Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — A Mouse is a Mouse, For All That

"It's a constant battle between mice and men."
~ Lulu

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
 O, what a panic is in your little breast!
 You need not start away so hasty 
With argumentative chatter! 
I would be loath to run and chase you,
 With murdering plough-staff.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
 Has broken Nature's social union,
 And justifies that ill opinion
 Which makes thee startle
 At me, thy poor, earth born companion 
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
 What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
 An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves 
Is a small request;
 I will get a blessing with what is left,
 And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
 Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
 And nothing now, to build a new one,
 Of coarse grass green!
 And bleak December's winds coming, 
Both bitter and keen!
You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
 And weary winter coming fast,
 And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
 Till crash! the cruel plough passed 
Out through your cell.
That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
 Has cost you many a weary nibble! 
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
 Without house or holding,
 To endure the winter's sleety dribble, 
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
 In proving foresight may be vain:
 The best laid schemes of mice and men
 Go often askew,
 And leave us nothing but grief and pain, 
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
 The present only touches you:
 But oh! I backward cast my eye, 
On prospects dreary!
 And forward, though I cannot see, 
I guess and fear!

~Robert Burns, "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough" [Standard English Translation] *

* * *

Our furry mortal companions, after all, are merely trying to meet the three basic needs of any living thing: water, food, shelter (and clothing for us lesser humans). Air and sunlight help, too. So what exactly is the battle? What is this compulsion to subordinate nature to man? Can we not work together, in harmony? Maybe this is why Michael leaves peanut butter out for our critters? (She naively asks.)

The thing is, though, the mice have come into our natural world. Our home. And they are, to be sure, small and crafty. Their careful approach to the mouse trapsevidenced by clawed peanut butter globs atop the plastic cheese of traps set around the houseillustrates their slyness and resolve. We are housing and feeding the beasts. Like hell they startle at us!

Up until Michael found a few mini-Santa chocolates haphazardly unwrappedbroken pieces of Santa-shaped, teeny-gnaw-marked chocolate bits scattered under the Christmas treethe children were accused of consuming too much candy and leaving foil wrappers strewn about the house. Not one of you will fess up, eh? And why the heck are so many ornaments knocked off the tree? Well? They stared at me with eyes narrower than usual. You mock your mother?!

Soon after Max's and Lu's acquittal, while de-decking the house of boughs of holly and sucking all traces of pine into a monster canister, I broke out the vacuum's brush attachment, lifted the cushions from the living room's couch and found a trove of bird seed that had been hoarded by the mice. Under the cushion of a fabric-covered chair, I discovered a small, sugar-sprinkled gingerbread cookie (a treat left for our Santa chimera), shredded ribbon and other scraps. I wondered if it hadn't taken a platoon of mice to conceal their booty. Our house had become the bandits' very own Moveable Feasta splendid place brimming with tasty morsels and sparkly lights, with ample nooks and chinks for notable adventures. Who needs Paris?!

And then my breast went a-panic. Bold rodents! What have they to worry about? They'll tear apart the pantry! I thought about d-CON (for a moment), and shored up all food-filled containers, vacuumed and sprayed and scrubbed. And then Michael went for the traps.

But our mice are much too clever.

There's a little voice inside me, though, thanking the gods for not mashing the head of one mouse in those traps. Yes, the fields are bare and wasted, and the bleak winds of winter have arrived, but the critters are merely trying to survive. There must be a more humane way to rid our domain of them (for it's quite impossible and far too unsanitary to co-exist in the same domicile). Is there not?

Until we figure it out, Max will carry on about the pests' scratchy evening shenanigans keeping him awake at night. And I'll stock up on glass containers.
* * *

King Rat (an illegal whale hunt protest) by Indie rock band Modest Mousehas an official animated video, directed by the late Heath Ledger, that's apparently been hijacked by VEVO. If you'd like, you can see it here. Modest Mouse has been making music since 1997, but it wasn't until 2004 that they established mainstream success with We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, for which they enlisted musician and vocalist James Mercer of the Shins, and Broken Bells (with whom we Frolicked here), as well as help from Johnny Marr (former Smiths guitarist). Marr ultimately toured, in 2007, with Modest Mouse.

You can find more information, including tour dates, on MM's blog. They'll be playing in San Francisco, at the Macworld/iWorld convention, January 25, 2012.

Hmm, the only modest thing about our mice is that they don't make a show of it while we're still puttering around the house. But in the evenings, they Frolic!

*Burns's poem inspired at least two book titles: Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and Sidney Sheldon's The Best Laid Plans. Per Wiki, in 2007, Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull) read the first stanza of the poem as a prelude to his remastered One Brown Mouse, adding the line "But a mouse is a mouse, for all that" (referencing Burns's Scot song, "Is There for Honest Poverty"popularly known as "A Man's A Man for A' That") which I sneaky-as-a-mouse stole for this post's title.


  1. One mouse in our house caused an entire kitchen remodel, not from the damage, but from our resolve to sufficiently seal the perimiter. Goodbye cabinets, goodbye flooring, goodbye to me whispering "shhh, do you hear that?"

    Goodbye mouse...

  2. "Mousies! I hates a mousey, I does." (So said a patient to me once in session and proceeded to spend several therapy hours devoted to her infestation and the insult to her housewifely pride. I really liked that woman.) I have the most charming pictures in my head of your gingerbread nibblers. Sounds like a second children's book, Jayne!

  3. Steel wool pressed into mouse holes and those plug 'em in the wall pest repellents are working great for us.
    (And also, you've triggered a memory of mine. I should go write a story...)

  4. We have these furry visitors every once in a while. They do love to stash their food in the most surprising places!
    Many years ago, Steve built a soup can mouse trap from directions in my Mother Earth News magazine. A similar one is found here:
    We also had luck using a large paper grocery bag. We would just set it in the kitchen closet, add a little bait and during the night the mice would jump into it (from a shelf maybe?), and they weren't able to jump back out. We just closed up the bag and drove the mice to a new home.

  5. Jayne, what a delightful and creative post. I love the way you weaved your words in an Old Englishy sort of poetic way. I laughed out loud, and over empathized with the poor mice whose clever boldness should be applauded and rewarded.

    May I suggest, for mercy's sake, that you purchase the humane traps which allow you (if you are crafty enough) to lure the unsuspecting critters into a plastic cage whose door slams solidly behind them, thus capturing the culprits as they gorge on hand picked treats?

    Once caught you can then watch them panic through the smoky plastic walls of the trap (a small punishment for defiling your Noel) as you carry them off to a distant field, or an enemies garden, and enjoy the absolute reward of seeing their relief at being set free;)

    I absolutely adored this post!!

  6. Oh they do sound like they're taking over a wee bit. Try live traps. You just really need to be on top of them lest they be forgotten and the wee beastie starve in there. Empty them far-ish from home. It's certainly worth a try.

  7. A lovely post about these not so welcome visitors to your home.

    I find it hard to accommodate our mousey invaders. I hear them sometimes and see them scurrying across the room out of the corner of my eye. They are here. But not as often as they were because we got a cat.

    Best of luck with the eviction process.

  8. LOL, I tend to make pets of mine but I take it you don't want a pet?! :)

    I too have heard the live traps work well and besides when you release them... it's sort of like leaving a restroom with TP on your show. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  9. Bill- Ok then, an argument to renovate? How could my husband deny me--everything must be sealed (with new kitchen cabinets!). ;)

    And I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to pull up the bedroom carpeting!

  10. Nance- You are a very good therapist. I can tell. If I only lived further down the coast! A second book. Hmm... Actually, it sounds like you could write the book! And we all know you've got a book, if not several, in you. ;)

  11. Nessa- Plug 'em in the wall repellents? Steel wool! You Texans are so innovative. I'm going to have to start doing some serious research. I heard them again last night. Ah!

  12. I once lived in a place infested with mice - it was a nightmare - you could hear them running around under the floorboards at night

  13. Leonora- OMG! I read your comment to my husband last night and he was very intrigued. Wait until I show him the diagram over at Tinbasher--Steve must be an engineer to have made this!

    The trap, actually, is a job for my son. He's the only one with the patience and the mechanical wherewithal to build it. I think I'll feed him a can of soup for lunch and then show him how he'll be repurposing the can rather than recycling it! Might be a fun project for him. ;)

    And the bag idea--LOL! Michael loved that one--much easier for him, too. Thank you for the tips! :)

  14. Leah- Burns kind of set the mood for the piece, I guess. I love his poem.

    LOL-for mercy's sake I think I'll be out hunting for humane traps today! The only problem is that once we've caged them, Lulu will want to keep them as pets. She won't want to set me them loose!
    But, that reward... so wicked, Leah! Ahhh....I just love it! (I'm seeing lots of stories here!) ;)

  15. Hilary- "Empty them far-ish from home." How about the other side of town? Oh, won't they just love us there! Looks like live traps is the way to go... Thanks for that, Hilary. :)

  16. SF- Some years ago we had a cat, and he was very good at taking care of any mouse issue. But since he passed we've been reluctant to get another--he was such a wonderful, sweet cat. No attitude. The kids have been asking for one (and a dog, too) for a while now. Maybe it's time. But not a dog, no, no, not ready for that!

  17. Jules- Oh, Lu wants a pet. Her fish was the last, and after we flushed him, we went pet-free. I like being pet-free--I have enough to take care of! We need to do something quick before that girl gets to attached to our visitors!

  18. David- Funny--I don't yet feel as if it's a nightmare, but I'm afraid it could turn any moment. We have lots of woods around us, and all kinds of creature have made it into the house, so we are used to visitors, but I'm not fond of the ones who decide to settle in here.

  19. i love the what hunt protest. very thought provoking!

    i've bookmarked it and will be sending to several people. thanks for sharing it.

  20. Last year my parents (and their neighbours) had rats in their gardens. Having had pet rats years before, I took the rat’s side until I saw one of them killing a baby starling. But, at least they lived outside the house. We haven’t seen them since getting a dog though. Don’t know if it would work with mice or not.

  21. I have cats, therefore no mice... and i do dig Mr. Isaac Brock and company, maybe not the last couple albums but as far as i'm concerned The Moon and Antarctica and The Lonesome Crowded West are masterpieces.

  22. In our old home, we had a mouse family. I didn't know they were there until the cat brought me a lifeless body on my bed one morning.

    Of course, the cat is thinking he is contributing to the food fund, so we accepted the present, patted the cat on the head for a job well done, and scooped the poor mousey away in an old washcloth and out the door.

    We discovered an entire mouse family running around. My hubby called for professional assistance in that matter. He didn't know if there were 7 or 77 running around in the walls. We had crawling babies back then. Turned out, there were only 7.

    Seems your mice are planning to stay a while and nesting - Good eats and a warm couch. They do have humane traps...and I would get to them as quickly as possible before they have baby mice...they multiply quickly.

    Love the post.

  23. I'm sorry you have mice, but I enjoyed reading about your adventure. :) And I love that the poem gives some sympathy to the mouse. After all, he's just trying to live!

  24. Ok...a few comments...mice and men can live fact i am working on a treadmill like device whereby a number of meeses will work for me by scooting around a treadmill connected to a dynamo which will provide power for my outside light...still working on capturing the ornery critters via way of a ruler balanced on the edge of a table with food at one end..when mouse goes to investigate his weight will cause himself and ruler to plummet into bucket underneath...
    Mouse on mars....coooooooollll
    You....cooooler...great post! ;)
    I think thats all....

  25. Billy- Hope you got the version directed by Ledger. Great video. My pleasure! ;)

  26. Ms. Mask- Kill or be killed in the wild! I don't think I've ever seen a starling so I had to look it up. Pretty little things. And clever, too. From Wiki: Starlings have diverse and complex vocalizations, and have been known to embed sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms, and human speech patterns. The birds can recognize particular individuals by their calls, and are currently the subject of research into the evolution of human language.

    Apparently, they can mimic up to 15-20 different bird call, as well as imitating sounds, like phone (boxes?) and cars. Pretty wild. I'll bet it was a fair fight. ;)

  27. Kono- Their early albums are terrific. Great lyrics and energy. If I'd had more time, I would have written about the albums. Love Wild Packs of Family Dogsfrom The Moon, and Bankrupt from Selling on Lonesome.

    You must know their Bukowski song--another great. Now I wish I'd added it to the post. Took me long enough to add the link here! ;)

  28. Loree- Eeewww! I don't know if I'd be so kind to the cat if he'd brought me his catch in bed! But, he does deserve credit.

    Seven mice is seven too many for me! 77?? Eck, you made me think of Willard , and now I've got goosebumps all over! Maybe I should call a pro...

  29. Elizabeth- My adventure? Ha! I haven't had an adventure like those mice for some time now. Oh, yes, they are having a gand 'ole time. :)

    My adventure is cleaning up after them. Which, to be honest, I do laugh about. If I find droppings, though, my disposition may quickly change. ;)

  30. Dan- Mice creating energy for your consumption on a treadmill--fantastic. l like your idea of alternative energy. The ruler thing, LOL! I wonder how tall the bucket needs to be (and the bag, for that matter, that Leonora uses).

    Excellent ideas here! Let me know if they ever do get the lightbulb working. ;)

  31. We once found a dead mouse buried in a containor of nuts in our pantry... I can no longer look at food in those glass jars the same way.

  32. I haven't been over here, or any other blog, for far too long and reading this wonderful post makes me realise what I've been missing.
    It was very enjoyable the way the mystery of the missing candy was unravelled and even though I live in the UK that's the first time I've read a poem by Robert Burns!
    Thanks for enlightening me.

  33. Anon- How in the world does that happen? Must have been a Houdini-mouse! I'll make sure my jars are sealed extra tight. ;)

  34. Paul- So nice of you to visit, and glad to see you here!
    Glad you enjoyed the story--I'm afraid it's not over yet, but we're working on it!

    Much to enjoy, too, in Burns's writing. His poem printed here is the English version, as the old Scots version can be a difficult to understand, but perhaps easier for you where you are. It's worth reading both versions. ;)

    Be well, my friend. :)

  35. yeah J...lemme get back to you on that one...will need to consult the International Bucket Size Agreement 2002 sec 2(ii) (Amended)

  36. I laugh at live traps. we once carried one of the little beasts across the street to let him out and he dashed back and disappeared up our driveway like a bat out of hell.

  37. bahahahahahaha.....margie....yeah that happened to me once...once the operative word ;)

  38. I hate mice! We had them like crazy at my old house. I don't know the answer about a humane way to get rid of them. We always just kept poison out. Good luck with your problem. It's not a fun one to have!

  39. I am blessed with four feline predators. One of which, Scarlet-the black panther-is a champion mouser. There were mice in the basement before I returned to Maine but they have either been a snack or gone back to commune with nature. Either way, Scarlet is the ultimate D-con terminator.

  40. Dan- "International Bucket Size Agreement 2002 sec 2(ii) (Amended)."I can only imagine the legislative process it took to get that law passed! Sounds like things are very different from the U.S. over in OZ. ;)

    (My mice will not come back to our house. We'll drop them at the neighbor's. Yeah, that one.)

  41. Margie- !!! LOL. The plan is to take our litter over to the other side of town. But, my husband seems to be winning this battle. He's sneaking in the traps. Got one in the garage, and I'm so glad I wasn't there to witness the carnage. (Is effective, though, eh?)

  42. Susan- Too afraid to leave poison around with the kids, and I hate the thought of it, anyway. But if it gets worse, we may not have any other options (we'll let a professional handle that, though.)

    My family has a place in Maine and we have to set traps every May when it's reopened for the season. Lots of little critters stowaway in there for cold months. Ack!

  43. Dan- I meant: things in OZ are NOT very different from here! Oh, the sensibilities of government. I just don't know why more people don't get involved... ;)

  44. LW- Four will do it, eh?! Good grief, time to get a cat--and hope she's another "Scarlet-the black panther!"
    Would be good to have one for our place up in Maine, too. :)

  45. Dan- The US is not in OZ! What is with my grammar today? :/

  46. Liked this piece.
    Had the same problem, can't live with them, don't want to harm them.

    Our resident mouser found them after days of relentless stalking. I was able to rescue mother and her young and set them free.


  47. Antares - And they didn't return?! Well, I think my daughter's going to get her wish soon. Time for a fury pet, I think (not the mouse kind!). ;)

  48. Jayne, I have a little something for you over at ELR. Come and pick it up;)

  49. Dear Jayne,
    thank you for that very interesting literary view of mice - and if you read Jill Barklem's "Brambly Hedge winter/spring/summer and autumn stories", it will be almost impossible not to feel for those dear little furry ones. When we had cute little hazel-mice with round rosy ears in our garden living near the terrace, I always saw them with little aprons, floral hoods and a tiny broom :-)
    But as my friend Jutta said to her mother-in-law: "You in Cologne, I in Hamburg", I say to dear little animals: "You outside, I inside." Meaning: terrace by all means, sofa: no.

  50. No.
    The trick, according to a very reliable source is to take them for a scenic ride and set them out far away from your own habitat.

    That way they don't have their scent track to guide them. You don't want to know what that track is made of...;)

  51. Steve McQueen was considering a movie based on a Steinbeck book when he made "An Enemy of the People". Just thought I'd throw that in here. Fascinating music selections, Jayne!