Hungry rats wreak havoc on Chimacum football equipment

CHIMACUM, Wash. -- Football is a big thing in Chimacum, but a horde of destructive rats have put one local team's season in jeopardy.

In the chilly fall months, there's not a lot for a 9- or 10-year olds to do in Jefferson County but play football. With the season just around the corner, coach Darrin Dotson drove to his storage locker last weekend to get the pads, blocking dummies and helmets.

"I opened up the door and there was about six inches of foam on the ground and it came spewing out on my feet," Dotson said.

The destruction was the work of rats or mice.

"Yeah, one of these blocking dummies had a practice jersey pulled inside it, it was being used as a nest," Dotson said.

Helmets were chewed and some were yellowed. Others were full of droppings. Dotson did his best to wash everything with bleach, but he said they still smell like a rodent restroom.

"I'm not going to use any of that gear," he said. "To me, it is a complete loss. I am not going to take the responsibility for any child getting sick."

That means Dotson's son, Cole, will have to wait to see if the league can raise enough money to buy new pads and equipment.

"I've used that stuff on my own time, too. I hate to see it destroyed," Cole's brother Lane said. "I hate rats. I hate that they did that to our stuff."

The league had about $5,000 in its bank account, and it spent all but $1,000 of that on new helmets. But the big question is whether pads and other equipment will arrive in time for the team to be ready for its first game, which is scheduled for September 15.

League officials hope parents and local businesses will help them replace the rest of the damaged equipment.