Most Sundays I go to town and pick up a week's worth of free, once-read Omaha World Herald newspapers. I read them at my leisure, usually in reverse chronological order. This evening I read the Friday and Saturday's editions and came across a story about Omaha people having mixed reactions to seeing some local rodents having fun. Joe Dejka wrote Rats join the downtown lunchtime crowd at Gene Leahy Mall in the Friday Metro section. (Free OWH subscription required, after 21 days story becomes pay-per-view.)
Desirae Paul, 22, stared off the footbridge spanning the Gene Leahy Mall on Thursday and into the red twigs of a dogwood bush on the island below her."Oh, my goodness," Paul said. "That really grosses me out." Scampering about in the afternoon sun were three brown rats.
Paul, who works at Pacific Life Insurance downtown, said the rats tarnish Omaha's image. The city should "take care of them" if the park is going to be a healthy place for families, she said.
Clueless downtown denizens Elaine and Mark Thurman were less certain about anything.
"They really look like a rat to me, because they have that long, hairless tail," she said.
Mark Thurman was not convinced. Maybe the animals were another, less offensive rodent, perhaps a gopher, he said.
"I enjoy seeing them," he said. "I'd leave them alone. What would you do, Elaine?"
The animals are rats for certain. Healthy, fat Norway rats, according to experts, "out enjoying the weather like anybody else". City Parks Director Larry Foster said,"There are always going to be rodents in a city."
On Saturday, the Douglas County Health Department weighed in. Putting the lie to Foster's defeatist attitude, Douglas County supervisor of sanitation Reid Steinkraus said: Poison will get rid of Leahy Mall rats , in a World Herald story. He did concede that the rats were a problem, but "not as bad as three years ago". Those were Hal Daub rats. Badass republican sewer rats, not like these preening, plump, yuppie amusing Fahey rats.
Guess I spoke too soon. Not everyone likes to see rodents having fun.
Update: Sorry the links to the Omaha World Herald are dead. They think old OWH stories are so valuable they want you to pay to read them. You aren't missing anything.