Of Mice and Molly

It was a kind hearted thoughtful ill conceived addle brained bad idea.

Jim and I were out mulching one of the garden with hay two weekends ago. We loaded bales into the pick up truck and brought them around to the top of the garden. As Jim picked up a bale to fling off the truck, it broke apart revealing a clutch of baby mice tucked into the folds of summer grass. They were tiny. They were cute. They were three blind mice.

What to do? Their home was gone. Their mother too. Emily had said she wanted a hamster. Caring for mice was vaguely like caring for a hamster. This might buy us some time in the small animal negotiations department. We even had a hermit crab’s plastic home to give to the effort.

I scooped up the mice. They lay inert in my mitten. They looked on death’s door. Would this be another one of those noble rescue attempts that ended with lots of small children crying at an animal funeral? Ignoring this thought, I took the tiny mice into the house and handed them over to the youngest children available. They set to work making a home for these orphans and of course, they gave them Flower Essences.

I hate animal stories where any animal dies. I don’t think I am over the endings of “The Yearling” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” yet. And to be honest, Lizzy warned me about “Where the Red Fern Grows” so I only heard about the ending.

So let me tell you now, in case you are like me, that this tale involves no funerals or sad moments. None.

Back to our story, by the time we had read up on what to feed baby mice, the warmth of the house had revived them. The trio was racing around their new home with great abandon. During the next few days they only got zippier. They demolished five times their weight in milk, toast, nuts, and dried fruit. They showed no interest in an offered potato. I think they thought it needed butter.

Soon they were twice their size and looking at us with shiny black eyes. They were adorable, though it was hard to believe how often their cage needed cleaning or how scarce the children were when this needed to be done.

No self respecting tale is complete without an adversary or two for its protagonists. Our young orphans had three. The cats.

Each cat took a shift to guard their prey. The cage was never left unmonitored. Here we observe Mishka, six hours into her shift. I am not even sure she blinked while on duty let alone took her eyes off her targets. With the mice getting this kind of loving attention, we decided that the rock on top of the cage might be a lovely souvenir if you are a die hard Red Sox fan, but it was not heavy enough to protect our mice babies. We piled on many books. Just for good measure, we wedged the mouse home under a bookcase on Jim’s desk. Yes, St. Jim’s desk was appropriated by us for the orphans. As far as we were concerned, he could keep up with Green Hope Farm finances somewhere else! “Mice First” was our slogan.

Things went smoothly for almost two weeks. We were delighted with how well the babies were doing. It was clear they could survive without our care. Will, Emily, and I knew it was time to release them back into the wild. We decided last Saturday morning we would make a fabulous mouse nest down near the compost heap and let them go free. It sounded like a good plan.

On Friday night we went out to see Emily and her soccer team play a night game under the lights at her school’s new turf field. It was a very exciting game. We returned home cold but happy. As we walked into the house, there was an enormous crash. Running into mouse headquarters, we found that Mishka’s brother Gus had managed to push the cage and the many books on top of the cage off the desk to the floor below. Everything in the cage was on the floor. We had arrived just in time! Well almost. No mice were crushed by a book, but also no mice were waiting for us to grab them. Two of them took off at top speed under the couch and one headed that way.

One slow mouse got caught and redeposited into his cage. Three cats got banished from that part of the house. Two tired adults started to take apart the playroom. It’s just what you dream about at 9 pm on a Friday night; moving every piece of furniture in a room to search for two baby mice. Jim, who deserved to throttle me, couldn’t have been nicer. “This room needs a good housecleaning.” he said. I was full of remorse. I welcomed the blame and apologized profusely, however Jim never said “I told you so.” That’s probably why we are still married. He could reasonably have said this to me at least forty five thousand times in the last twenty six years, but he never has.

A couple hours later, the room was spotless. My knitting center had never looked as organized. Every surface had been cleaned and/or vacuumed. And there were no mice to be found. The conclusion was obvious. Our house is only twenty years old but twenty years is a long time for mice to find a way in. Even as we searched the last corner of the room for orphan two and three, I suspect they were being welcomed into their new adoptive family of house mice .

And mouse number three? He was moved out to his new home at dawn the next day. I left a pile so high of mouse gorp at his side that I think he too was welcomed into a clan of mice within minutes of the drop off. I hope so anyways. An outdoor mouse should have the same lifestyle as his indoor relatives, don’t you think?

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