Of course there are times when Something Must Be Done. As the seasons come and go in the country we have learned to recognize them by their companions. Not just in the out-of-doors either. Our old dry-stone foundations are much appreciated by the field mice as a good passageway to a quiet place to spend the winter. This house had been empty, during the winter at least, for some years before we came, and the mice naturally regarded our arrival as a bit of a nuisance. Ralph Ford, one of the staff at our favourite hardware store, put the obvious question as we purchased half a dozen mouse traps: “Are you trapping for the fur or for the meat?”
The field mice head indoors for the winter
We have clearly made it around the circuit of the year to tamarack autumn. Everything deciduous around here except the lilacs has moved its base of operations underground until sometime next spring, and the little trees along the roadsides who refuse to let their yellowed leaves go, in spite of a brisk wind today, are obviously too young to know better.
If the trees are looking for a safe place to spend the winter it seems a fair number of Mother Nature’s smaller children have had the same idea.
The little trap line that I've been running for the last while beside the washing machine in the kitchen has caused the plans of an impressive number of mice to be put on indefinite hold.
As far as I can tell, the mice who had moved into the second floor for the winter have either re-moved so as to carry on the late-night parties in more congenial surroundings or have permanently lost interest in everything.
There for a while it seemed that nothing was sacred. If mice want to carry on their revels in one of the back bedrooms I'm inclined not to ask questions, but when they started partying in our bedroom while we were in residence, it seemed to us that steps had to be taken.
(Actually, the back bedrooms are equally off limits if our third daughter should happen to be in residence. Though she is now settled into a good job and living in Toronto, I imagine she might even now draw the line well before mice. When she was still living at home her vocal imitation, on meeting a mouse, of a steam calliope that has just burst an E-flat-above-high-C pipe should have caused the mouse that was responsible to go completely bald and totally deaf. But mice are made of sterner stuff than you might think.)
I'm afraid I have to say that both the resident cats are quite useless in these situations. Helen is getting up in years and has never seen herself as obligated in any way by the fact that we feed her at regular intervals and pay the taxes on her residence. She does have a distressing taste in birds, though, and occasionally brings us little offerings of freshly-killed endangered species as a token of her esteem. The other cat, a young neutered male, basks in his own perfection and does not have a good word to say to anybody, unless they are making themselves useful to him. Mice, he feels, are not interested in him, so why should he be interested in them?
Another problem with the cats at this time of year - just when they could be really useful - is that they cannot reliably be left inside overnight. Around three o'clock in the morning one of them will decide that it would be a grand night to take a stroll and perhaps do a bit of yowling on the side. Ignoring the mice cavorting about the place they will proceed to the door of our bedroom and rattle the door-handle.
A rattling door-handle can be heard, I want you to know, even over the carryings-on of the mice.
There for a while we had mouse traps set all up and down the house. It was a little risky padding about in the dark, I grant you, but sometimes you have to be willing to take a bit of risk in order to accomplish a higher objective.
Of course, it was also a little awkward entertaining after we had instituted our policy of "thorough." The snap of a mouse trap is hard to translate into some more benign event, and there for a while, although there was no "rockets' red glare," the snapping of mousetraps at unexpected intervals rather made our quiet home reminiscent of Fort McHenry the evening Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.
There was the evening we were sitting in the living room in quiet conversation with old friends visiting from the city and the trap in the kitchen snapped during a lull. I could see afterwards that the problem with explaining that it was a mousetrap was the unspoken assumption that where there had been one mouse there might well be others still at large.
We're now down to one or two mice a week. And at least they have stopped the partying in our bedroom. 7 November 89
Sometimes less drastic measures served. As the cicadas begin to sing and the crickets charm us with their night-time songs, we resign ourselves to having to relocate more than a few enthusiastic cricket singers to more distant parts than the baseboards of “our” living room or the cabinets of “our” kitchen.
The Bull Cricket
There is a bull cricket somewhere in the kitchen who starts in to compose epic poetry whenever someone turns on the kitchen tap. I suppose he thinks the water tinkling in the sink is a rival for the affections of his lady love. I hate to tell him but we chucked his lady love out the door a week ago....
20 September 1990