mouseI was sitting in the living room flipping through the channels on the television.  My wife and two of our grand-daughters were in the kitchen making home-made pizzas.  Just a quiet Saturday evening at home. Then the unanimous, ear-piercing screams came from the kitchen.  I thought someone had cut off a finger or spilled  hot, boiling water on themselves. I jumped from the recliner and ran into the kitchen to find out what disaster had caused all the raucous .  It was a mouse.  Apparently, it jumped out of a three-foot tall trashcan and ran across the kitchen floor.  My first thoughts were, “How did a mouse climb up the side of a three-foot, plastic trashcan in the first place?  Where did it go?” but mostly, “Is that all?”
Enacting the Standard Operating Procedures for Mouse Removal, I  found the sticky pads and peanut butter, peeled the paper off the pad, dabbed a glob of peanut butter on the middle of the pad and slid it under the storage cabinet near the hole in the wall made by one the mouse’s relatives, so I could catch the little bugger.  It had been a few weeks since we had seen any mice, but the weather was warming up, and I knew that if this one found his way in, there would be others. Soon they would be playing in the living room just to taunt me.  That can be entertaining, but, when I thought about the damage they cause and the trail they seem to leave everywhere, the idea of a mouse circus  kind of lost its appeal.
I live in the country.  Some would say that mice are just a part of  country life. We keep a fairly clean house.  We don’t have piles of clutter and don’t leave crumbs around to attract critters.  I know that mice do what mice do, but we try not to give them any reason to do it here.  Just because we  live in the country doesn’t mean we have to “share” in the country philosophy.  We try to be different, but still they come in. Mice are very determined and seem to have an intricate network of communication. Once they find a place where they’re welcomed, they invite their friends and family.  If you get rid of one and don’t fill the holes, seven, or more, move in to take its place.  When you have mice partying in your house at all hours of the day and night, other unwanted visitors want to come in just to see what’s going on.  We didn’t need a repeat of  an episode from a few years ago.
It had been an unusually mild winter with not much rain or snow.  When the rains came, so did the ants. They were the little black ants that seem to be everywhere.  We tried every home remedy–wiped down the counters with vinegar to block their scent, sprinkled ground cinnamon around the baseboards and splash boards (they don’t seem to like cinnamon) and finally put out cups of sugar in the yard to lead them away from the inside and that seemed to work. The ants were followed shortly by the mice.  We could hear the mice chewing and scurrying around in the walls.  Our terrier/pug was a really good mouser back then and would let us know when she heard one in her food bowl. or in the oven drawer. When we pulled out the oven drawer, she would go after the rodents with a vengeance until she caught them.  It was a fun game at the time.
We had the sticky pads out and would hear a mouse squeaking, stuck to the pad about every other day.  I would remove the pad, look at how cute the varmint was, fold the pad in half , thump it on the wall to put the mouse out of its misery, toss it in the trash, then replace the pad with a new one.   A couple of times we found baby prairie king snakes stuck to the pads (we had to Google them to make sure they weren’t copperheads).  I wondered why a snake that small would go after mice and how on earth they would ever get a mouse into their tiny mouths if they caught one.  That was just the beginning.
I walked into the kitchen one morning and caught a glimpse of about a foot of a black tail slithering along the kick board between the oven and the trashcan.  At first, I was a little leery  about approaching the remainder of this intruder.  I knew it was just a black snake looking for mice, but I didn’t know how much of a black snake it was.  Logic and calmness escaped me for just a moment.  My first inclination was to run out of the house screaming like a banshee, even though I knew the snake was harmless and can be good to have around.  I just didn’t feel comfortable with having it around inside the house.
I calmly walked over to the trashcan and pulled it out of the way.   There, coiled up in a corner, was the serpent.  I started to reach for him and he struck at me, of course, that’s what a serpent does when you try to get close enough to get rid of them.  I jumped back a little, maybe a lot, and decided to get something longer than my arm to capture this crafty devil and get him out of my house.  I found a broom and came back with resolve.  As I got closer, I heard a sound that has struck fear in hearts of many.  It sounded like a rattle.  “Okay, this changes things,” I said to the snake. “Maybe you’re not what I thought you were.” Then he was on the move again.  I watched, in horror, as this four-foot snake uncoiled and made his way along the baseboard and underneath the stove.  I pulled out the drawer and couldn’t see him, so I pulled out the stove.  He wasn’t there either.  There were no holes for him to crawl through.  He just seemed to vanish.
Nervously, and reluctantly, I called my wife.  Like the old Jim Stafford song, one thing she hates worse than spiders, is snakes. This wasn’t going to be pleasant.  After she calmed down a bit, she told me, “I’m not coming home until that snake is gone,” and hung up.  I continued my surveillance without a sighting. Then my wife called me back.
She had talked to someone at the Conservation Department who told her that (a) black snakes vibrate their tails to ward off danger, and (b) they can squeeze into any tiny hole.
This meant that the snake had probably gotten into the stove and was still there.  “Okay,” I thought, “back to square one.”
If he was in the stove, then I could bake him out.  I turned on the oven and waited.  After about ten minutes I rethought that plan.  Snakes are cold-blooded and he would probably enjoy the warmth.  I turned the oven off.  I unplugged the oven, grabbed a nut driver,  sat down in the floor,  and began to take the back off the stove. Every once in a while, I would see the snake through some tiny hole and would poke him just to hear his tail chattering against the metal. When I got down to the last two screws, I heard the tail chatter to my right.  He had escaped to the baseboard next to me.  I got up.
This time I grabbed a sponge mop to hold him down and, thankfully, he coiled around it.  I carried him to the back fence about a hundred yards away and tossed him over.  “It is finished,” I thought to myself, and went back inside to put everything back together again.
A few days later, he was back.  At that point I named him “Harvey,” from an old movie starring Jimmie Stewart, wherein his character was always talking to an invisible,  six-foot, white rabbit  .  I was the only one that ever saw the snake.  That was a good thing.  This time I took Harvey out of the house and threw him over the fence across the street, into a field where I thought he would be much happier.  After his second trip indoors my wife would ask me, “Have you seen Harvey today?” When I got up in the morning, I would go looking for him, hoping not to find him.  I would talk to him.  “Harvey, if you’re in here, show yourself.”  It was kind of like inviting disaster.
His final trip in started, for me, in the downstairs bathroom.  I saw that old familiar tail disappearing under the furnace room door.  I opened the door only to see the tail disappear into a mouse hole in the wall between the furnace room and the kitchen. This time I was prepared.  I went into the kitchen and pulled out the refrigerator and there he was.  He turned and went back into the hole.  I plugged it with steel wool and covered it with some expandable foam insulation. Then I went to the furnace room and poked at Harvey until he slithered off into a hole in the back of the furnace room leading under the stairs, so I plugged the hole to the kitchen and the one he crawled out of. using the same process as the first.  Then I went under the house.  Good.  No Harvey here. I went  about plugging every hole I could imagine a snake or a mouse getting into.  We haven’t seen Harvey since then, but his memory lives on.
So, on Saturday night, when it was quiet until the screams rang out, and it turned out to be a cute little mouse, I knew that story wasn’t over.  There was work to be done.  As soon as possible, I would have to find the holes and fill them.  If you don’t take care of  the mole hills when you first notice them they will become mountains to move.  It may start out with something as simple as a mouse, but, if left unattended and allowed to progress, pretty soon you’ll be battling the serpent head-on.
I think I have some holes to fill. Do you?

©  Simply Consider This, 2013.


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