Many years ago when I was up studying for a sermon late at night, I heard a distant noise, sorta like Horton hearing a Who. It is amazing what sounds can be made by an old house when there are so few competing decibels to mask them. It was a tiny cross cut saw, or like the distant crunching of a corn-on-the-cob eating contest. I rose from the table and crept about the room, where ever my ears detected the source of this curious sound.
My keen hearing (remember, this was many years ago) brought me to the fireplace. In this clean and seldom used fireplace was one old log, cradled on the andirons. And it was definitely from this log that the sound was emanating. It wasn't a constant sound. It wasn't a freak or capricious sound. It came in a deliberate series of cadences. It was too tiny to be creepy, but it was--in its own way--ominous. I concluded that it was an army of termites, so I kindled a fire and consumed the log.
Fast forward many years. A friend in the building trade, a contractor who does a little of everything, told me that, yes, you can hear termites at work, but usually it requires a stethoscope.
I'm sorry, my ears are not as sensitive as a stethoscope, but I did hear those dastardly beasts at work in my fire place. I can't imagine any other explanation for that tiny munching sound.
The reason I was reminded of that silly experience is that recently my wife awakened me to listen to the definite sound of gnawing. No, this was far too noisy for termites. In the middle of the night, my judgment being muddled, I told her that it was probably a tree in the wind rubbing against the house. Not a bad description of the sound, actually. But in the light of day it was obvious there was no tree anywhere near the house to comply with that simple explanation.
The next night I heard the noise myself before the narcotic of sleep dulled my senses. It may have been a rat or raccoon (please, not a beaver) chewing a two-by-four in the crawl space under the house. I haven't heard it again, but it is on my mind. I may have to ask some daring, slender young man to inspect the foundational timbers under our bedroom.
My friend says, just be certain it isn't in the attic. He claims that rats, and other assorted rodents, tend to chew on the insulation of electrical wiring. This may cause the house to catch fire, or at least it may electrocute the varmint, creating a growing stench