“For too long in this society, we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community.”
This is a story of a very lucky mouse, a grateful family and a very kind man…
Several years ago, when my family and I lived on our 11 acres of land, right outside River Falls, Wisconsin, we began to have a mouse problem in our travel trailer. If you have ever listened to a mouse move about in a travel trailer, it is quite different from the sounds in a house. The walls and ceilings are so thin that every little footstep taken, crumb eaten, or squeak squeaked is heard with crisp clarity.
One night, lying in bed, I heard the sound of mouse feet above me in the ceiling. The mouse was very busy bringing food from my kitchen cupboard back into the far end of my bedroom ceiling. It went like this: pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter…clunk-tap, scritch-scratch…clunk-tap…pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter… nibble-nibble. Walk across the ceiling, enter the kitchen cabinet, step on a plate that teeters and taps the plate below it, grab some chow, head back over the plate…tap, and back into the bedroom to eat dinner. It happened at least 20 times before I finally got up and decided to delicately place a live trap in the kitchen cabinet. I could see the crumbs where the little bugger had found our cereal. I went back to bed, and waited. It took about 5 minutes and 2 or 3 cycles of pitter, tap, scritch, nibble, and I heard the glorious sound of a trap door shutting…clunk.
I slowly removed the trap from the cabinet, and could feel the weight of the mouse inside. I held the trap tightly; worried that it might escape if I was careless. I have a serious fear, not of mice themselves, but of being startled by one. We have had our share of mice in places they shouldn’t be; sticking my hand in a chicken feed bag and one running up my arm, watching one run across the top of the couch while I am laying on it, or opening a bin and one jumping out onto my foot. My all time favorite was when I was driving down the highway towards Hudson, Wisconsin, and found myself staring into the eyes of a little mouse clinging to the windshield wiper. It had peeked out from under the hood of the car while we were driving 60 miles an hour. He was looking straight at me as his fur whipped wildly and it hung on for dear life (no, I did not turn on the windshield wipers).
I was told once that if you let a mouse go close to your home, they will come right back in. Really, it needs to be far, far away. They can find their way back across a football field or something like that. The last mouse intruder was walked to the top of the hill and far down the driveway before being released. It was now 2:00 in the morning, and I was not hip on the idea of walking anywhere, so I decided to set the trap outside the door until morning.
The next morning, as we were getting ready for the day, I remembered our captured mouse friend. I decided to drive it to the end of the driveway, as we were leaving for town anyway.
Halfway into town, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye… I saw it again. It did not register for about a minute; I completely forgot to let the mouse out of the trap at the end of the driveway. I had set the trap on the passenger side floor, and somehow it found its way out while we were driving. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, which was towards the middle median. My daughters were in the back seat, and the mouse had just found its way back to them. As the parent, one would think it is my job to create a sense of calm, but being that I am a mouse screamer, there was no calm to be had. Each time the mouse moved, a shriek would escape my lips.
I don’t know if I am stereotyping, but the Deer Mice in our neck of the woods seem very laid back and slow-moving. This particular mouse stopped several times to pick up a crumb, and nibble a bit between escapes from my gloved hands. It never really ran, rather sauntered from here to there. It left me ample time to grab it several times, but I could not do it. Too much hysteria going on, which included screaming, plotting and laughing.
After about 15 minutes, a truck pulled in behind us. A man hopped out of the truck and asked if we needed any help. I explained our predicament to him, he got right in there, and had that mouse caught within a few minutes. I half expected a snicker about our catch and release mouse policy, but not a patronizing peep out of this rugged looking man.
The heart-warming part of the story was that instead of throwing the mouse out into the grassy median of the highway, where we happened to be standing, he crossed the 2-lane highway and released the mouse into an open field. He joked about it finding a new home in the development adjacent to the road.
He bade us farewell, and off he drove with a nod and a wave. I have wished for all of these years that I could have sent him a thank you note. I am a firm believer in spontaneous acts of kindness and recognizing the kind acts of others. They really do make a difference.