Friday, August 2, 2013

Eulogy for a Mouse

In my recent scurrying around organizing my 2 free days on Amazon for The Dyrad's Kiss, I came across this blog again. I'd forgotten about it and never provided any closure. So here it is.

After my many failures capture momma mouse in humane, non-lethal ways, the poop trails through our kitchen forced me to up the ante. It was clear, this mouse was smarter than me.

I went out and bought a good old fashioned less-humane, lethal snap-trap.

Feeling a bit guilty for my deadly intent, I set the trap under a cabinet near the dog food, but my wife had made it clear that it was me or the mouse. Easy choice. Judging from the amount of poop in the dog's dish, it was one of her favorite dining spots. We started taking up Knight's dish every night and baited the trap with cheese.

Apparently, the stereotype of mice loving cheese, is not as correct as I wanted to believe. This mouse
gave my trap full of cheesy goodness a miss.  I left the trap there under the cabinet for a week, faithfully replacing the cheese every day. I don't know if she had been holding out for more dog food, but after a week, the mouse took the bait... and left the still-armed trap behind.

I repeated this 3 times over three days and had to admit myself that this was one slippery mouse. Well, I consider myself a clever guy and I refused to be outsmarted by a mouse so I went downstairs and brought up a bag of my daughter's legos.  I then built a little 3 walled shelter for the mouse-trap which meant the mouse either had to drop from the wall onto the trap, or walk across it from the open side. Either way, that mouse was going down.

For the next two weeks that mouse didn't touch the cheese, but every morning it was obvious that the mouse was still being well fed. So, at the advice of several people, I switched to peanut butter. I was assured that no mouse could resist peanut butter.

Apparently mine did. Finally I admitted defeat, removed my cool lego walls and went with nothing but peanut butter. I briefly considered poison, but I didn't like the idea of poisoning the dog. So, I went with nothing but peanut butter.

She liked peanut butter. I could tell because when I came down the next morning, it had all been licked off the trap. By this time, all semblance of sympathy for this little poop monster had evaporated.

The mouse was obviously able to just delicately remove the cheese from the trigger,  so I glued a piece of cheese to the trigger plate with peanut butter.  I was sure that would work. It didn't.

The next step was taking a wad of cheese and molding it into a cheese ball surrounding the entire trigger plate.  After a few test runs of the snap bar on my fingers, I finally had a ball of cheese I was satisfied with.  I left the trap out with low hopes.

The next morning I come down and check the trap, and there, in the trap, is a little dead mouse. The snap bar had broken her neck.

"Ding Dong! The Mouse is Dead! The Mouse is Dead!"

I picked up the trap, and looked down into two beady mouse eyes staring at me accusingly and all my triumph flumped. In the end, I had won the battle of wits and patience against my clever prey, but it had been hard fought, and the mouse had been a worthy foe. I admitted as much to the mouse, and feeling sad, I buried her in the back yard.

I still think of that brave little mouse and the hard battle for my house and realize that though the mouse died in the end, she shall live on in my heart and serve as a role-model for perseverance and courage in a world way bigger than any of us.

Silly? Maybe. But, I could do worse. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention: she had eaten nearly all the cheese before she set off the trap.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Big Mouse Hunt

Every time you catch a mouse in your house, you wonder if that is it - have you caught the last little bugger?  In our case, the answer was no.  Two days, after having escorted one baby out the door, I had a run in with Mom.  It was around 1:00 AM and I was busy working on my novel, The Shadow's Touch (which has nothing to do with mice).  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a mouse scooting along the wall to the left of my desk.  The wall is mostly taken up by one big window with large, heavy golden curtains- a legacy of the days when my office was a formal dining room.

I immediately spring into action.  The mouse is headed for the front exit to the room so I jump in front of it and start piling some handy boxes (left over from moving) in the open door frame.  I keep watch to see if the mouse is making a run for the other open doorway in the office.  When I  am done blocking the exit and stuffing the cracks with paper, I jump to the other exit and do the same thing.  Ha Ha! Now the mouse is trapped - maybe.  Sometimes they can slip by you when your attention is momentarily distracted. They are crafty little buggers.

To my gratification, the mouse runs across the room for the shelter of the big hutch (another dining legacy).  Now, if you are new to rodent hunting, the thing you have to know is that mice can hide anywhere.  What you have to do is pull everything possible off the floor and stack it on tables.  Make sure there is no cloth hanging down from any tables or desks or the mouse will climb it and sit on the table and laugh at you while you are searching for it on the floor.

After I got the floor clear, I got myself a largish plastic bowl to use to catch the mouse.  You don't want to use your hands for a couple reasons.  First, your hands are small and mice are fast.  It's hard to catch them that way, but if you do catch them, one of two things are likely to occur:  you will squish the mouse, or you will get bit.  Trust me, I've found these things out the hard way.  So, I corral the mouse into the corner behind a small filing cabinet which is next to my desk.  I know exactly where she is, but when I peer over the top of the cabinet, she is nowhere to be seen.  No problem, she has gone under the filing cabinet which has a little opening in the back. I go for reinforcements.

I come back with our toy poodle Knight, bring him into the barricaded room and start removing drawers from the filing cabinet.  Knight is supposed to be my second set of eyes, but he knows the game is afoot and is so excited, he immediately crams himself behind the filing cabinet as far as he can go.  Not really where I need him, but oh well.  As I take out the drawers, I'm ready for anything.  The mouse can come out at me, go around the back, or hide in the drawers.  I take out the top drawer, I take out the second drawer and... the mouse is not there.  Crap.  Where did it go?  I'm certain the mouse didn't leave the corner so I look around.  The only two things back there are the filing cabinet and an old tower computer.  I look down at the computer and one of the little plates that cover the expansion slots is missing.  It's pretty small, but I don't see where else it could be.  I pull the computer out of the corner, pick it up and shake it to see if I can get a little mouse bouncing action but I only hear various loose wires.

So, I make my first rookie mistake.  I don't really believe the mouse is in my computer, but I have to be sure before I pile it on top of everything else on my desk so, I open it up in the middle of the floor.  The computer is full of dust and computery bits, but I don't see the mouse.  For good measure, I shake it around a bit and -  out pops the mouse!  It scurries off before I can put the computer down and get my bowl. My mistake?  I should have taken the computer outside to check it. Sigh.

 The mouse ran to the opposite corner of the room and under the heavy drapes where they hang down in the open position.  Meanwhile Knight is still trying to fit behind the filing cabinet.  He ignores me when I try to point him towards the mouses new hiding place. So, bowl in hand, I head there.

I lift up the heavy drapes and get ready, but there is no mouse in sight. Now Knight has decided that the action is near me so he is sniffing around the drapes too. I sort through the various pleats of the drapes in case the mouse is hiding in one and check the curtain rod.  Don't laugh, I once had a mouse who ran all the way up the curtain and then sat on top of the rod and laughed at me while I searched for it below.

Its not there.  Now, the thrill of the chase is getting a little frustrating so I give the curtains one final shake and  out pops the mouse!  It was hiding between the curtains and the sheers.  Its off again and Knight chases it back to the corner with the filing cabinet.  He is excitedly snuffling around when I notice the big pee stain on the rug - left by Knight in his excitement of the chase. So, out goes my mighty hunting dog and I head back into the fray.

I manage to  flush the mouse out of the corner again and it runs right towards me.  Of course I put my bowl down so I have to resort to a little mouse hockey.  As the mouse tries to get by me, I swat it with my hands. The object is to get the mouse to go back to a place where it is trapped.  Now, don't worry, contrary to popular belief, mice are tough little guys.  I've played many a round of mouse hockey, trying to get them where I want them and they always bounce.  It's best if you are on a slick floor, but it works on carpet too.

So, I bat this one back once, but it reverses course and gets by me. It heads back to the drapes and this time I watch it hop up into the drapes.  In order to prevent a replay, I stick the drapes into a trash can so if I rustle out the mouse, it will fall into the can and I will be victorious.

So, with a certain degree of optimism, I search the drapes...and I keep searching the drapes...and some more.  There is no mouse to be found.  I look up at the curtain rod, I look everywhere else in the room but the mouse is gone. It has somehow pulled a little mouse Houdini act and disappeared. With a heavy sigh, I go get the carpet cleaner and clean up the pee.

The score -  Mouse:1  Me:0

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Of Mice and Irony.

So, I was once again a magnet for the iron in the universe.  In a previous post, I extolled the virtues of mice in my blog, .Of Mice and Men.  In answer, the universe infested upon me a blessing of mice in my house.

The first warning I had was the ominous chewing sound late at night, when the house is blessedly quiet, and I was busy working on my novel.  As soon as I heard it, I knew what it was.  There was a mouse, living in my house, busy chewing through something best left unchewed.  I hate that sound.  I stalked around trying to locate where the damage was being done.  It was coming from somewhere around the vent to our oven - which leads right outside.  When it heard me rummaging around, it went quiet as a - dare I say it? - mouse.  Having no stalking options other than knocking a whole in my wall, I went back to my writing.

Two days later, in the quiet of the night, I heard the dreaded chewing again.  I got up and followed it out to the kitchen.  I followed it to the stairs leading to our basement.  I called quietly to our dog Knight who is a black toy poodle.  The small poodles were bred to be ratters so I called him over and pointed down the stairs and said, "Go get it Knight! Go get the mouse." He got all excited but had no idea what I was talking about, so I headed down stairs.  When I was about three steps down, I realized that the chewing was coming from my left at about head height - the pantry.

I opened the pantry doors and the chewing stopped.  Our pantry was designed by some goofball who didn't understand that pantries were supposed to make it easy to store and retrieve things.  The pantry is, like, fifteen feet long inside with shelves the whole way and the doors are about twelve.  This gives us a sizable area for things to be pushed into and lost.  The chewing was coming from the floor in that area.  I started pulling things out while Knight watched me with growing excitement.  When I got to the Sargasso of our pantry, I had to get down on my hands and knees to reach the detritus that  had collected there over the ages.  I pulled out an old bag of paper plates when I first saw the mouse.  Knight saw it too and ran in past me.  He started digging around, looking for it.  He never saw it, but he flushed it out and as it ran towards me, I trapped it with a plastic storage container.   I used to own Gerbils who would get free from time to time, so I'm pretty good at catching little scurrying rodents without hurting them.

I got a thin lid and shoved it carefully under the bowl.  You have to be quite careful because if you lift the bowl more than something like a quarter of an inch, that mouse will be out of there in a flash. Once I successfully got the lid under it, I picked up the container and turned it over.  The container and lid were opaque so I wasn't sure if I had actually caught the mouse.  They can be tricky that way. I had to turn my back to Knight as well because, though he never saw the mouse, he knew I had something in my container and he kept jumping up to get a look at it.

I very carefully opened the lid the tiniest amount that I could - if you give them too much room, they will pop right out of there and be gone before you can blink.  There inside was a sight that could cause dread in any home-owner.  It was a tiny little mouse.  Obviously young and inexperienced.  That could mean only one thing: there was a mama mouse in my house pumping out babies.  This hunt was only the initial salvo in a war of man against mouse.  The next morning my daughter and I took the mouse down to the field (after she begged to keep it ) and let it go.

On the positive side, I cleaned out the pantry from decades of buildup and found several things that had mysteriously gone missing long ago.  I also found where the mouse had made its nest.  It had chewed through the plastic around a bag of cups and made a little nest of chewed cup and plastic in the end cup.  It had also filled the cup, and the cupboard with mouse droppings.  To be perfectly honest, mouse droppings are the worst part of having mice

The next day we went right out and bought a couple of 'humane' mouse traps, loaded them with peanut butter, and put them in the pantry and other strategic places in the forlorn hope that we could catch them before they grew up and breed some more.

If you are wondering, the traps didn't work

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Of Mice and Men

One summer, long ago, I was a river raft guide on the Arkansas river in southern Colorado.  I choose to live up and away from the Lazy J Ranch, where I worked. I pitched a tent in a beautiful little glade next to a babbling brook.  It  was an awesome way to spend a summer.  That summer generated a lot of great memories for me and taught me a lot about life and myself.  Several events stood out for me but I just want to mention one here.

Back then, I drove an old Ford Pinto wagon. Before you start jeering, let me tell you: That was an intrepid little car. It was solid steel and served me well.  Nearly every day, I drove it a several miles on a rocky, rutted 4 wheel drive trail - up and back.  That trail was so rough, it took out a couple of Jeeps. Not that Pinto though. That Pinto was the kind of car a mouse would drive. Huh? What's that you say? I'll explain, but bear with me.

I would frequently drive the Pinto up that nasty trail/road at night.  As you can imagine, I didn't do it fast.  I can vividly remember the drive. When the moon wasn't high overhead, it was pitch black.  In the places where the trees didn't cover the road, the sky was black and studded with fiercely bright pinpoint stars. The only illumination was from my headlights.  Where those beams stopped, so did the world.  Where those beams illuminated the rocks and ruts and trees, you would get a glimpse of the forest's hidden nightlife.  That night life mostly consisted of bugs and mice.  The forest crawled with them.  Frequently, my lights would startle a mouse innocently going about his business. When that happened, the mice all did the same thing.  They started jumping like lotto balls.  The funny thing was that they didn't necessarily jump out of the beams of my headlights.  They just started jumping in random directions and they didn't stop till they escaped the light which stripped away their dark cloak of protection - exposed them to the terrors of the world.  They were so limited, that they couldn't tell where the light stopped, so they just jumped and jumped and hoped they would come down someplace safe.  At the time, it always made me laugh.  They were so silly that it made them endearing.

Since then, my amusement has been enriched with respect. Mice are tiny and fragile creatures and their world is incredibly dangerous. Everything is bigger than them and most consider mice a tasty snack.  Yet, every day, mice get up from whatever little nest they have been able to find and they go out under the terrifying sky to find food or a better place.  In this quest, they go EVERYWHERE.  They explore every nook and cranny and they are nigh impossible to stop. They have to be either the dumbest or the bravest animal on the planet.  Either way, you have to admire them.

I think they are a good role model.  For us humans, the world is a much bigger place. We kid ourselves that being human means being in control of our environment, of our world, but it really isn't so. Every day, we go out into into the world, hoping to find food, wealth, love, happiness, purpose. But, regardless of your size, life is dangerous and capricious and in our limited vision, we can't always see what is coming or in what direction safety lay.  We could do worse than be like a mouse, always exploring, always finding new treasures - continuing to live, even through the worst of adversity.  Then, when life strips away all your comfort and protection, and you have no idea where to go, jump at whatever chance comes along.  If that chance doesn't lead you to a better place, jump again till you find what you need.

I really admire people who can do that.  Regardless of the hawks and dogs and cats life throws at them they keep going.  Those are the people I like hang out with, the people I like to write about. People who face adversity with determination and humor, people who keep going and don't give up till their heart stops beating.  That is the type of person I would like to be.

So, if someone asks, 'Are you a Man or a Mouse?', consider how brave and dauntless that mouse has to be just to leave their home.