Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Boarders

That first year in this house, although I had swept up plenty of tiny little dropped hints, I didn't lay my eyes on an actual working mouse for several months. I was on the phone with my friend Katie at the time, and I saw it zipping by in the kitchen, and, if memory serves, I yelled EEK and pulled my feet up on the sofa like a girl. She talked me down and stayed on the phone until  I had walked into the kitchen and looked around, because she suspected otherwise I'd be stuck on the sofa all night with a bladder full of beer, which was true. Even then I was more comfortable with invisible mice than audacious ones.

Which makes no sense. If there is such a thing as collective memory in a species, there should have been no mice anywhere near me. I had recently spent two years of my life dispatching lab mice in violent ways, and even though those days were over, any alert mouse should have gotten a creepy feeling as though there were little white mouse heads on toothpick pikes all around the perimeter. That image should have been wired right into their brains. And I've seen their brains. Lots of them. So there's no reason I should be afraid of a mouse. It should work the other way. It's all context, I suppose. Plastic boxes of biddable mice in a lab are one thing, and a single mouse with an agenda in my kitchen is quite another.

They still startle me, but I got used to them. We don't get all that many. And we've had a cat for almost thirty years.  Not the same cat. Larry was very interested in chasing mice. I don't know if her eyes were that good. She'd track one down, and it would skeeter out from under her and head for the hinterlands, but she could not be peeled away from where she'd seen it last. I'd get exasperated to the point of picking her up and lobbing her at the specific hinterland I knew the mouse had gone to but she'd snap right back to her legacy location. Basically, Larry was always going to be the last kid picked for the mousing team.

Tater is more businesslike. She's caught a few of them, and, unlike Larry, she renders them inoperable right away. She's a Git-R-Done kind of cat. The other night we found a gigantic mouse stiff on its back in the basement. Saints be praised, Tater is apparently not the type to drop prizes on the bedcovers.

We haven't gotten enough mice to keep her entertained, over the years. But this year might be different. Just as soon as it gets dark out, things start scurrying. There are ominous scratching noises behind the wallboard. There's thumping. Someone has set up a bowling alley in the basement rafters. There's a party going on in the crawl space and another on the roof. They couldn't make more noise with a vuvuzela. Skittering is one thing: I have no desire to know what's making all this racket.

And that was before something moved into the attic above the kitchen. Whatever it is, it's big. And gallopy. I snuck a peek through the access door, but slammed it shut again as soon as I saw the disco ball. The furniture has been shoved aside for a Twister mat. I hear pinball. Back when I was feeling more optimistic, I thought it was a squirrel. Then a bunch of squirrels. Or rats. Or some major rodent. Or a raccoon, which isn't even a rodent at all, but an animal so untrustworthy no other mammal wants to share a genus with it. But even raccoons aren't capable of hauling in a billiards table and getting it leveled. This sucker is loud. This sucker is huge.  I did an internet search. Biggest rodent. I think it's a capybara. There's a capybara in our attic.

I don't know how a capybara managed to squeeze into our attic. But when you think about it, squeezing into our attic is no big feat for an animal that walked all the way over here from South America during fire season. And I have no plans to get the ladder and flashlight again and have a look.

As always, invisible works for me.

34 comments:

  1. Well at least there's only one, right? He hasn't brought the family along. Yet. Ha ha.

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  2. This time of year, I keep several Havahart traps for them set up in my attic, and check them every morning. If I catch one, sure enough there will at least be one more. (When they find a place to crash, they share the news with their friends.) I release them into the woods, about a mile away. I harbor no ill will towards them; I just don't want to have them living with me.

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    1. Same thing with people, right? You can like them just fine, but it's not like there are too many you want to live with.

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  3. I have had to kill quit a few in this house. I am afraid of mouse traps and hubby has to set them!

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    1. Oh, they take some getting used to. Getting them just so, and sliding them behind the refrigerator--BLAM! Gaw. I hate them too.

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  4. When I first met The Husband, he, and then we, lived in an old schoolhouse. Big huge place with an auditorium that hosted barn swallows in the summer - which was wonderful - but also hosted rats. Lots of them. I don't think we ever saw one walk across one of our actual floors, but we did hear them in the walls and ceilings all the time. And on occasion we'd catch a glimpse of a nose and whiskers peeking out of a hole in a wall. There were mice too, but it was the rats that gave me the willies. Nowadays in our actual grown-up house, when I hear heavy footfalls in the attic I just ignore it as best I can. And the mice that dare leave little bits of *stuff* on the counters get trapped in Havahart traps and taken a goodly distance away to be released. It generally takes them a little while to make their way back again.

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    1. ...and do they sing out "Honey, I'm home!" when they come back? They do.

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  5. All of our cats have brought their trophies to us. Ranging from my earrings (but only one, the other is for me to find) to headless rats. Himself went on a bus in Peru and shared the trip with a capybara named Esmerelda and its keepers. He said it was an amiable beastie.

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    1. I have seen so many things on a bus that are not as cool as a capybara named Esmeralda.

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  6. When I was a kid, my bedroom was upstairs under the attic. Often at night I would hear loud thumps and lots of running back and forth. My dad told me it was squirrels jumping out of the big maple tree onto the roof. It wasn't until years later that it occurred to me that squirrels weren't active at night. Now I wonder whether Dad knew that and was just trying to keep me from freaking out, or whether he was in denial about the less desirable rodents sharing our house with us.

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    1. I'm not all that cool with the squirrels either, although they aren't so snouty. They eat wiring.

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    2. Flying squirrels are active at night and far more common than most people realize.

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  7. We had a little dog when I was growing up who would've made a great cat. She caught and dispatched a large mouse a day or two after I had wakened in the night to feel something running over the blankets on my bed :)

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  8. I WOULD have enjoyed living with a mouse, it it hadn't eaten my expensive jacket. But after I starting trapping them and leaving their bodies for my resident shrike to find, the shrike got made at me when zi ran out of mice. Same thing happened when I moved to Oregon. One house supplied owner a dozen mice to the resident magpies. They too were extreemly unhappy when I ran out.

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    1. I know you don't want to piss off a shrike.

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  9. Hi Murr! I have de-rodented a few attics in my time and also de-raccooned one attic. Word of advice to your Havahart trapping readers: releasing the little devils a mile away from your house doesn't mean they won't be back. Rodents like to return to turf they know and they will travel great distances to get back there. A mile isn't a great distance. Twenty miles isn't either. My brother, a veterinarian and a softie relocated squirrels for some amount of time, but didn't seem to be seeing any less of them. So he painted a few of their tails and deposited where he had been dropping them, twenty miles away. They were back in two weeks.

    A friend of mine knew she had varmints in her attic, but was fine with that as long as they stayed up there. One night she looked over while she was watching TV and saw that a flying squirrel was also sitting on the couch enjoying the show. So she called me in and I Havaharted out six of them and knowing what I do, I overwintered them in my kitchen before releasing them in new habitat with lodgings and provisions the following spring.

    One night I heard something burrowing over my head. You know that's a problem. Things shouldn't be burrowing over your head. So I went down the hall, pulled down the attic stairs and stuck my head up, grabbed the chain and turned on the light. A raccoon was standing about four feet away from me, looking up from his excavations in the insulation. I looked at him, he looked at me. I turned out the light and went back down the stairs. As soon as they thumped back into the ceiling, I heard the raccoon run down the length of the house to the garage. Didn't see him again.

    Another time I was staying at my brother's house in the guest accommodations, also known as the basement. All night long I listened to mouse races in the ceiling. In the morning, I informed the management. My brother advised his three boys and their sister that he would pay a bounty for each mouse caught. There was then a thundering of feet for the basement and much crawling about in the space above the ceiling. There were no mouse races the next night.

    I guess this is by way of saying, if you think you have something in your house or attic that you don't want, get it dealt with. And don't come over all humane about it. They came in because they wanted to and they will be back.

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    1. I'm sorry, I sort of blacked out there after the flying squirrel watching TV on the sofa bit. All wrapped up in its own quilt. Also, you have some freaky kind of powers if you can take one look at a raccoon and make it go away.

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  10. When we were in Hawaii & they leveled a cane field, the little field mice would come & share our home until (I suppose) they found an apartment to rent. You would see their little noses peeking over the drapes. I hated them!!

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  11. The cats have twice found deceased rats and they were promptly disposed of by me. I worry that some of my neighbours have a cavalier attitude towards anything they see as "vermin" and a more -is-better approach to pesticides.I think we are the only ones who don't have the Pest Man out to drench the house every 6 months.

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    1. Aww, your poor hawks! And are you sure they found deceased rats, or did they decease them? Incidentally we have had a largish hole in the dirt next door for about twenty years that we know of that is almost certainly a rathole, but no one has ever seen a rat, and--as always, invisible works for me.

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    2. They were stiff-dead when found and one smelled strongly of something like kerosene.

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  12. My dad and his hunting buddies were in an old cabin with packrats. One of the rats got hold of an apple and ran up the wall with it. However, it was too big to fit through the hole into the attic. The rat tried backing in, and pulling the apple in after it. Didn't work. Rat pulled harder, till it lost its grip. Apple fell down and struck George, who was passed put on the sofa. George came up ready to fight and pissed that his buddies were throwing rat-bitten apples at him. Oh, those young men had some good times!

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    1. We have a small mouse in our cabin that tried to come in, or get out, I don't know which, near the ceiling--but it got stuck with its little head hanging out. Never tried to dislodge it.

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    2. Rodent skeletons are interesting when worked into mixed media sculptures.

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    3. I shall send you "Flatty's" remains if he ever comes unstuck.

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  13. A capybara with a vuvuzela. You musta been aces at "use this spelling word in a sentence" homework.

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  14. It could also be a Tasmanian devil, but I like the capybara idea. With nine cats inside and one outside I have been mouse free since the early 90s.

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