Monday, February 28, 2005

Mickey's Unsavoury Cousins

I hate rodents. I doubt that I could adequately describe to you how creepy and disgusting they are to me. When my family bought the house we now live in, even though it was fairly new at the time, I had a carpenter try to close off any possible access to any hairy, pointy-nosed little critters that might reside in and around my garden and want to come in out of the cold. I'm sure the efforts did some good. Occasionally, though, one of the little vermin does manage, somehow, to sneak into the house.

If I were ever to visit your home and were another guest to drop in, even momentarily, and turn out to be a mouse, I would probably run screaming for the nearest closet, in search of a dress or skirt so I would have an excuse to jump up on a table and scream. Well, maybe not, but I think you know what I mean: I really hate rodents.

This past weekend, a tiny little mouse, about as big as my thumb, managed to intrude on my space. My son's cat, a noble feline warrior named Simpson, caught it within seconds and proceeded to do with it whatever it is that cats do with mice. Not wanting the resultant blood and gore in our home and hoping to spare herself the tragi-comedy of her husband's associated histrionics, my wife tried to shoo the cat, mouse in mouth, out onto the deck. The cat, no dummy, took a look at the foot-high snow out there and declined the offer. That led to a Keystone Kop chase around the house as my wife tried to catch the cat and I, conscripted into service against my will, sought to bar the cat entry to other parts of our house. Broomstick in hand, shivering with revulsion, I must have been quite a sight.

Ever resourceful, my wife managed to separate the mouse from the cat, swept it onto a dustpan and disposed of it. It took another hour for my willies to go away, not at all helped by the teasing I suffered at the hands of my son.

This time, there were witnesses to my irrational and cowardly behaviour. Another time, there were no witnesses to the story which follows. I'm not sure why I am even admitting to the events I am going to recount. Maybe because it is funny, at least in retrospect.

Many years ago, I bought an old one-room schoolhouse. It was quite large and had the customary bell tower at the front of the building. I hired a designer and together we concocted a plan wherein we could build a three bedroom home into the shell of the old building. The bell tower was glassed in and became a skylight over a staircase leading to the second floor.

Before construction began, the building was gutted. In the former attic were hundreds of pounds of guano, accumulated over nearly a hundred years, and hundreds of living bats. The poor construction workers had to get rid of all the bat poop. The contractor had specific instructions from me that there was to be no possible entry, ever, to any bat who might wish to re-establish residency in my home.

Even with all the preventive measures they took, the objective failed. One evening, when I was sitting in my gorgeous new home alone, I looked up from the living room couch and was very surprised to see a tiny bat, way up high on the fireplace. The fireplace extended up through the second floor of the home, through an open area over the living room, and was about twenty-eight feet high. The bat was right at the very top. There was no way I could reach it. There was also no way that I would willingly share my home with it, so it had to go... but how?

No pole or broom handle would reach up there, so I had to be inventive. Never one short of bizarre ideas, I came upon a brilliant solution. Get out my bow. Shoot the damn bat. Scoop it up. Throw it away. Happy me, dead bat. End of story.

It was worth a try. I sat back down on the couch, made myself comfortable, notched arrow number one, released, and zing..., away went the arrow. There was a clink as the arrow hit the fireplace, an inch or two from the bat, and a chip of brick fell to the floor.

Damn! I notched another arrow. Then another, and another. I came within fractions of an inch of hitting the bat, but never scored a direct hit. The critter, completely unperturbed, didn't even attempt to move away. It just sat there. A small pile of brick chips started to accumulate on the carpet.

OK. New strategy required. I got several broom handles, tied them together, tied a rag to one end, poured some oven-cleaner on the rag and prepared to do battle. By working from a landing on the second floor, I was able to get within about twenty feet of the bat. By reaching precariously over a waist-high railing, I was able to get the pungent rag within several inches of the bat's snout.

Have you ever held oven-cleaner to your nose? I don't recommend it. I thought the bat would take one whiff, release its grip on the fireplace and start to dart around the house trying to escape. Then, I could catch it with a net I had improvised for that purpose.

No way. The bat had found a comfortable, warm place to sleep and it wasn't going to move, even for a stubborn Kraut armed with his dangerous and smelly weapons.

This went on for a long time, probably nearly two hours. I finally managed to add a little length to the broomstick assembly and succeeded in dislodging the bat. It obliged by flitting angrily around the house.

Catching the bat was anti-climatic. Once in the net, outside it went, and I was content.

My son's teasing about the mouse made me remember the bat story and, if you'll allow me, one more.

The following is a telephone conversation with one of my nephews, several years ago:

He: Uncle Sieg, do you know what a shrew is?

Me: Why yes, I do.

He: You know how there are shoe stores everywhere?

Me: (Wondering where this was going) Yes, so?

He: Let's buy a male shrew and a female shrew. We'll let them have babies. We'll rent a building and sell them as pets. We'll call it 'The Shrew Store." You run the business and we'll split the profits.

Me: I'll think about it.

I am not making this up. My wife and son and I laughed hysterically after the call, tears running down our faces.

Maybe one day, coming to a neighbourhood near you... The Shrew Store.

If you start a chain of Shrew Stores, make sure I get royalties in return for giving you the idea. I'll share the wealth with my nephew.


  1. Buy 9 shrews, get the 10th one free!

  2. I think a better name for the store would be Sieg's Shrews.


  3. A tiny mouse is nothing comparted to the huge rats that we have in the Philippines. Yuck!

  4. Rats are one thing that have scared me about warmer climes. I can handle the snakes. Come to think of it, I'm not crazy about insects either.