Thursday, May 27, 2004

Isn't this little guy cute? Meet the Marder, a hungry rodent who figures prominently in some of the high drama of my life these days.

There we were Tuesday morning, crossing Switzerland's Klaussen pass in my minivan, when suddenly the "check engine" light went on. Gretchyn and I pulled out the owner's manual and got the following helpful advice: "Take vehicle to Toyota dealer." Gee, thanks. Unfortunately, there are very few Toyota dealers right there at 2000 meters above sea level. I didn't even see a mountain goat who looked as if he might be handy under the hood.

The van seemed to be handling all right in spite of the warning light, so we decided to forge ahead with our journey. I drove through the rest of Switzerland, the southeastern corner of France, and home into Germany half expecting important parts to start suddenly falling off the car.

This morning I took the van to the AAFES car care center on Taylor Barracks. A German mechanic went out with me and looked under the hood. There, lying in the middle of all that engine stuff, was a rather traumatized looking piece of hose. Even I could see that the hose should probably be connected to something. "Holy crap!" I exclaimed. "What has been chewing on my car?!"

"I don't know how to say it in English," said the nice mechanic as he jammed the hose back onto its proper connection, "but in German it's called a Marder. They come out at night and chew on rubber hosing." Isn't that nice? Some people have lice; I have weasels.

The kids are very excited by this recent brush with wildlife and are hoping that we can catch a slow Marder to domesticate as a pet. Yeah, right. That'll happen.

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