Musing on mice

The New York Times is a very good paper, no doubt, but I look forward more to the monthly arrival of the Cornwall Chronicle, a small and simple newsletter produced by a rotating committee of editors and keeping us informed of land sales and births and library events – the things that matter.  This month’s issue featured reminiscences of how a little girl was dressed for cold weather in the 1920’s – who knew? – and a remarkable discussion of local mouse control methods.  Ella Clark, the author of the latter, in real life runs The Chore Service, an innovative local exchange matching needs (mostly of elderly citizens) with resources (mostly people needing a little extra cash) and subsidizing as needed.  The discussion of Cornwallians approach to mouse control seemed to good not to pass on – besides, I didn’t preach a sermon this week and I know you have been looking for some wisdom.  Here it is:

Musing on Mice
Mice, like the poor, are always with us, and just as wars on poverty never quite succeed, neither do wars on mice. We persevere, nonetheless. I provide peanut butter in my Victorsnap traps, but the mice have learned how to eat it without getting caught. More successful is the Ketch-All, a contraption that flips the curious mouse into an antechamber. Last winter I opened my Ketch-All to find five pairs of beady eyes looking up at me. I closed the lid, put the trap in the car and drove a mile or so to a likely woodshed where I let the mice go. (I was careful to walk backwards in the snow to mystify the building’s owner.)

Although mouse poop on the counter and pistachios in the washing machine inflow pipe (twice) are a nuisance, the critters can do more serious damage. When my truck’s brakes failed, it was only after a great deal of downshifting and application of emergency brake that I could stop, roaring into a roadside garage. Mice had chewed through the brake hose.

I asked my neighbors for mouse solutions. Bee Simont swears by an ultrasonic repellent, but Susan Gingert has one “right on the counter, and there are mouse turds next to it every morning.” Susan Fox sprayed her cellar walls with ammonia three months ago and her mice still haven’t reappeared. Of course there is always the cat, and cats I used to have, though they weren’t always good mousers. Dave Cadwell sings the praises of his mouse policeman rescue cat Catticus Finch who has dispatched all his mice, including the hall-dozen Mouse Welcoming Committee who greeted Dave his first morning on Yelping Hill. “There’s nothing like a good cat,” says Dave. “Catticus is my guy.”

The success of the Hav-a-Hart depends on steely nerves.  Anne Chamberlain (whose car burned to a frazzle, most probably because of a mouse nest in the engine) tells me that Lotte Hanf once brought her Hava-Harted mouse to the Mohawk Forest, but it was snowing. The mouse shivered and did not leave the trap. So Lotte brought it home and put it back in the attic. On the other hand, we have Emily Marsh, Cornwall librarian from 1920 to 1962, who lived in the Historical Society building and trapped mice in the attic. As Bee Simont told me, the trap did not always “make a clean kill,” and the kind Miss Marsh hated this, so she kept a pail of water handy in which to put mice out of their misery. But when nights were very cold and she heard the snap of trap and subsequent scuffle of injured mouse, she’d gently warm the water in the deadly bucket before the drowning. – Ella Clark

1 Comment

LisaDecember 11th, 2010 at 2:24 am

The little girl dressing in the cold mornings was my mother, City Lansing. She had told me about this lengthy effort for years and I persuaded her to write it up for the Chronicle.

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