Saturday, June 6, 2009

Of Mice and Me

by Dee Newman

Ever since my cat, Kaylene, died last spring, I have had, off and on, trouble with mice.

By-the-way, Kaylene died at the ripe old age of twenty, living on the vegetarian cat food I supplied and an occasional bird, lizard or mouse that I was unable to rescue from her mouth.

It was Emerson who said, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Which his good friend, Thoreau, impatiently retorted, “Oh Ralph, learn to live with them!”

As we know, Emerson continued to live a life of comfort, while Thoreau, moved to a one room stone shack near Walden Pond and took-up residence with the little creatures.

Believe me, I have for most of my adult life lived more like Thoreau than Emerson, but I must admit I am sick and tired of the unpleasant consequences of those little creatures sharing my living space.

So, for a while now, I have been trying to build a better mousetrap – that is, a better humane mousetrap.

With each attempt and failure, my recollection of two very significant and memorable tales regarding mice allowed me to keep my humane quest alive and my integrity intact. The first one is actually a fable I was told as a child. The second one is a true story that occurred about twenty-five years ago.

The fable, “The Mouse Tale,” goes something like this:

From a crack in the wall of an old farmhouse a mouse watched a farmer and his wife open a package.

"What eatable delights might this package contain," the mouse wondered?

The poor little creature was horrified to discover that it contained not food, but a mousetrap.

Retreating to the barn, the mouse encountered a hen and cry out in distress, "There is a mousetrap in the house!”

Scratching about, the hen slowly raised her head and softly clucked, "I can certainly tell this is a grave and serious matter for you, Mr. Mouse, but it is of no concern to me.”

Turning to Mr. pig, the mouse exclaimed, "There is a mousetrap in the house! Do you hear me? There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig was very sympathetic and said, "I am so sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is really nothing I can do to help. You can be assured, though, that you will be in my prayers."

When the mouse turned to the cow to tell him that there was a mousetrap in the house, the cow too told the mouse that he was sorry, but that it was of no concern to him, either.

So, the poor little mouse returned to the old farmhouse, with his head down, all alone and dejected.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house. It was the sound of a mousetrap catching its quarry.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what the trap had caught. Unfortunately, in the darkness, she was unable to see that the trap had caught, not a mouse, but the tail of a copperhead.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed his wife to the hospital. After several days they sent her home to recuperate with a high fever.

Since the farmer had been taught that you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, he took his ax to the barn to acquire the soup's primary ingredient.

However, his wife's fever only got worse. So, friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. In order to feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The condition of the farmer's wife continued to get worse. Within a week, she died.

To provide enough meat for all of the people who came to her wake, the farmer had the cow slaughtered.

From his crack in the wall of the old farmhouse the mouse witnessed it all with a great deal of sadness.

Now, the moral to this story should be obvious. If you must set a trap for anything make it a humane trap, or else, suffer the consequences. The next time you hear that someone may be in trouble and you think it doesn't concern you – think again. The web of life is intricate. We are all in it together. So, the Golden Rule should apply to all sentient beings. And, don’t ever forget it!

The second story, as I said, is true. It happened to a very good friend of mine. At the time of the story, she too lived a life much like Thoreau, in a small cabin in the woods. Like me she was having a difficult time living with the unpleasant consequences of sharing her living space with a family of mice.

Frustrated and annoyed, after many attempts to humanely get rid of the mice, she finally decided to use some old traditional inhumane mousetraps. To assuage her guilt, she contacted the Children’s Museum who had several live exhibits of both venomous and non-venomous sakes. Each month she would take to the museum between a dozen and half-dozen mice to be fed to the snakes.

She kept the dead mice in Ziploc bags in the freezer of her refrigerator.

When she opened the front door of her cabin, after returning home from a vacation in late July, she was confronted with a very foul and disgusting odor that took her breath away. Sometime during the two weeks she was gone the refrigerator had stopped working.

Not only was it necessary to replace the refrigerator, it took many weeks for the obnoxious odor to diminish in intensity.

Once again, the moral to this story should be obvious.

As I said before, these two memorable tales kept me on task even when the project seemed unattainable. After developing a number of prototypes, I believe I have, at last, come up with a simple and humane mousetrap that anyone can make and use effectively.

After successfully capturing two mice alive with a trap-door jar-lid mousetrap I designed and built at home, I serendipitously discovered an even simpler humane mousetrap, using only a saucer, a wide mouth jar and a little dab of peanut butter.

I read a number of months ago that by simply propping a wide mouth jar up-side-down on an upright nickel an effective humane mousetrap could be made. Unfortunately, I could never balance (no matter how many times I tried) the jar on that dad-blasted nickel, so I gave up.

While replenishing a dab of peanut butter inside the wide mouth jar of my home made jar-lid mousetrap, I noticed a saucer sitting on my kitchen counter. Suddenly, I realized I did not need an upright nickel to prop up the up-side-down wide mouth jar. I could use the rim of the saucer.

Voila! The jar easily balanced on the rim of the saucer.

All that was left now was to wait and see if a mouse would take the bait, crawl beneath the propped up jar and while trying to lick the peanut butter from the bottom of the up-side-down jar, force the jar to slip off the rim of the saucer.

The next morning my expectations were realized.

There, inside the jar, was a mouse, alive and well. As I write this I have successfully capture four other mice with this simple method. Try it. You will be delighted with the results, as well as, with your compassion and humanity.

But, make sure you transport and release any mice you capture, at least, a mile from your home or they will most assuredly return.

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