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Stables in Patterson Park Baltimore MD circa 1978

In 1979 when I was in Baltimore I worked as a tenant counselor in the Paterson Park area of East Baltimore.  One of the unique things about the area was the guys that would go around the street selling veggies and the like out of horse drawn wagons.  They were called A-Rabs although they were Afro Americans.

All and all they were good guys and you would see them on the street yelling stuff like "melon" or "bananas" as they hawked their wares.  The citizen makeup of the area was almost all Afro-American families on the lower end of the economic spectrum and they welcomed the A-Rabs because it saved them from walking up to the market on Monument Street.

There was a side issue, the horses (they could have been ponies) were not potty trained and there was horse manure all over the place.  This led to some unsanitary conditions in and around the area which was infested with rats.  Some of the rats were very large and they would just be out on the street at times waddling around like they belonged there.

Needless to say...having that be my area...I thought that the rats must go.  I did what I had to do and convened a meeting of the city sanitation people and some community members.  I had been following the garbage trucks around watching them work and was not satisfied with the job they were doing.  The sanitation people said that they would try to do better and...I must to admit when I followed them they became more conscientious.

The head sanitation guy at the meeting took me aside and said he was going to give me a tip.  Hmmm I thought, a tip from the big man.  He told me that we had to get the "rat eradication" program in the neighborhood.  It was all about traps and bait with the rat department and they would do the job.

So I called and got the rat eradication department and told them I wanted to eradicate me some rats.  I explained the big man told me to call and finally got through to the guy in charge of my area.  We called a meeting and he and about 3 suits showed up to meet with me and the neighbors.  I had a big map on the table and we discussed strategies.

I told them about the A-Rabs and the horse manure creating an unsanitary condition and they were not worried about that, they were strictly rats.  The head rat guy laid out a plan pointing on the maps to all of these intersections and alleys. So I said what about the stables where the A-Rabs keep the horses.  That is the motherland of rats and the guy did not want to deal with the stables.  I am like "what the heck" as I was pointing to the home to some of the nastiest urban rats known to mankind. I was all about kill the body and the head dies and the stable area was the heart of rat territory.

We went back and forth and he was putting red marks on the the locations asking for concurrence from the neighbors.  I mentioned the stables 2 or 3 more times early in the meeting and was really not acknowledged.  About 90 minutes later we got red marks all over the place except where the stable was on the 500 block of North Duncan between Jefferson and McElderry.

People saw there was a real plan with real progress intended and most people were pleased.  I was thanked at least 4 times in the meeting for calling everyone together. The head Neighborhood Housing Service lady Matilda Koval saw i was getting agitated and called on me to speak.  She did not like me too much so when she asked what I thought I was pretty surprised.  I told the head rat guy  that I thought he did a good job because it seemed that he was going to force all of the rats to the 500 block of North Duncan.  I was serious but it was spontaneous laughter, loud and hard, table slapping hold your stomach kinds of laughs....and...and I was being serious.

The head rat guy was in tatters almost falling off his chair laughing, came around to me put his arm around me and embraced me fondly ( in a manly way) and then picked up his marker.  He went over to the map and put a big mark on the stables property and said to the crowd "and we are gonna start here".  The group was cheering the head rat guy was smiling and clapping.  We had won or maybe I had won but only by making what I thought was a serious comment that might have been made funnier cause I was serious.


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