewing out

Trip ends before it starts

It’s not every fishing trip that the biting starts before a hook ever hits the water. Such was the case here at the shack-ri-la on a glorious early June morning.

The boat and trailer were hitched to the pickup for the short drive to the lake, where bass and crappie were sure to bite. A turn of the key got the engine humming. I turned on the radio and fastened my seat belt only to detect a faint smell of gasoline.

The day before I’d taken the boat’s 6-gallon fuel tank up to the country store for a fill-up. I figured a little gas got slopped on the truck bed in the process. Just to make sure, I opened the door and stepped our for an inspection.

Lo and behold, I spied a steady drip of gasoline coming from under the truck bed. I shut off the engine, crawled under the truck and found the leak coming from the fuel line near the gas tank.

The line felt rough around the leak when I checked it with my forefinger and thumb. Somehow it must have rubbed on the truck’s chassis or fuel tank over miles and miles and worn a hole in the line.

No way was I going to drive it to the garage in town with a serious fuel leak. Calling a tow truck was a wise investment.

The guys at the shop fixed the leak in short order and offered their verdict. Some critter had chewed a hole in the fuel line. Turns out some older vehicles have wires and hoses made with material that tickles the taste buds of mice, squirrels, chipmunks and other nefarious critters.

My truck is old enough that it has a cigarette lighter and a cassette tape player. But my 2000 Dodge Dakota pickup with 250,000 miles on it runs great and doesn’t burn a drop of oil.

Nowadays I don’t drive her much, only to haul canoes to the river or pull a small fishing boat to the lake.

There at the garage, the mechanic and I chatted about what chewed the fuel line. I mentioned I’d heard that putting mothballs under a vehicle keeps the critters away.

“Ha!,” he laughed. “I’ve heard of everything from mothballs to coyote urine.”

Back home at the shack, I reached far into the depths of the pantry and resurrected a box of mothballs that had been there for years. I opened the box to find the fragrant marble-sized white balls in two mesh bags. I tossed one bag under the engine and another under the truck bed.

Some say it works, others are doubters. Couldn’t hurt to try.

I had the mothballs on hand after hearing of their critter-repellent qualities years ago. A big group of us were on a canoe and kayak trip on the upper Mississippi River around LaCrosse, Wis. The designated parking area for our cars was in a big field of ankle-high grass.

When we returned to our vehicles a week later, mice or whatever had chewed the wiring on two of the cars. Talks about a pain. They had to get their cars towed and repaired before they could go home after a long, hot week on the river.

That’s when I heard about the mothballs. I picked up a box before our Mississippi River trip the next year, in case we parked in another field. But that year and every year since we’ve parked in big asphalt lots.

Those mothballs have been way back on a shelf, until now. They’re easier to use than getting a coyote to go in a cup.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at or on Twitter @NWAFlip.