RISING SUN - As I’ve seen over the many years of working at the newspaper, history often repeats itself.
So while I was thumbing through the 1940-41 issues of The Independent I came across the column by Harlan G. Sime, called WISconservation.
The title of his column for February 20, 1941 struck my curiosity as it touches on a battle we’ve been waging at our house too. The timeless fight of Mice or Men.
“Just about the time when you think the mouse situation is well in hand, you will be suddenly informed by sight or sound that the pesky little rodents are at it again; almost as if they had been spontaneously generated” Sime mused. “If it will make you feel any better, you are battling against terrific odds for one fourth of the entire animal kingdom is composed of these feeble folk holding their own against a horde of enemies.”
Sime goes on to note in particular the plight of women who fear the dreaded mouse. Among them, I must note I am not. Years and years of rodent torment brought on by living in old style farm houses has worn that fear out of me.
“Time and time again, I have laughed myself sick at this familiar mouse performance. The implements of defense are usually a broom and a chair plus an occasional war whoop-and then too- and then too, the comforting remarks of the husband or brother. The comedy reaches the climax when the mouse stops in the middle of the floor, deliberates on the best retreat and makes a wild-eyed dash beneath the chair of the afflicted one. A violent delayed swing of the broom, another war-whoop and the mouse blitzkrieg is over.”
Although today, at 40 degrees it feels a bit tropical, the extreme cold of the last few weeks have probably had many of us at battle with the rodent population. At our house, the basement seems to be the epicenter of the invasion.
We seemed to be doing so well at the new house, never seeing any evidence of the scurrying little pests. Which one might attribute to tighter design and of course, cats. But when the squash that was being stored in the basement suddenly was hollow and mountains of mice droppings grew next to it, I knew we had become occupied.
With small children, cats and dogs running around, we had originally dispelled the massive amounts of mouse poison the sellers had left tucked away everywhere, including our mailbox. Thinking we’d be fine we didn’t even set a new trap. And as Chasca’s grandma says “mistakes were made.”
Following the squash attack, we promptly set out to buy what Chasca refers to as the miniature bear traps. This term really boggled Thatcher who examined them once we got them home. “They’re bear traps? We have bears in the basement? WHY do we have bears in the basement? CAN I SEE THEM?” He was thoroughly disappointed when we told him it was just mice, voles, and hopefully not, but maybe rats.
One unexpected silver lining to the whole thing is that checking the traps in the basement has become an exciting new ritual for the kids. Always anxious to get a chance to go down there, because that is where all the applesauce, canned fruit, apple cider and pickles are stored the boys relish in checking the traps. So when it's mid-morning, and the excitement of breakfast has worn off and everyone starts squabbling I’ll call out “Wanna go check the traps!” and both kids will scurry around finding socks and slippers to make their way down the stairs. Waylon especially enjoys this, and he will place his finger horizontally over his lips and sputter, his way of telling you to “shhhhhh.”
For a while, the mice were outsmarting us, but then our time came. And we caught one, and it was a doozy. It was such a gigantic creature that we even called in reinforcements. “DAAAAAAAAAAD!” Thatcher screamed up the stairs, “WE CAUGHT ONE AND ITS BIG BIG!” In disgust I shouted behind him “I THINK IT’S A RAT!” I could hear Chasca clip clopping down the steps in his slippers to investigate.
“That ain’t a rat,” he reassured me in his familiar skeptical tone. “It’s just a really big field mouse.” Unsatisfied with this answer, I decided to consult the real Mr. Know-it-all, Google.
While Chasca toiled away outside dealing with frozen water tanks and rowdy dogs, Thatcher and I scoured the internet looking at pictures of different rodents and comparing them to the stiff one that laid atop the garbage in the can. We concluded that what we had caught was in fact a brown rat.
It wasn’t really that huge, especially compared to what you envision when you think of a rat. It wasn't a gigantic New York City sewer system mutant rat that might carry off your infant, but rather a small humble country rat.
When Chasca came back inside we presented our findings to him and he reluctantly agreed, it was in fact a rat.
Later that day, when Thatcher called his grandparents to say hello he proudly announced over the phone “WE CAUGHT A RAT!” And I found myself hoping that he would forget about it before he had virtual school so he wouldn’t describe to his teacher in agonizing detail how we caught the rat.
Luckily though it seems as though we’re not alone in this plight against rodents, as other friends shared war stories in their fight against the extreme cold and extreme rodent situations. Let’s just hope this new balmy weather and upcoming spring will keep them at bay at least until next winter.