Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Year of the Rat

by Kerry Blair

Yesterday was Chinese New Year—the very first day of the Year of the Rat. Raucous sounds of celebration could be heard late into the night in and around Blair House.
The celebrants were rodents. I took two aspirin, went to bed, and tried not to think about it.

I’ll bet you’re wondering what a nice girl like me is doing in a vermin-infested place like this. You’re not the only one. Suffice it to say that several years ago we moved to idyllic Chino Valley, a smallish town in central Arizona. Pastoral settings, vast blue sky, adundant fresh air, gorgeous vistas—it seemed too good to be true. It was. Little did we know that Chino is home to 11,000 people, 68 pronghorn, and 309487059872390582347523987520394875 mice. (The first statistic is from the Chamber of Commerce; the last is a conservative estimate on my part.) If you followed the link, you know my town’s website features pronghorn. If there were any truth in advertising going on around here, they would feature mice. The little critters are everywhere. Nobody has erected a statue in our town square, but if somebody did, it would probably look like this:
The fabled Town of Hamlin had nothing on us.

Not that I’m doing much in the War of the Rodents myself. . . besides complaining, that is. I used to do my part. Up until a month ago I kept a very effective biological mousetrap in peak running condition. Its only drawback was that it would occasionally let a rodent escape—injured—to die within the walls of our abode. (Let’s just say that when I described the stench of a rotting corpse in my last novel, I knew very well whereof I spoke.) Unfortunately, the cat recently went to college with my daughter and . . . hold on . . . I fear I phrased that badly. (David winced, LDSPublisher reached for her red editing pencil, and Jon now wonders what the cat is studying and if her grade point average is higher than Rob’s. NOTE TO JON: she’s pursuing a degree in eduCATion, and while she may not be too much brighter than Rob, she can stay on task longer.)

As I was about to tell you, with Finlee gone, things have really gone to the dogs. I mean mice. The dog is suffering as much as I am. Maybe more. This afternoon Bandit sat in the laundry room and whined. When I went to investigate I found a mouse eating out of her food dish. (I only wish I were making this up.) I hunted down our auxiliary cat—curled up in the easy chair as usual—and carried him into the rodent-infested room. Plopping him down, I opened the cupboard and pushed his nose toward the mouse droppings. He mewled once to indicate that somebody really should clean up that mess then retreated to a back bedroom to work in that 23rd hour of sleep he so desperately requires between meals.

I am at a loss to know what to do. I was able to justify cheering on my mouser as a circle-of-life kind of thing, but I’ve never personally murdered a rodent. How could I? Our culture is fervently anti-raticide. I mean, isn’t it? Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the closest thing America has to royalty is a guy with two big black ears and fairytale castles smack in the middle of his theme parks.

For sure I grew up indoctrinated by Cinderella—the mice were her best friends! I never missed an episode of The Mickey Mouse Club. In fact, for years I wore an embroidered Mousketeer cap . . . with my name spelled wrong, no less. In later years I spent hundreds of dollars taking my children to The Secret of NIMN, The Rescuers, The Great Mouse Detective, and An American Tail parts I, II and MCXII—and then buying them all the stuffed rodents and ratty action figures their little hearts desired. (Even the mentor of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a rat. I remember his nasty little figurine best.)

I can’t seem to break the vermin-watching even in my twilight years. (It’s like trying to look away from a train wreck, I guess.) Just last week I told my husband over dinner that he had to do something about our furry little infestation or I would divorce him and move someplace without mice. Anyplace without mice. (Antarctica comes to mind. I like penguins all right.) After my diatribe I pulled out the Netflix feature-of-the-week. Wouldn’t you know it was Ratatouille? We watched in stunned horror the scene where all the rat—intelligent, good, defenseless creatures—carcasses were hung from hooks by two-legged fiends from heck. (I’ve never seen Schindler’s List, but I can’t imagine it could be any more chilling.) We didn’t speak after the movie, or even look each other in the eye. As you’ve probably guessed, Disney anthropomorphism triumphed again. Gary didn’t buy poison or set a single trap and I haven’t brought it up since.

Until today.

Rats have their own year? Is there no stopping them? Quick! Anybody got a pipe? (Either the kind you play to get mice to follow you gaily out of town,or the kind you use to beat them over their pointy little heads. I’m not picky.) First person with a sure-fire plan to rid my environs of vermin gets this:

If nobody comes through, I guess I’ll just wear the ears myself under the old “if you can’t beat them, join them” adage. And maybe things will improve on their own if I can only hang on. Anybody know what next year is? The Year of the Ox, maybe? Admittedly, we have a lot of cattle in Chino, but at least they’ll be easier to find if they get in my cupboards!


At 2/08/2008 12:39 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

We had a real problem with mice in our storage room and ended up throwing lots of food away. We tried poison (they turned their noses up at it) and traps (they must be flying mice because we never did catch even one). My husband finally bought two little electrical devices. You plug them in and they emit sound waves. We haven't had a mouse since. Here is an example,, although we just bought ours at the local hardware store and they were lots cheaper. I wish we had discovered these little devices sooner. Good luck!

At 2/08/2008 1:07 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

I look forward to Fridays when your blog is posted. Anyone who can blog about mice and make me both laugh and sympathize is a winner. I detest the dirty little four-footed destruction machines. Bring on the cats! The electronic screech gizmos! Or whatever passes for a better mouse trap these days. Kerry, you have my full sympathy.

At 2/08/2008 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least your cat just sleeps trough the mice escapades. Our cats insist on catching them in their mouths and bringing them up from the basement to frolic with in front of us. Last time the mouse escaped under the couch and no matter how much we peeked and poked, he was not to be found--until about an hour later when I noticed two eyes leering at us from the top of the drapery rod behind the couch. He did look every bit as cute as those Disney mice and all I could think to do was make a path of cheese crumbs down the stairs and block off the rest of the house. Oh, the cats did get locked downstairs for a couple of nights.

Good luck, Kerry, and go pet your cat. He deserves it.


At 2/08/2008 2:11 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Easy answer: get another cat or two. (Better to have more than one, so they can keep each other amused, and the mutual grooming is good, too.)

They say that rats are genetically afraid of cat scent, so just having more cats around might help.

....Although, if you have to wear the mouse ears, please post a picture! =)

At 2/08/2008 4:01 PM, Blogger Battraw family said...

We had mice in our house one year as well. They started in the basement and slowly made their way up the stairs and the gas fireplace pipes and into the house. I freaked. No WAY did I want mice in my house. My husband didn't want to hurt the poor little critters so he set up live traps with peanut butter (which they LOVED) and would let them go outside - where they promptly reentered my house and showed more mice how to find my pantry. I finally talked him into traps that kill (I had to clean up the mess) and we haven't had them since.

At 2/08/2008 4:12 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

LOL Mindi -- "showed more mice how to find my pantry" That is so me! When I released the last one back into the wild I looked into its little eyes and said, "Haven't we done this two or three times now?" I swear he winked.

Jon: I hope your e-mail address is nowhere to be found. I'm with you on the "more cats" thing, but my husband will send hate mail. He seems to think fourteen mouths to feed is plenty.

Stephanie: Do you have a dog? (I think you're real close to winning the mouse ears if you do!) I'd have eight of those gadgets except for a friend friend who insists it made her dog howl and her cat run away -- despite its claims of being pet friendly. Any personal experience? I might try it anyway. I could get earplugs for the dog and the cat is far too fat and lazy to run far . . .

Thanks for the suggestions. Keep them coming! Please. (And I wasn't kidding about the ears. I bought them on ebay so I'd have them to offer as a bribe -- I mean prize.)

At 2/08/2008 5:23 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

The only kind of mice-be-gone deal we've tried is the snap traps. I am so creeped out at the thought of mice that I have absolutely no Disney in me when it comes to dealing with the critters. No mercy.

At 2/08/2008 5:43 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

I like the glue traps, myself. Sometimes the snap traps don't work, but ANYTHING that attempts to run over a glue trap sticks to it. Including--once--my own tennis shoe.

At 2/09/2008 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I took Finlee. But Ill have you know my apartment doesnt have any mice... or moths... or any bugs. :o) And we are both enjoying our eduCATion classes, Finlee is best at math. My only suggestion is to let you borrow Fin for the week... those mouse ears will look real cute on her!


At 2/09/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

My husband was born in the year of the rat. It's all good, though -- I'm a dragon and we're compatible. :)

At 2/09/2008 2:36 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

I'm evil. I kill mice when they enter my abode. I figure it's their own fault. They should stay outside where they belong. I did buy a "humane" trap so I could rel;ease them into the wild, but they never fall for that trap. So I stick with the cheese and snap trap. Loved the post.

At 2/09/2008 7:23 PM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

Peanut butter works wonders.

My husband insists that if I'd let a few snakes roam the house, we'd never have to worry about any rodents entering our abode. Just the thought of a snake slithering into my bed in the middle of the night . . . .ewww!

At 5/16/2010 1:40 PM, Anonymous Candy Blakeslee said...

Wow...we thought we were the only ones with a mouse problem. We purchased a house that had been vacant, by humans, for several years. The mice decided that it belong to them...there were even mice in the oven!


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