The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Fancy rats, fine friends

Written by David Green.


John Gotti, Al Capone, Bugsy Malone, Jimmy Hoffa—there’s no shortage of mobsters and mob associates, fictional or otherwise, to be found in the Fayette home of Scott Stevenson and Ashley Matesic. Of course, that’s in title only.

The couple has named quite a few of their pet rats after criminals, but they hold the animals in much higher esteem than they would habitual lawbreakers. How quickly their brood of pets has grown is proof of that.

When Scott and Ashley moved into their apartment in May, they didn’t have a rat between them, but Ashley had a friend who kept rats and always wanted some of her own. Unfortunately for her, the animals were off-limits in her parents’ house.rats.2

So, after settling in to their new abode, one of the first things they did was drive to Tony’s Pets in Wauseon and pick out a pair. The next day, they went back and purchased another two animals. Since then, their pack of what they affectionately call New York City Sewer Rats has ballooned to 17.

Why keep so many? They couldn’t bear the thought of such kind and intelligent creatures being sold as snake food, which is one of the reasons pet stores keep the animals in stock.

But also, at two to six dollars a piece, the animals are bargain pets, said Ashley.

“You can teach them tricks, litter train them, teach them to come by their name,” she said. “They are very, very, very intelligent.”

They may jokingly refer to their pets as sewer dwellers, but the breed of rat they keep—fancy rats—are actually very clean.

A domesticated breed of brown and black rat, fancy rats aren’t called “fancy” because they’re fancy, but because they are fancied, or bred and domesticated, by pet owners.

In addition to weekly baths, the rats clean themselves and each other as many as six times a day, said Ashley. The emphasis rats place on community cleanliness is an advantage to keeping them in groups of four or five, she said.

Additionally, a socialized rat is a happy rat—rats are very social animals, so much so that the National Fancy Rat Society considers it cruel to keep a rat on his or her own.

However, Ashley and Scott had to make an exception for Tucker, a female that was prone to walking around in circles, bumping into things and tilting her head at strange angles.

About a week ago, they took her to their veterinarian at the Northwest Veterinary Hospital and, after a few simple tests, he had his diagnosis—due to an illness, Tucker was going blind. The veterinarian prescribed an antibiotic and Tucker gets her own cage while she undergoes treatment, which consists of a daily shot in the mouth with a tiny syringe.

And yes, getting a rat to sit still long enough to administer a shot in its mouth is as hard as it sounds, said Ashley.

Things didn’t turn out so well for Clyde Barrow, who was also exhibiting some unusual behavior. Another trip to the veterinarian revealed that he suffered from a number of congenital health defects, and would never lead a healthy life. Ashley and Scott made the decision to put him down.

Dealing with death is part of owning most any kind of pet, and the couple believe the benefits of keeping their furry friends around far outweigh the costs.

As nocturnal animals, they spend most of the day loafing in the hammocks and artificial hiding spots—an old boot, for instance—in their cages. At night, they spring to life, performing acrobatics and play-scrapping with one another.

The animals don’t always get along—the more aggressive animals will sometimes hassle the less aggressive ones, but that’s part of any group dynamic, said Scott.

“A few have always been skittish, but most are fat, happy and friendly,” said Scott.

Rats are omnivores and can eat almost anything humans can eat. Most of the time, the pack is fed pre-rendered rodent food, but Ashley and Scott also include small portions of cooked hamburger, fresh vegetables and even noodles in their diet. The one food the rats prefer above all the rest is Gerber’s carrots and applesauce.

“With the baby food, it’s every rat for himself,” said Ashley.

At other times, the rats are all about teamwork. For instance, Scott woke one morning to find one of their female rats lounging on the living room floor. As it turned out, four females had spent an evening chewing through the corner of their plastic cage. Following a short scramble, the remaining rats were found tucked in various nooks around the apartment.

After that, the cage was reinforced and things went back to normal.

Of course, can life alongside 17 rats ever be considered “normal?” For many, perhaps not, but Ashley and Scott love their little pals—so much so that they even considered including them in their wedding next month.

They nixed the idea after protests from Ashley’s grandmother.


• Ashley and Scott will bring a few of their rats to Normal Memorial Library next week for the after-school program, scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. The special library program is planned for children of all ages.

    - Nov. 1, 2006

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