I would rather be talking about frogs, but sadly this summer frogs have not come under my purview. There was a time in recent summers past when frogs took much of my attention since there was a frog pond where I was living.

Now I am living on a rather sweet, bucolic farm, where the talk between the farmer and her friend that happened as I sat and watched her expertly glaze some recycled windows, somehow turned to rats.

“So what’s going on?” the farmer said to her friend who is also a farmer of sorts (of grains).

“I’ve been checking on the rats, moved some stuff around,” he said, referring to the things he has stored in her hayloft.

“How bad are they up there?” she asked in a somber tone.

“Well, I don’t know, kind of bad, but okay. I think I got a couple though, with the traps.”

“So how have you been doing it?” she asked.

“Well, I’ve been giving them grain, and I got poison in the black boxes. See, what I discovered was they have been storing the grain in the black boxes . . . and they don’t go near the poison. So I don’t know.”

Suddenly I was reminded of a day when I lived near the frog pond. I shared the story with the two farmers.

I was out in the front yard, minding my own business, as much as you can when you live in the center of a town, when I spied a curious sight. A huge rat ambled across the driveway headed to the barn nearby. It was an odd occurrence in broad daylight. I noticed that the door of the barn was open and began to be concerned that the rat would make it inside, causing problems later on. I decided I should do my best to get the door shut so I approached the barn. I started to shoo the rat away from the entry and as it became hemmed in on all sides, to my surprise it stood up on its hind legs and started hissing at me with the meanest of mean looks on its face. I have to say, it was scary. So I kept my distance, then a strange thing happened, the big rat hissed a few more times and then just flipped on its back and died.

I wondered what had happened, and then realized it must have been poisoned. I was glad its death was at the hands of another, but my relief did not last long. I ambled to the back yard where I saw a bunch of newspaper crumpled up. I went to pick it up and discovered nine baby rats. At this point I became disgruntled. I had long before adopted the creed of Thou shalt not kill that reverberates through many religions and philosophies, and I was hesitant to take the lives of these innocent beings, even if they were rats.

I decided to try a middle path. I brought the posse out into the bright sunshine, uncovered them and walked away. I was not altogether free from guilt, but in the corner of my mind I fooled myself into thinking they might somehow survive the blazing heat.

Rats, it seems, are exempt from the edict some of us have of not killing. They are open game.

After my account, the visiting farmer picked up the thread with another story of his own.

“We had this cat that we called Killer Cat, because, well that’s what she did,” he began. “I mean, she was fierce, so one time we were at the house and she came around the corner with this huge rat in her mouth, I mean huge, like the body alone was a foot long. For some reason when she saw us, she loosed her grip and the rat went running across the big lawn. The cat recovered and gave chase when all of a sudden the rat turned around, got up on its hind legs and started hissing at the cat. It was vicious and the cat was taken aback, if only for a moment. Eventually the cat won out, but we all were freaked out. It was bizarre,” he said.

And so the conversation went.

These kind of conversations are probably foreign to short-term visitors and summer residents, but they are common among the farmers of the Island.

Personally, I would rather talk about frogs.

Joe Keenan is a roofer and baker living in Vineyard Haven.