Of Mice and Me

Posted by David

I’m curious what your thoughts are about an unusual event that occurred about 10 years ago.  At the time, I lived at Heart ‘O the Hills, a small ranger station part way up the mountain to Hurricane Ridge. It was still winter or maybe early-spring and the mice scurried about in the hallway and kitchen at night searching for scraps. At the time, I was the only one living there, besides the mice. I slept in my sleeping bag on one of the beds in the far back room.

I had never much a mind for mice. They were the sort of creatures that one’s mind doesn’t dwell upon for lengthy periods. They’re not charismatic and fierce like a lion or mysterious and gigantic like a dinosaur. They are just a small white creatures that scurry, eat and breed. Yes, they are cute, but not so much that your mind spins over them as other curiosities do. If you feel this way too about mice, this may make you think twice.

There are a number of good ways to catch a mouse. The best that I’ve found is a bucket of water with a ‘tight-rope’ string strung across the top with a peanut butter covered aluminum can strung in the middle. The mouse walks out the rope smelling a peanut-butter snack. One step on the can, and he either must act like a lumberjack at a log-rolling contest or face the deep water. It isn’t much of a contest for the mice. In 1996, the year after a good pinon crop in Southern Colorado, one park ranger was reported to have caught over 100 mice in a bucket this way in one night!

But when I lived at Heart ‘O the Hills, I just used a live trap. A square metal box with a tripping-device at the end, where you placed your bait. One step on the lever and the trap would shut. I’d catch the mouse and put it outside. If it wasn’t raining too hard, I might walk down the trail for a couple of minutes and release him there. Either way, the next day, of course, he (or she) would get caught again and so on. Why I wasted my time with this, I can’t say.

Among park rangers there’s a truth that seems to be pervasive: mice love peanut butter. It’s the bait of choice among the park rangers I know. And it’s also clear never to waste of good cheese on a mouse. It’s just not effective. And when you’re out in the back country or away from a store, cheese is a very valuable commodity.

There I was at Heart ‘O the Hills one cold and rainy night. Some call Heart ‘O Hills, “Heart ‘O Darkness,” because of all the darkness-producing 200-foot trees that tower over the ranger station and campground. This night that name would fit well. After eating dinner by myself and was readying myself for bed, I decided that I would set the live trap. I didn’t have any peanut butter, so I thought, “why not use a piece of cheese.” I set the trap in the middle of the kitchen floor, placed the cheese carefully on the metal trigger at the back of the trap, went to to the other end of the house and lay in bed. I covered myself with my sleeping bag, lay on my side with my head on my soft pillow. The rain pattered lightly on the rooftop. I reached up and turned out my light.

Sometime later, I woke up having this sensation, more like a ‘feeling’ that something had happened. It was pitch-black and still raining. I was too tired to get up or turn on the light, so I let it go.

I couldn’t sleep and hadn’t yet moved. Something made me feel like I should turn on my light, but I couldn’t get myself to do it. I was too tired. I just lay there.

Finally, still awake, I knew that I must check by turning on the light. So, I reached over and switched on the lamp. There laying before me on my pillow, right in front of my mouth was the small chunk of cheese. There was that same piece of cheese that I placed in the trap sitting on my pillow.

What was that mouse saying to me? Coincidence?

Hopefully this account will change the way you think about mice. It is true. I can say without a doubt, I wasn’t dreaming.

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