A mouse, startled by the kitchen light, scurried across the baseboard. His presence prompted a search for wood-snap traps, which were lost in the garage’s disorganization.
I remained vigilant through the remainder of the night and drove to the hardware store as soon as it opened. The store had catch-and-release traps, 100% effective poisons and plastic traps that promised no-fuss sure success at a cost of more than $6 for two. However, no old-fashioned and less expensive wood traps were found.
It could be that there is a shortage of wood traps, given that various marketers are warning that coronavirus, in part, is causing potential winter shortages of many items, including refrigerators, freezers, portable dishwashers and, for heaven’s sake, toilet paper. I am to a degree portable and have been the family’s designated and effective dishwasher for several years. The experts — to nobody’s surprise — recommend planning purchases and buying now to avoid the Christmas demand surge.
The drive home included much grumbling along with two plastic traps in Fort Knox-secure plastic and how-to directions in two languages. Nothing — be it Kathy’s smartphone or other technology — is more complicated than handy. Kathy listened to the laundry list while questioning the need to empty the pantry to set a peanut butter-spiked trap.
Kathy said her husband is a little too worked up about a mouse in the house. She has not seen it, which seeds the suspicion that the rodent is a product of my rich and warped imagination. A person raised on a farm should not be stressed out about a measly mouse, a point that I agreed was valid.
The mice and rats that lived in the long and narrow corn crib of wire mesh and old telephone poles and repurposed boards were constant companions while shoveling ear corn into the mixer mill. Dad and his sons worked hard to construct it and were proud of the results. The crib stood on a hill at the east end of the calf pasture. The narrow field road that reached it was plowed in winter, and climbing the hill made it necessary to equip the Oliver 880 with tire chains. The chains, which banged relentlessly against the tractor’s fenders, were less than 100% effective against ice, which meant the tractor and mixer mill sometimes ended up catawampus in the ditch.
There was, in Dad’s opinion, no better sight than a crib filled with corn against the backdrop of a blue sky and ground covered in snow.
Spot, a hardworking rat terrier, relished feed-grinding trips to use his natural skills. For my part, twine strings tied around pant leg cuffs were as nearly effective as a knight’s armor.
The corn crib’s useful life ended with the combine’s arrival. It stood as a skeleton reminder of what used to be until wind and time ripped it down. The realization that what used to be so important — be it the crib, the silo, the 880, or the feed salesman who regularly visited to pitch milk-producing concentrate — are just memories, suggesting time has passed me by.
The new-fangled traps have not caught the mouse. I saw him last night moving from the living room into the kitchen. He moved slow and stopped, which gave me the opportunity to stomp him. My foot, which moves much slower than it used to, was no match for his quickness. For a solid hour afterward, I listened while he rummaged through the hundreds of Tupperware containers kept in a closet.
“I’m going to get you,’’ I said from a comfortable spot on the recliner. Although he did not directly respond, it was impossible not to hear laughter coming from the Tupperware jungle.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minn., with his wife, Kathy.