by Diana Savage
This is one of oldest of the 25 dead rodents we found during the cleanup project.
Dealing with rats, mice, and other vermin is a fact of life for many people living in century-old homes on country acreage. That’s why, after an elderly relative moved from the house she’d lived in since 1953, my sister and I weren’t too surprised to find numerous rodent carcasses while we cleaned the property over a seven-month period.
The morning I found rodent number 23—a freshly deceased vole—in a wooden box in the pump house, Jennifer dumped it into one of the black garbage bags we loaded onto the pickup for our sixth trip to the landfill. I had just gotten settled in the passenger seat, and Jennifer had just started the engine, when a small gray animal with a long tail darted across the floorboard.
I’m sure I set a world speed record for unbuckling a seat belt and leaping out of a Chevy pickup cab in one fluid motion. Jennifer got out of her side pretty fast too.
Jennifer told me she’d seen the critter disappear into a ventilation duct under the dashboard. After my heart started beating again, I pulled a half-empty roll of paper towels from behind the seat and jammed it into the opening to keep the pest from reemerging. We were hit with the realization that since the seldom-used pickup belonged to our elderly relative and had been sitting in her carport for years, it, too, was vulnerable to rodent infestation.
However, being of hardy pioneer stock, we don’t give up easily when there’s a task to perform. After several minutes, Jennifer got back in and revved the engine good and loud. She figured if the little mouse wasn’t decapitated under the hood by whirring belts or fan blades, at least it might be too scared to return. I hesitantly reentered the cab.
We’d just slammed the doors shut and buckled our seat belts when the stowaway repeated his or her previous performance. And I repeated my previous rapid exit. “Where did it come from?” I gasped, staring at the duct I’d plugged.
“From under the seat,” Jennifer said.
We set a tray of poison between the brake pedal and part of the rodents’ nest that had fallen out from under the seat.
We peered to investigate and noticed a mound of paper and fabric bits that formed a sizable nest, but even when we poked at it with a stick, we saw no movement indicating any occupants. Convinced no more mice were in the cab—or perhaps we’d seen the same one that had now run away for good—we got in once more. But this time I didn’t fasten my seat belt. That was a wise decision on my part, because the mouse—or one of its brothers—showed up a third time.
What to do? We were on a tight schedule and really needed to discard the load of trash so we could fill the pickup again with metal to recycle. And on this particular trip, one of the garbage bags contained rapidly thawing food that had been too freezer-burned to salvage. Getting rid of it immediately was imperative. But when Jennifer attempted to start the engine a fourth time, I stayed outside. That’s why I didn’t have to make a hasty exit when the fourth mouse appeared.
Incredibly, my brave sister was willing to trust that the rodent(s) wouldn’t keep emerging every time we closed the doors, so, after several more minutes, she asked gamely, “Want to try again?”
I declined. My concern was for her, actually. I knew how terrible she’d feel if I were maimed or killed as the result of leaping from a moving vehicle.
We set new traps, loaded with peanut butter, on the floor.
“Considering all the other loads we’ve hauled, why is this the first time we’ve seen mice in the pickup?” I asked. Jennifer didn’t know either, so we devised Plan B for the day and set a tempting tray of d-CON rat-bait pellets near the accelerator. The next morning we also brought traps, loaded with peanut butter, and positioned them next to the poison. That’s when Jennifer saw another flash of gray fur.
On the third day, the traps hadn’t been sprung, but they were empty of peanut butter. Great. We’d ended up with defective traps. However, half the d-CON had been eaten and no more rodents emerged, so we gingerly set out for the dump.
In spite of the terror that must have been written on our faces, the landfill attendant recognized us from our previous half-dozen trips. Perhaps we were memorable because she didn’t see too many blonde gals, wearing makeup and earrings, return on such a regular basis.
We backed into the unloading area, put on our work gloves, and tossed out all the trash we’d brought. Then, as I started sweeping the truck bed clean, a very live mouse ran directly toward me. I shrieked and lunged out of the way. Jennifer, obviously the braver sibling, took the broom, jumped into the truck bed, and swept the rodent to the ground, where it scurried under an old loveseat we’d just discarded. Whew! We figure it had been nibbling on food from the freezer that, by then, had had three days to ripen. I was still shuddering as we drove away.
“At least you have something to blog about,” Jennifer said.
She was right. But perhaps I should let God know it will be a long time before I’m desperate enough for material to want to repeat the experience.
© 2015 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.