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Here's how many people grow up with the dream job of their childhood



Victorian England was attacked by rats. Rodents were in your cellar, your sewers, your garden, your pantry, your parks, your pipes – and that was a big problem. An infinite number of rats crippled crops, spoiled food supplies, clogged outflows, and of course helped spread a plague that killed about 60 percent of the European population. (Even though gerbils may have earned some guilt.)

The villagers used a handful of techniques to stop the animals. It was known that farmers snatched rats and strapped bells around their necks or scorched their fur in the hope that a horde of rodents of burnt rodents would scare away other pests. It's not "rats are everywhere in London," said a man named Jack Black, "in both rich and poor areas."

Black would know. He was England's royal pied piper.

"Pied Piper" may not be a job to be seen on Career Day (1

9459005), but in Victorian England this was a popular and sometimes lucrative career. According to author Barbara Tufty [PDF]a decent pied piper could acquire "special privileges" if he catches at least 5000 rats a year or about 13 rats a day. The work was so common that rodent hunters founded their own professional Pied Piper Guilds in England. The cast even inspired a folk tale: The Pied Piper was a Pied Piper.

In the Victorian era, Jack Black was the king of the Pied Piper. Her Majesty's Official "Rat and Mole Destroyer". Black began his government work as a young man after realizing that London's royal parks were being overrun with rats. (Literally, they had gnawed through the bridge drains.) His talent for catching rodents proved unsurpassed, and he was eventually named the highest Pied Piper by Queen Victoria, retaining the look of a jester. He wore a homemade uniform of white leather pants, a scarlet vest, a green topcoat, a gold band around his hat, and a sash adorned with rat-shaped metal medallions made by secretly melting his wife's cooking pots.

Black, the showman, sauntered through the city in a chariot of rats, handing out a homemade concoction of venomous poison. After finding a crowd, he set up a small stage, opened a huge cage with rats, and reached in. The rodents jumped on his arms, scurried over his shoulders and drifted from one hand to the other. The masses ooh and ahh : Black was rarely bitten. (Every time a rat sets its teeth, Black treated his wound by visiting the local pub and receiving "medicine," also known as stout, but if the bite was really bad, he would absolutely cleanse the wound.)

After luring a crowd, Black started bringing his poison to the viewers. "I challenge my composition and sell the art of rat destruction against every chemical destroyer in the world for every sum," he barked. "I do not care what it is. Let me re-test rats with anybody, a medical or drug manufacturer of compositions.

After a pleasant afternoon selling rodenticides, Black descended into London's basement and sewers with a legion of ferrets and dogs to catch more rats. Black trained the ferrets to sniff out vermin while he aimed the dogs at finding the ferrets in case they got lost or stuck in a sewer pipe, according to Lapham's Quarterly .

. Black tried other animals to catch vermin. He trained a badger, two raccoons, and a monkey, but most could not compete with dogs and ferrets. "I learned a monkey to kill rats," he said, "but he would not do much and just shake them well if they bit him."

Black did not kill every rat he caught. even though. He often kept her alive and bred her for sport.

Europeans of the 19th century have an unfortunate animal-blood history: monkey baiting (Can a monkey armed with a stick fight a dog?); Fox throwing (who can throw a fox the highest?); and goose-pulling (Can you ride a goose while riding?) were just a few. In Black's day, rat baiting, where dozens of rats were thrown into a pit with a dog, was one of the most popular activities in London taverns. The blood sport was so popular that the government taxed the rat killer dogs. The London rat-pit owner Jimmy Shaw bought 26,000 live rats from Pied Piper every year, including Black.

But Black also pulled rats for gentler reasons. He knew that some people wanted rodents as pets – and that some people would pay well for an equally good-looking rat – and so he began to breed "fancy" rats. Whenever he spotted a rat of a different color, he took her home to house "women in cage runs."

Black was proud of his unusual abilities in the field of rat breeding. It is rumored that he has bred rats for the queen and the author Beatrix Potter. He claimed that "I bred the best collection of rat rats ever known [19459006sic in the world". "Which is probably true, the American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association says Black can be described as the originator of the first real house-rats."

But Jack Black's legacy could deepen even further: the first white lab rat bred in Philadelphia was derived from a race albino rat that may have been bred by the Pied Piper.

There's no way to be sure, but as Robert Sullivan writes in his book Rats: Observations on the history and habitat of the most unwanted residents of the city "I believe that all the great scientific achievements that have been made in the modern scientific era as a result of working with laboratory rats are ultimately the result of the work of Jack Black, Pied Piper." 19659002] For more information about Jack Black, see Robert Mayhew's classic oral history of L ondoner everyday, [18] and london poor – the fun begins on page 11 [PDF] (function (d, s, i would) {
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