A Mouse’s Tale

Posted: 11th October 2021 by admin in Blog
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Shout out to First Congregational Church in Naperville for their local authors series, to which Urban Tidepool was invited last evening. I met some wonderful new folks and got to talk through the book with a few of my pod and with Reverend Mark Winters, who is one of the coolest guys to ever rock a clerical collar.

The whole evening was a hat tip to National Coming Out Day (today—insert Kermit “Yay” right here as you read) so of course it included references to my own coming out, which is not part of the Tidepool story, and to the coming out of the Youth Outlook kids over the years. Then our conversation took a hard left turn.

Mark asked about how I learned about gentleness and being kind to animals, given what I’d seen. How did I grow up to be the person I am with THAT history?

It was fun to speculate with the attendees why I may have turned out to be this person, and even more fun to share that moment at which I knew I was never going to be good at hurting anything intentionally. If you read Tidepool, you already know that I didn’t get to see my first two dogs through the end of their lives. In fact, I have dark questions that will never be answered about exactly how those dogs spent the last of their days. I saw an animal burned alive in front of me. Those stories that my brother Michael told about cats and firecrackers…I believe him.

But let’s go in the way back machine about this this other question. This is a good question.

I lived in a converted barn in upstate NY for about two years. It was a lovely place during the summer–acres and acres of fruit trees and the best garden space I’ve ever had. I had a boatload of critters and there was a waterfall on the back of the property. Picturesque. During the winter, however, it turned into an episode of Little House on the Prairie when the woodstove burned out on days with no degrees and we could see ourselves breathe while we made dinner, the intake pipe for our water supply froze solid, snow flew sideways between the cracks in the siding in the living room and the kitchen if the wind shifted, and we battled field mice to stake our territory.

I didn’t like the field mice. They’re messy and they smell funny so we didn’t want them in the living space, but we were aware that we were living IN A BARN for crying out loud, so we sort of expected it. There was debate on the best way to make them go away or at least keep them at a distance. I couldn’t do glue traps–too cruel. My partner didn’t want to put down poison–too risky for the other animals. We had a cat. He dozed by the stove pipe in the kitchen and I could have stuffed a mouse in his pocket most days. He needed a job description.

We settled on snap traps, reasoning that it would be fast, they’d never know what happened…until that first morning I found one with just his front leg caught and I had to decide what to do with him. Or her. Or them. I didn’t ask. They didn’t specify.

Yup. You better believe it. I cried on and off all morning at work and questioned my competency at this homesteading thing.

Then came the night I was setting up the kitchen snap traps and also setting up my coffee pot so it was ready the next day. I opened a cabinet door. There was the coffee can. There was the snap trap. And there was this cute little field mouse, standing next to the coffee. I closed the door right away and steeled myself for the snap.

Nothing happened.

I sat down at the kitchen table that we’d bought through This End Up and waited some more. That kitchen table could withstand a bomb blast. It was perfect for a converted barn. That night, it absorbed some nervous fingertip drumming and a couple of beads of sweat while I waited.

Nothing.

I felt awful, knowing I was about to hurt that cute little feller who was just checking out the coffee supply. What had they ever done to me? I kept waiting, fingertips drumming faster.

Nothing.

After several minutes that felt like hours, I settled into a sense of relief. I knew how to handle this. I reopened the cabinet door, snapped the trap myself, and left the mouse a little pile of peanut butter as a snack. And then I went to bed.

It’s so true. I am not cut out for this homesteading thing when it includes hurting another being. Hey y’all. Do you know today is Meatless Monday?

At any rate, shout out to Reverend Mark and the pod and the visitors who came to talk to me at First Congregational last night. I didn’t mean to talk about mice, but I enjoyed it anyway! If I’d known ahead of time, I would have brought you all a peanut butter snack.

Have a great week, starfish supporters! Be gentle with the critters that surround you. We’ll talk soon.