Yes, we’ve had a few in our Saint Paul house over the years. One crept across the dining room floor, almost under Fluffy’s legs. She, the aged Maine Coon cat, sniffed at the tiny intruder, Fran scooped it up and tossed it in the backyard. That was the end of that. We’ve had far more bats, over the years, though none this season, knock on wood. And one rat crept into the basement, probably through the sewer pipes, and somehow drowned itself in the toilet. A shocking thing, as one lowers the derriere to the toilet seat.
But not until last week, have I ever felt invaded by mice. The site was a large dwelling by big Lake Superior. “In the woods,” remonstrated the mother of the dwelling’s owner. In other words, what should I expect?
The attack unfolded with a grace I’d never have prophesied. My third or fourth evening there as I relaxed downstairs on the sofa after dinner, a slow shadow made its way from some secret place to my right and scurried across the rug, then paused to look back at me–“What are you doing here!?” it seemed to say. I yelped and stomped. The mouse, rather large in my limited estimation, was not, I was sure, a rat. It withdrew, where I knew not, nor particularly cared..
Maybe the next morning–I didn’t begin to chart such things until fear and vengeance drove me to it–anyway, just as light was beginning to seep through the tall pines and aspen, a furry critter, low to the ground and not very long, appeared in the kitchen, just beyond a heat vent. There were lots of places where a critter could enter. Even at that early hour I thought so. I yelled and stomped again. The white-throated mouse withdrew again.
That was enough to set me looking for mouse droppings. Little pellets about the size of a pencil point. I found them in front of the fridge, along some of the kitchen counters. Not furious, just determined, I cleaned and moped with a few paper towels. That would take care of any stray crumbs luring the critter inside.
The next morning, more droppings, this time in the adjacent dining area on the round oak table. This disturbed me more. I washed not only the table top, but also a round decorative dish that had been sitting there when I arrived. Now when I inspected it, I discovered it was strewn with what looked like crumbs. I gave it a thorough washing.
That evening as I sat upstairs in bed, light on, a tiny form scurried from the alcove just to the right of my bed and across the carpet, then under the door to the chamber and disappeared. Oh, HELP! I’d had enough of mice. Tomorrow, I promised myself, I’d do something to get rid of the mice. I called the owner, one time-zone west. She was polite but bored. “Sure, buy some traps. Have the hardware store put them on my bill. I’ll even call them and alert them you’re coming.”
The following afternoon, I searched the huge store on Highway 61 for traps. There they were, two to a cellophane packet, along with various kinds of poison. Poison was not an option, or at least not after discussion with various people in town who pointed that that poisoned mice takes themselves outside where they can be eaten by pets or wild critters. I certainly didn’t want to do in other mammals who had the decency to stay where they belonged.
“Put a little peanut butter on the ‘trip,'” advised the young sales clerk. He was showing me how to set the things. “Not too much. Some mice figure out very fast how to snitch a bit and not spring the trap.” So warned I made my way back to the MacCabin. Hands trembling I set two traps, one just outside the door to my bedroom–Heaven forfend, the thing should die in my viewing. And the other downstairs just beyond the kitchen heat fixture, where I could almost see through the wall to the outside.
Then again I sat up in bed and distracted myself with reading. Light seeped from the sky. Soon it was dark. “SNAP!” I heard from outside the door. OMG!. My heart started to pound. What would I find? One of my interlocutors in town advised simply throwing the trap with its booty in the trash. I remembered that.
Putting on my slippers with their hard soles, I tied my robe securely around me, and slipped into my slacks–no rodent was going to run up my bare legs! Then pulling open the door, I saw a tiny mouse lying in the trap. Its two beady eyes stared up. The gold spring of the trap fastened it securely behind the ears. It didn’t seem to notice me. I kicked it with my foot. Nothing–no blink, no tail twitching. It was surely dead. But I couldn’t bear to bury it now. So I left it there, thinking perhaps encountering one dead of their kind would send other mice back into their hiding places.
I slept fine. Fortified, I repeated the garb of the night before, and opened the door again. The mouse in its trap with its black bulging eyes was still there. Now, with more light I could see that it had bled profusely into the small hollow of the trap. I pulled on a plastic glove and lifted the trap from the end without the mouse and carried it downstairs. There in the kitchen, the other trap had sprung with a somewhat larger victim caught precisely in the same fashion as the tiny upstairs critter.
It was morning. I had stamina and courage. With plastic gloves on both hands, I opened first one, then the other trap, taking the victims outside and flinging them into the grass. “Someone will eat them,” I thought, glad I had not poisoned them. Then I drank some coffee.
The next evening, I had enough courage to set the traps again with a bit more peanut butter to sweeten the kill. Then I put them in the same places as before. And again, with some trepidation, I sat upstairs in bed and listened. Nothing happened outside the bedroom door. But after about 20 minutes, I heard a loud SNAP! from downstairs and an odd flailing. OMG! I caught a mouse, but it’s not dead! Heart pounding, suited up as before, I stole down the long stairway and crept into the kitchen, first turning on the glaring overhead light.
There with its back to me, tail extended, crouched a much larger mouse than the other two. Just beyond it, the trap sat, sprung. I had no idea what to do. The mouse though stunned, and no doubt injured–there was some spots of blood on the floor–was not dead. Lightning thoughts flashed this way and that. On the counter sat a large hardcover edition of The Joy of Cooking. Lifting the book, I approached the mouse who did not move. Then bending a bit closer, I heaved the book on top of it.
A wild flicking of the tail. A scurrying of feet. With all my might, I brought my foot down on the top of the book and jumped. Under the book, something splintered. The mouse–what I could see of it–lay silent. I was sure I had killed it.
Stunned and mindless, I went back upstairs, washed my hands, and eventually crawled back into bed. In the morning, again with more courage and emotional stamina, I lifted the heavy tome. The mouse’s skull was crushed into a blackened profile of its head. The rest of its rather large body, yes with a white chest, lay inert. Again hand in glove, I lifted it by the tail and flung it outside. There was a lot more blood to clean up this time.
I set no more traps and made plans to leave the next day. These three mice, dear reader, were my first and I fervently hope, my last, intentional, live kills. .