See How They Run

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p31_n08_Clipart_Deer_MiceIt was bound to happen. A family of mice have taken up residence in my potholder drawer, no doubt as a result of my lackadaisical housekeeping and drafty old hovel that I call home. They are madly shredding linens, making huge piles of material transforming the landscape of our drawer into something resembling Whoville in a Dr. Seuss book. They have been doing a pretty good job of eluding the trap, which I set, half heartedly. I’m torn between wanting to rid our house of the pests and my recollection of just how cute they look with their Mickey Mouse ears.

Like most of my animal encounters, it brings me back. In my college days, I found myself in a Zoology class studying animal populations. This involved traipsing down to an overgrown field near the arboretum where our class set up multiple live-catching traps. Then, over the course of several weeks, my lab partner and I would be responsible for going down to the meadow at dusk to check the traps. We were instructed to gather data on the rodents we caught, then release them, rebait the trap and see what we would catch the next day. However, before we could release the mice, we needed to cut off one of the digits of a front foot(one for each trapping) and record our handiwork. The professor assured us that the amputation would hurt us more than the mice. As soon as I caught wind of this kink in our plans, I made sure to cozy up to some virile classmate as my lab partner. Surely with all that testosterone running through his veins he would love the opportunity to demonstrate his frontier skills each afternoon. I sweetened the offer, as it was winter and I was cold and desperate, and brought along a bottle of cinnamon schnapps to take the edge off of our work.

We caught lots of mice and an occasional shrew, and had many return visitors, who could now squeeze their feet into a smaller shoe size thanks to the latest batch of Edward Scissorhands students. We learned that deer mice are adept at climbing, like to jump, are generally wily and hang around in the higher part of shrubs. They will think nothing of scaling a large tree and passing the time in its branches. On the contrary, the lumbering voles, or meadow mice preferred to hang out on the ground, or below ground in colonies with other voles. They may not have those cute perky ears and the beady eyes, but their coats are quite luxurious. I learned a bunch of other stuff, which has since left my brain but I am still looking for it. Maybe I’ll ask my lab partner, next time I get the chance.

So, back I go to the drawers thinking about those good old days on campus, and how most jobs are more palatable if connected to some type of hi-jinx. And discouraging these mice does not stop at my threshold. With February upon us, those of us with bird houses, need to “de-mouse” them if we are hoping to attract bluebirds which can be early arrivals. I lapse back into my supporting role, as I recruit the most virile guy I can find. We head outback, and sure enough, at least one of the houses always has a family of deer mice. We gingerly displace them, and they show off their acrobatics before disappearing. I’m just glad we don’t have to lop off any toes as proof of our encounter.

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