Ron loves animals big and small, but having a mouse in the house isn't his favorite thing!
I find myself writing about mice a lot.
Our house is located right next to a farmer’s field that seems filled with the little critters. Every year as the weather gets colder, they all seem to think there's a big VACANCY sign over our house. We get a steady stream of rodent visitors every winter.
Actually, I like animals, and I think the little brown field mice that come to visit are cute. Plus, I understand that when the temperature plunges, mice, like everybody else, want to get in out of the cold. But the little rodents are also dirty and destructive, and our house is just not the place for them.
Over the years I’ve written a lot about how emotionally conflicted I've been in trying to evict the mice that seem so insistent on being my unwanted house guests. In this article I share three of those stories that have really stuck in my memory.
A word of warning – most of my encounters with mice have involved traps of one kind or another. So, if you’re expecting the mice in these stories to live happily ever after, you may be disappointed.
“The Mouse That Got an Unexpected Pick-Me-Up”
I well remember the day when I went out into the garage, and heard suspicious sounds coming from a large empty garbage can I had left there. When I looked into the can I realized that by placing it where I did, I had unwittingly set up a huge mousetrap. There in the bottom, looking up at me with baleful eyes, were not one, not two, but three little field mice.
Immediately I saw what had happened. I had set up that garbage can in a place where mice could climb up from the outside and literally drop in. But not being creatures given to a lot of forethought, my three enterprising visitors hadn’t considered how they would get back out.
For a moment I was really stumped about what to do to get rid of them. To be honest, thoughts did go through my mind of doing something nasty, like pouring in water so that they’d drown (can mice swim?). But being a really kind-hearted type of guy, I finally settled on what I thought would be a much more humane solution. Why not take them to a field and set them free?
So, I put the can in the back seat of my car, being very careful that it wouldn’t tip over as I drove and leave me with a mouse-infested vehicle. I went to an open field that was far enough away from any houses that I was sure my newly freed friends wouldn’t end up in somebody else’s garage.
I was feeling really virtuous as I got that can out of the car and carefully tipped it over so the mice could slide out to freedom. Then some things happened that I hadn’t expected.
First, one of the mice seemed reluctant to leave the shelter of the can and refused to run away. Another one took off lickety-split, but as soon as it found a clod of earth it could get under it stopped running and hid itself. Both reactions surprised me because I expected all the mice to quickly get as far away from me as they could. But what happened to the third mouse enlightened me as to what the first two were concerned about.
Like his brother that ended up under a clod, mouse #3 took off running. But he couldn’t immediately find any cover, so he kept going as fast as he could. But he wasn’t fast enough. To my astonishment, before that mouse got more than a few yards away from me, a hawk swooped down from above, grabbed him in its claws, and flew away with him.
I had no idea there was a hawk flying overhead. And I’m still amazed at how quickly it was able not only to see those mice being dumped out of that garbage can, but also to drop down and catch one on the run for an easy meal.
Although I lost one of my new friends that day, I still have the satisfaction of knowing I did the best I could for them. And, now that I think of it, I did pretty well for that hawk, too.
“Am I a Monster?”
Yesterday I caught a mouse. Today, I’m feeling like a heartless monster.
After several hours of hearing scrapping noises in our den, my wife finally was perturbed enough to call me at work and ask me to come home and find out what was going on. Well, when your wife is that upset, a wise husband doesn’t hesitate. I immediately jumped in my car and drove home.
As soon as my wife pointed out where the noises were coming from, I had a pretty good idea what was going on. I had put down a mousetrap behind one of the chairs in our den. When I lifted that chair up and looked for the trap, it wasn’t there. After a brief search, I found it hidden behind a magazine holder. And there in the trap was a little mouse caught by the leg.
As soon as his hiding place was uncovered, the poor little rodent took off on his three available legs, dragging the trap behind him. The mouse actually moved pretty quickly, under the circumstances. In fact, hampered as I was by my determination to not get my hand within biting range, he almost eluded me. He tried to run behind the TV stand, where I couldn’t get to him without moving heavy furniture. But his downfall was that he attempted, mouse-like, to go through a space that was plenty big for a small rodent but far too narrow for the trap. So, I had him.
But now, what to do with him? I was holding one end of the trap, with the mouse dangling by the leg from the other end. I’m sure I must have appeared to him to be a monstrous ogre, intent on his destruction. And, of course, that was the truth. The purpose of mousetraps is the destruction of mice. But the victim is supposed to have conveniently expired before I have to deal with it. This one was very inconveniently alive, and by contorting his body, was seemingly trying to get at my hand holding the trap. I felt I had to act quickly, so I had my wife give me some plastic bags into which I placed the trap and mouse. I then tied the bags and put the whole thing into a garbage can out in the garage. Out of sight, but definitely not out of mind.
All night and into today I’ve been thinking about that mouse. At the least he probably had a broken leg, which must have caused him a lot of pain. I didn’t want that. I have no ill will toward mice (actually, I think they’re cute). I just don’t want them running around and contaminating my house. So, I set traps. But I was really disturbed last night, lying in my comfortable bed while a fellow creature was, by my action, suffering pain and destined for a lingering death.
I have not been intentionally cruel, and even now I don’t know how else I could have handled it. Certainly taking a mouse with a broken leg out into a field and leaving it to the mercy of marauding cats or other predators wouldn’t be doing the little creature any favors. But I very much wish it had never gotten into the house in the first place.
Perhaps there are deep theological implications to this type of situation. I don’t know. But last night I prayed for that mouse, that it would not suffer too much and would quickly be put out of its misery.
And I prayed for myself, that I am not a monster.
"I Wish Mice Could Read!"
Mice like my house. I don't blame them, I like it too. But I'm the one paying the mortgage, and I don't like uninvited house guests.
Mice just don't seem to get it that it's not nice to take up residence in someone else's home without even asking permission. So every few weeks, especially during cold weather, some of them just show up and start running around like they own the place.
That’s why last night I had to perform one of those unpleasant chores I detest but can’t avoid.
As my wife was watching television in the den, a little field mouse emerged from behind the TV stand and headed straight for the sofa on which she was lying. He obviously didn’t realize anyone was there. By way of informing him of her presence, my wife let out a scream that could be heard two blocks away. The mouse got the message, and practically flipped in mid-air in his haste to get back to his hiding place.
But he had made the fatal mistake of alerting us to his presence in our house. We’re hospitable people, but not to mice.
So, now it was my responsibility to evict our unwanted tenant. Since I didn’t think he would be able to read an eviction notice, I resorted to the age-old remedy for showing small rodents our displeasure at their presence – a mousetrap.
I baited it with peanut butter smeared on a small piece of bread, and put it along a wall where I knew the mouse would be sure to come upon it. The trap did its job very effectively. I saw the evidence of that when I came downstairs the next morning. But I felt so bad about the whole proceeding that it took a few hours before I was up to the task of disposing of the trap and its victim.
I like animals, and under other circumstances I would have enjoyed making friends with our furry little visitor. And I understand that when it’s cold outside, mice, like anyone else, want to find a place that’s warm. But not in our house.
I wish mice could read. Then a “No Trespassing” sign would suffice, and I’d never need to use a mousetrap again.
© 2018 Ronald E Franklin