“Ahhh! Ahhh! Did you see that?! Did you see it’s ugly, brown little tail?!” Haley is on tip toes, hands by her face, with her nose scrunched up. “They’re evil! You need to bring a snake in here to eat it!” Haley would chose a snake over a mouse any day, but mice is what we have.
My rodent control strategy is to not have anything around the barn they like to eat; no grain, no sugar, no snacks. The only rodent tempting consumable is the rice bran. It’s kept in a small, metal trash can with a well fitting lid. But even the best fitting lids, sometimes get left ajar. A Jar it was one morning when I found the lid loose and upon lifting it, revealed the surface of the rice bran, normally a sahara dessert in miniature, patted flat by what must have been hours of movement on the part of a quartet of tiny, rodent feet. Sure enough, through the upside down, semi-opaque, half measuring cup, there was a small, dark mass, which I soon found to be very much alive.
The rice bran trash can is now held shut by a bungee cord, but once a rodent has found a food source, they will die before they give it up.
“There is mouse poop on the white cabinet and on the bookshelf! There is mouse poop on the ledge above the white board! That rodent needs to die!” Pronounced Haley, written in capital letters on said white board for all to see. Unfortunately for Haley, I think Jan, our landlady has decided that the interloper is a welcome guest. Jan commented on how she sometimes opens the door to find the mouse nibbling at the leftover’s on the spoon she uses to mix the morning pellet and bran mash. The mouse has made a nest in the back corner behind the hay. It has gotten bolder and bolder as it’s come to realize it’s in no danger of being caught by a cat. One of these mornings I expect to find it sitting on the edge of the bookshelf, cleaning it’s whiskers.
Haley is alone in her loathing of mice. Squeals of joy burst from the hay room on a regular basis as stories of sightings of scurrying feet, noses and tails are carried back out on bouncing nine or ten year-old human feet. I showed up one morning to a bag of hay pellet torn open by the ponies, half eaten and spread about the aisle in front of the hay room. It had been left to Victoria and Amy; thirteen and fifteen; to carry the pellet from the driveway into the proper bin in the hay room. They had succeeded at getting the pellet half way to the hay room, but got distracted mid-task by the appearance of our small guest and spent their remaining time at the barn trying to lure it out of it’s nest rather than finish the assigned chores.
Haley is in her junior year at a very competitive high school. She is a dedicated student. In other words, we don’t normally see very much of her. She feeds on Sunday’s, but often does just the bare minimum for lack of time. I had texted her about her plans for spring break. She didn’t respond. What she did instead, was show up at the barn, dead set on doing some spring cleaning; first and foremost being the task of ridding the barn of every last little rat dropping, but also taking care of all other barn chores, including cleaning and refilling the water tubs. Sure enough, in one of the tubs was a drowned mouse. (Finding a dead rodent in a water tub or trough at a barn is not uncommon.) According to her mother, Haley screamed hysterically. She left a vitriolic note on the white board and laid the dead mouse very carefully on the ledge next to the barn aisle for all to see.
Unless they have gotten into a food supply, I hardly notice mice, living or dead. Not so Rachel and Meera. Rachel, age ten as of the first of this month, was particularly fond of the mouse. Even though it was almost perfectly camouflaged with the wood it had been laid out on, Rachel spotted the wet, lifeless body from ten feet away. Meera, also age ten, was quick to follow. Rachel was sad and went to console herself with brushing horses. Meera’s curiosity got the better of her. “How did it die? What should we do with it? Can I pick it up?” My first thought was, “try feeding it to Dante”, but a better idea quickly took over. “Why don’t you give it a burial?” At that she did. In a split second or two, Meera had extracted a pair of latex gloves from the medical kit and a shovel from the grooming caddy. Off to the orchard she headed, shovel in one hand, dead mouse in the other.
Meera returned about then minutes later. “I found a rock and I scratched in it, ‘here lies mousy, RIP.’ ” Probably the only mouse in creation to ever be given it’s own headstone.