On a homestead there is a purpose for everything and every one. The following is an example of one of the purposes I serve on the homestead.
For the past few days our homestead has been terrorized by an intruder. I believe Shaye has alluded to it before in a previous post. From the chair Shaye sits, in which she simultaneously blogs and feeds Georgia, she has an unobstructed view into our kitchen which has been the battleground between me and our adversary. I have lost count of how many times I have heard the panicked, screeching scream “MOUSE!! I JUST SAW THE MOUSE!!” coming from Shaye in that chair, at which point I come running in to find Shaye no longer sitting but standing on the chair usually doing something resembling the warm up routine most commonly known as high-knees. This is not because she is about to go for a run or because she is coming up with some fresh moves for the dance routine she is working on. She is terrified of that mouse. So my purpose on the homestead this week has been to search and destroy.
One can imagine that when common, tried and true methods of disposing of mice are rejected and ignored the task at hand could become complicated and more involved. My initial strategy was to wait until I heard the alarm (the unmistakable scream), gather the necessary information (Shaye's shaking pointed finger as she dances on the chair), grab my weapon of choice (the broom) and hunt. The problem with this strategy, unfortunately, was that this particular mouse had the uncanny ability to disappear into thin air. Every time I had it cornered POOF it was gone without as much as a goodbye turd. After the first few failures, it did not take long for me to realize that this was going to be a battle of wit and cunning. And so I began to scheme.
I began to document when I saw my opponent, where its favorite spots were and perform biochemical analysis on its scat to learn what its feeding habits were. It was no use. I was no closer to catching my enemy. One early morning I was going through my routine of grinding the coffee, putting it in the percolator, sitting down to read as I wait for Shaye and Georgia to wake up and I SAW IT! It had obviously spent the night next to the baseboard heater in the reading room not knowing that I would be there early in the morning. I had caught it unprepared. As soon as it was aware of danger it ran for safety across the kitchen and into the laundry room. But I was hot on its trail. This time there was no chance of escape. I knew its paths, its hiding spots, its favorite poem; there was no possibility that I would lose this battle. I could see it hiding behind the hamper, cornered! My weapon was conveniently hanging there. I grabbed the broom and at the same time pulled the hamper away to expose my enemy and bring down upon its head the full force of my wrath but…. my hand was stopped. The mouse didn't move. Its back was turned to me while its head was tilted slightly so that he could look at me. Our eyes became locked. My hand was poised to strike. One mongoose quick blow and it would be over. Why didn't it run? Why was it just looking at me? Why didn't I just end it?
The gaze of that mouse was burned in my mind the rest of that day as I pondered what had happened. Something about the way it looked at me, knowing I could have crushed it, caused it to stick with me. And then I understood. It was a look of loneliness. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. The little guy was lonely. His mouse family had probably frozen to death in the sub zero weather we've been having. Somehow he survived and found our warm homestead with an abundance of food and a dry place to lay his head. All he wanted was to be part of a family again, and live out the rest of his days in safety and comfort. As the pieces all fell in to place a crooked grin spread across my face that would have shamed the Grinch. I now knew how to defeat the mouse. Its loneliness would be its demise. And so I schemed.
Over the next few days I stopped pursuing the mouse. I let him get more comfortable in our house. I let him think he was part of the family. It started to work. He became more and more brave. He would venture out knowing we could see him. He wouldn't stick to just running along the walls but would scamper in more open territory making himself vulnerable. When the dogs would chase after him I would scold them saying “Don't chase that mouse! He is part of the family now!” making sure I said it loud enough for him to hear. I am confident I could have gotten him to the point of eating out of my hand, but it need not go that far.
Friday morning at the breakfast table my elaborate scheme served its purpose. Our mouse, after a good nights sleep, totally confident of his new place on the homestead, came out for some breakfast too. A fatal mistake. I was on my feet, broom in hand before the mouse could even guess my treachery. Oh, it tried to run but I was too smart, too cunning, and too quick. In a flash I had it pinned against the wall in the bathroom with the broom. It struggled for a bit underneath the weight of the broom before it went into shock. I couldn't risk its escape, so I held it there while Shaye brought me a glass and a piece of cardboard. I used the broom to sweep it into the glass and put the cardboard over the mouth. I lifted the glass up so I could meet the gaze of my opponent. It wasn't scampering around in a panic, it just sat there, its back leg broken and bleeding, and looked at me. It was not the same look he gave me before that day in the laundry room. It was the look of having been betrayed.
It sat there in the glass as Shaye and I discussed how to dispose of it. Shaye got to feeling remorseful so she suggested letting it go in a orchard far away.
I grabbed the keys, the mouse and put on my boots. Still in the glass I set the mouse on the ground towards the back of the car and fired it up. It was a cold, wet morning, the exhaust was thick and cloudy. I picked up the glass with the cardboard and uncovered it slightly. The mouse could sense his freedom and started toward the opening and as his face got beyond the confines of his glass prison he was met with a wall of carbon monoxide. In a crazed moment of irrationality he bolted the opposite way as though he could escape through the bottom of the glass. As the poison filled his prison he began to give up the struggle. He crawled to a stop and laid on his side with is feet curled up as if going down for a long winter nap. The gas worked through his body causing him to twitch a couple of times. His breathing calmed. His eyes slowly closed and he breathed his last. Thus ended the reign of the mouse.