Saturday December 28, 2013
At first we thought it was a low battery warning on the smoke alarm, a gentle high-pitched peep that always happens at the most inconvenient time right in the middle of the night. Both up out of bed we began to search as no sleep would continue with this annoying beep. The hunt led us room by room waiting for the next inconsistent cheep without success, finally leading us the only room without a smoke detector - the bathroom. There it sat at the bottom of the bathtub, the cutest brown and white field mouse you had ever laid eyes on that Disney could have designed with a cuteness meter dialed up to 100. Unlike the common house mouse, this tiny field mouse resembled a perfect cat toy; Its tail was twice as long as its tiny round body and its two sweet black pools of eyes were cartoonishly large for that small ball of fur. Our annoyance turned to enchantment as we rescued this little guy from the tub and sent him on his way out into the wilds of Los Angeles. Yes, Los Angeles.
During our first month at the farm, while reaching into an outside closet, I noticed small droppings signaling that a tenant had moved into the multi-level storage “condo.” The search revealed an all-brown country cousin of our city mouse but this girl had made herself comfortable setting up her pad with a nest to boot. As I was about to start the relocation project she moved and clinging to her body were six of the cutest babies ever seen. What to do? Of course I called seasoned country girl Mary Ann for advice. “I’ll bring the bucket”, she said. “For what”, I asked. “To drown them of course” was the matter-of-fact reply. “You do not want those little guys multiplying all over the place.”
Was this what I had become one month into becoming a farmer, a killer of small babies, well baby mice at least? I told her I needed to sleep on it, thinking of the city cousin I had rescued years before. The next day I told her I couldn’t do it and let them live out their young weaning stage before they set out on their own. They soon found other lodging due to the increased activity that my residence brought. Little had I known what a mistake my inaction would turn out to be.
Months passed and I soon found out that these little guys preferred the insulation in my new car’s hood, the perfect bedding for their nests, which they proceeded to rip out at will. They decided that it was time for me to start sharing my food in the pantry by taking it any time they pleased. My attic, they deemed, was a great place to hold nightly basketball games and my sleep was not a concern. But this was not the worst. These mice were much more devious that I would ever expect: attempted murder.
The service light popped on sooner than I expected from my recently purchased farm truck: IMMEDIATE SERVICE NEEDED; SERVICE TRACTION CONTROL read the display even though the truck had seen little use lately and rested protected in the clean barn. “Must be a computer glitch” I thought but still the responsible guy in me decided it was best to bring it in for a check-up. “Good thing you brought it in,” my new favorite auto shop guy shouted from underneath the hood, “your brake wires were almost clear severed through.” Had I pissed someone off? Had my partner taken out a big insurance policy that he was planning on cashing in? Who would do such a thing? Turns out mice chew wires to keep their constantly growing teeth ground down and they had decided that my truck’s brake wires were the perfect orthodontic tools.
Et tu Baby Mice that I saved months before? This is how you repay me? These sweet little guys were trying to murder me after all I had done to protect them. The country was rougher than I thought and Mary Ann smiled coyly after their plot was revealed, knowing that my farm education was going to be a slow and steady haul.