Outward Bound

There’s one little problem with those “have-a-heart” mousetraps.

It’s that those who buy the things tend to, indeed, have one. So as the little rodent thrashed around inside his cell, Shop Boy’s insides twisted. The mouse was miserable, and it was cute. And you tend to forget that the little buggers are vicious cannibals, given the opportunity or need.

Aren’t we all?

Anyway, Mary’s not cool at all with having furry little roommates, so … the have-a-heart traps come out. Seen these things before? They’re metal boxes with a hole/tunnel through the center, a spring mechanism at one end and a ventilated but escape-proof little room at the other. Mice, usually preferring smallish passageways to the perils of the open floor, skitter into the tunnel, trip the spring and are unceremoniously thrown into the clink to sleep it off.

Now, a misadventure like this would very likely give Shop Boy a heart attack. And I saw on some nature program that mice often die from heart failure rather than predators. Not this fellow. By the looks of the cell, we’d certainly scared the poop out of him.

But he was chock-full of life.

That’s a Baltimore mouse for you. Bad hearts? Nope, we’ve got Olympians.

Mary one day found a British article offering advice on ridding your place of a mouse. It involved putting peanut butter on one end of a toilet paper roller and setting it on the counter so that the peanut butter end hangs over the edge. The mouse walks in to get him a little PB action and, essentially, walks the plank, plunging into a deep bucket you’ve set up below. Not a great way to go, but …

True story: Shop Boy had enjoyed such a great adventure lazily rafting on the Delaware River that he wanted to share a little of the whole floating downriver experience with Mary, who had to miss the Delaware trip at the last minute. There’s a little creek near where we lived in New York called the Esopus. People rent tubes, climb in a bus up the creek and bingo — fun in the sun. Off we went.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but we could have picked a better day than the one that featured a major water release from the Ashokan Reservoir — to churn up the water for a kayak race! Swear to god. We were dunked about five times before we even got aboard the tubes, but didn’t think to turn back. There were little kids having a great time of it. So we were off. And how! Just ripping along.

Well, we’d just about steadied ourselves when we hit a big turn in the creek and got separated in the rapids. As I looked toward where Mary was tipping over, Shop Boy somehow failed to notice a huge tree that had fallen into the river. Torn off my tube, I was shoved, dazed, toward the creekbed by the rushing water. And my foot got stuck in the rocks. I knew what that meant.

“That’s it, then,” I thought. “I’m drowning. Can’t get to Mary. Can’t breathe. I’m dead.”

As Shop Boy resigned himself to not being alive in a moment or two, a couple of funny things happened. First, a sense of peacefulness. Complete calm. I looked up toward the surface of the water, where the sunlight and the green and red of the leaves formed a kaleidoscope. It was beautiful. I relaxed, let my arms drift above my head and …


“Hello there!”

A six-tube flotilla (plus floating keg) had seen Shop Boy go down and not come up. I was face to face with a large, smiling woman wearing Viking horns. Look, I don’t know how long I was submerged or how addled I was from hitting the tree, but that’s what I remember: an angel in a helmet, like in an opera or something. (Mary says it’s true.) I thanked and thanked Brunhild as her roaring flotilla mates toasted the rescue effort.

“Where’s Mary?” Oh my gosh. There she was. Thrown from the tube, she had held on to the rope, stopping herself by dragging her bare legs along the rocky creekbed. She was standing in the shallows, really shaken up. My great idea had left her shins bloodied. And Shop Boy felt like a heel. Maybe the Vikings should have let me go.

And we were still only five minutes into what was supposed to be a 30-minute ride. Let’s just say it was a long walk downstream.

You should have seen the concerned looks on the faces of those waiting in line at the start for their tubes as we came tumbling out of the woods to hand ours off. We probably changed a few plans that morning.

But where were we? Oh, OK, so one night a mouse craving a midnight snack walks into the toilet paper roller and takes a dive. We arrive the next morning to find him paddling like mad.

Mary: “What do we do now?”

Shop Boy: “His heart’s probably giving out. They have bad hearts. I saw that on a TV show.”

Just our luck. He was Michael Phelps with a tail and whiskers. We couldn’t let him go or he’d breed more super-rodents. Build a better mouse, as it were. There would be no Brunhild to rescue this one, even if he’d managed to keep his head above water for hours and hours. Sort of an accident? Sure. But killing stinks. (Yes, Shop Boy’s a bit of a softie.) And right there we chucked the peanut butter trick in favor of have-a-hearts.

So our new little iron-hearted captive didn’t know it — he was wigging out as Shop Boy picked up the trap — but he was getting out of this one alive.

We drove out the requisite 5 miles or so (they can find their way back otherwise) to a park.

Mary: “Put on your heavy gloves, Shop Boy.”

Shop Boy: “Geez. Do I have to? They’re going to think I’m dumping anthrax or something.”

I walked to the edge of some deep grass, tipped the trap, slid the lid back with a heavily gloved hand and whoosh! City mouse to country mouse. If he has friends back home, we’ll bring them around later. It’s the least we can do for our suburban neighbors.


Oh, one more thing about these traps: They’ll keep catching mice until the spring winds down. So if you think you’ve got several mice or a full-on infestation, check the holding tank every day, or you could have a full house pretty quickly.

And, heartlessly, they’ll eat each other.

Cute, huh?

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