I have difficulty saying no to charity canvassers. If I’d known about the great mice hoard, have forced myself.
A gentleman was selling bird seed for a children’s charity. We have a feeder. It was mostly frequented by sparrows who seldom eat sunflower seeds. The gentleman left the bag in my front hallway. Sit stay there until my husband came home. I couldn’t carry it to the shed myself. I couldn’t even drag it across the kitchen floor. The bag weighed more than my oldest child and was almost as tall. She’s twelve.
My husband dropped the bag in a corner of the shed. He added a quarter cup of sunflower seeds to the wild bird mixture in the feeder. At that rate, our children would inherit the remaining seeds. We seldom added to sunflower seeds to the feeder since the birds seldom ate them. One cold March morning, we discovered some other wild creature enjoying the contents of the bag. It looked like it was still full but it was actually full of empty shells.
Mice had been feasting and cleverly disguising the evidence. My husband bought six traps. We thought we’d catch three or four. After the twentieth, I realized there was a Mice Metropolis under our shed. The mouse mayor must have sent out flyers: Come for the best seeds in town.
As time passed, the trapped mice became smaller and younger. I tried not to think of Baby Mice trapped while out searching for their mothers who had already been killed. My children displayed a mixture of sadistic fascination and sympathy for the small defenseless creatures. “Do we have to kill the little ones?” (In six weeks, those little ones are having little ones.) The hardest to accept was that we refused to dig up half the yard for a rodent cemetery.
Some mice, it turns out, are more callus then we are. I think they send the stupid out to die. An unsuspecting fool springs the trap and while he’s gasping his last goodbyes, the others munch safely on the peanut butter bait
Peridocally, my husband caught sight of a huge critter fleeing as he reset the traps. It looked like the same large mouse was often enjoying the benefits of another mouse’s death. This giant may well have started the whole society. More traps were set but he was evasive.
When the count passed forty, I wondered if there any more left in the entire city of Thunder Bay. My husband kept setting up the traps. He hadn’t yet caught old Wiley.
One spring day my husband swept out the shed. Mice don’t clean up after themselves. A few boxes were damaged fortunately the mice had not chewed through the tent. Traps were reset with double doses of peanut butter.
“Wiley’s probably moved out with the good weather,” I said. “Who’d want to stay in a place where everybody gets their heads crushed?”
But the temperature dropped and old Wiley returned for another stab at the peanut butterr. He was the last one caught. He almost deserved a little grave beside the sparrow the cat got and the Bohemian waxwing that hit our neighbor’s window.
There was almost a third grade out there last fall. I discovered my husband was storing bird seed in the shed.
“Are you nuts?” I screeched.
“No problem.It’s in a sealed plastic bucket. They can’t get in.”
That wouldn’t have stopped old Wiley. Come to think of it, rodent teeth can chew through wood so why would plastic be any different? I gave the bird feeder to charity.
First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News
Sunday, February 2, 1992