Of mice and intolerant men | Elk River Star News


I don’t like mice. I don’t like seeing them in a cage running crazy on a treadmill. I don’t like to see them bouncing around in the wood shavings of a children’s plexiglass ballpoint pen. And I definitely don’t like to see them darting around my yard. And in the house? Game over.

My aversion to mus musculus goes back a few decades and may be misplaced because of an incident involving a larger member of the rodent family. As a fourth grader, our family moved to a farm in southern Minnesota. We weren’t farmers, but we needed a large country house to house our growing family. That particular farm was half retired, but our farmer was still using the barn, a random machine shed, and working the fertile land that surrounded the property.

What he didn’t use was an old corn crib, although it still contained scraps of dried corn that partially filled both sides of the building. As the building was showing its age and was no longer part of the business, the owner decided it was time to flatten it.

We did our best to help by shoveling out the leftover dried corn.

Farmer Phillips then tied a canvas strap around the building, hopped on his red tractor, engaged the worn gears, and tore the building from the foundation.

What happened next was certainly unexpected, at least for me.

Dozens of rats were exposed to the day’s sun. It was as if General Patton had snuck into a German foxhole and caught the enemy napping.

The rats appeared dazed, but only for a few seconds. Then they dispersed in all directions as those of us who were there to help were frozen for a moment. Fortunately, no one went in the direction of the house. Most of them just ran away from the fallen corn manger. Their fat bodies jiggled quickly as they bounced around.

The blackness of their eyes and snake-like tails were unmistakably disgusting. My brother chased one into a grassy ditch where he escaped the fate of a shallow shovel. That night, as darkness fell, I couldn’t help but think of all the rats that were sure to sneak around in the grass looking for their next home.

That one childhood experience probably led to my lifelong aversion to all rodents. I don’t want them near my home and I will certainly use every known method to rid them of my belongings if I ever see any trace of their existence. I’ve used rubber mallets (sorry, PETA), poison, sticky paper, disposable traps, and spring-assisted snaps. All were effective.

Mice are incredibly destructive. So much so that the US Census Bureau is trying to trace their existence. The 2020 census shows that nearly 15 million U.S. households have seen mice or rats in their homes in the past 12 months. And since females get pregnant 5 to 10 times a year, with each litter producing 3 to 14 pups, it’s easy to see how threatening these rodents can become if they perch in or near your home. The Census Bureau is pursuing this because mice can transmit dangerous diseases and chew their way through house wiring just to keep their teeth sharp.

Squirrels, who are just rats with fluffy tails, are also annoying. I once had a nest of it in a roof overhang above our front door. I didn’t know when I tried to clear a wasp’s nest from an uncomfortable spot. It wasn’t until I was standing on a shaky ladder and completely compromised my balance that the wasp problem became insignificant. As the upper half of my face peered carefully over the edge of the roof, a squirrel mom jumped in my face. It frightened me so much that I fell backwards from the ladder and landed in a dry bush below. I had a few scratches but was more concerned about the show I was just hosting for neighbors. I could feel curious eyes peering across the street from behind the living room curtains. It must have looked caricature. The only thing missing was the ACME anvil that landed on my head. But again rodents had invaded my domain.

Last week I strategically placed a child-resistant plastic box of mouse poison on our entrance step, hidden behind a potted plant. The lump of poison, about the size of an eraser, was gone within a day. In addition, the mice ate on the plastic shell itself, making the opening to the green lump of death even larger. Okay for me.

Since then, the plastic box has been occasionally moved 8 inches from its original location and dragged into a garden of rocks about 5 inches lower. What kind of mutant mice have so much power?

At this point I don’t care. So far none have turned up in the house. And as long as supply chain interruptions do not suddenly interrupt the supply of rodent poison in the local hardware store, mice and humans will not coexist in harmony. At least not on my street. – Keith Anderson is the Director of News for APG of East Central Minnesota.

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