I remember helping my Dad move firewood around outside our home one fall. I was probably fifteen or sixteen. We lifted up one of the bottom-most logs and beneath it sat a small mouse. I always found animals fascinating and I marveled at it’s fur, small ears and large eyes for that first moment of discovery. “Okay,” I heard my dad say, or maybe it was “Stand back.” I had yet to take my eyes off of this little furry discovery when my Dad’s boot heel came down quickly and firmly upon it.
I looked up and I’m not sure what expression may have read across my face. My Dad resignedly said, “You have to kill them. They’ll get in the house.”
This summer, at my own house, I began noticing signs of mice. Shredded newspaper. Nibbled bulbs. Last spring I had to replace the gasket at the bottom of the garage door and the new one simply does not seal tightly to the floor. I had high hopes the snake I’d seen frequenting my garage would deal with the problem for me. Naturally. Alas, with the onset of cooler weather, I still see them but not him. So, I bought some sticky traps but figured I’d set them out after cleaning up the garage. And, in my heart, there’s still a part of me that finds a measure of wonder in these little, flea-ridden, disease carriers.
I wasn’t eager to kill them, merely to have them gone.
Today, I was finally cleaning up the garage in the hopes of fitting a car or two more in there to avoid winter’s frosts, cold rains and snows. As I cleaned, I heard an amplified sort of scratching in one corner of the garage. Carefully, I quietly stole over to the area and listened intently. The scratching seemed to be bouncing around but soon I narrowed the hunt: the box of scrap wood. I prodded it with a scrap of 1×2 and a mouse jumped out and disappeared into the mountain of detritus that is my garage. As I nudged the box to the side, another, much smaller mouse darted off in the opposite direction. Resolutely, I steeled myself and hoisted the entire box at arm’s length to the driveway, where I set it down. There upon one of the top-most scraps was a grey figure peering at me with large black eyes, undoubtedly wondering what on Earth I was doing with its home. I looked back.
And then I whacked him with a board.
I kicked the box over onto the side and the scraps littered out. Here and there I could see little bits of grey fur darting under pieces of wood looking for cover. I smashed down on the boards with all the subtlety of a caveman, jabbing here and there and futilely chased after the two that escaped the timbered mayhem. Blood, entrails and little bodies mixed in with the oak, poplar, beech and pine. I had mouse bits spattered on me. One mouse–little more than a cute fluffball–survived the initial onslaught but couldn’t walk. I had to put it out of its misery. I hated to do it, but got a rock and finished the job.
I felt resigned and shitty about it at the same time. I felt like my Dad.