I’m working on a story about rats. Back when B.F. Skinner was a BFD, I had a job working for the psych. department raising rats. That’s where the action was then, animal studies. If we could just figure out rats, humans were right around the corner. I was an English major, but they couldn’t get a psych major to take the job. They used to buy their rats from a laboratory supply company, but that runs into some money, and they were going through serious quantities of rats. You couldn’t really reuse them. Once you’d messed with them in one way, they were pretty much useless for another. Next stop: The Ft. Worth herpetarium.

They were Long-Evans rats, the black and white kind. I was responsible for about 500 of them. There was a batch of gerbils, and one guy had a roomful of rabbits that were strictly off limits, but mostly it was all rats. My main job was producing more and more of them. This wasn’t hard. The gestation period was 21 days, average litter size 7, weaned at 21 days. We gave the females another 21 days before breeding them again. I also issued experimental animals with all their records to the experimenters, mostly students doing the work for professors looking for publication, tenure, promotions. The grad students, like the rats in a maze were just trying to get out of there.

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