The Mouse and a Kind Stranger

“For too long in this society, we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community.”
Joe Biden

Deer Mouse

This is a story of a very lucky mouse, a grateful family and a very kind man…

Several years ago, when my family and I lived on our 11 acres of land, right outside River Falls, Wisconsin, we began to have a mouse problem in our travel trailer. If you have ever listened to a mouse move about in a travel trailer, it is quite different from the sounds in a house. The walls and ceilings are so thin that every little footstep taken, crumb eaten, or squeak squeaked is heard with crisp clarity.

One night, lying in bed, I heard the sound of mouse feet above me in the ceiling. The mouse was very busy bringing food from my kitchen cupboard back into the far end of my bedroom ceiling. It went like this: pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter…clunk-tap, scritch-scratch…clunk-tap…pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter… nibble-nibble. Walk across the ceiling, enter the kitchen cabinet, step on a plate that teeters and taps the plate below it, grab some chow, head back over the plate…tap, and back into the bedroom to eat dinner. It happened at least 20 times before I finally got up and decided to delicately place a live trap in the kitchen cabinet. I could see the crumbs where the little bugger had found our cereal. I went back to bed, and waited. It took about 5 minutes and 2 or 3 cycles of pitter, tap, scritch, nibble, and I heard the glorious sound of a trap door shutting.

I slowly removed the trap from the cabinet and could feel the weight of the mouse inside. I held the trap tightly, worried that it might escape if I was careless. We have had our share of mice in places they shouldn’t be; sticking my hand in a chicken feed bag and one running up my arm, watching one run across the top of the couch while I am laying on it, or opening a bin and one jumping out onto my foot. My all time favorite was when I was driving down the highway towards Hudson, Wisconsin, and found myself staring into the eyes of a little mouse clinging to the windshield wiper. It had peeked out from under the hood of the car while we were driving 60 miles an hour. He was looking straight at me as his fur whipped wildly and it hung on for dear life.

I was told once that if you let a mouse go close to your home, they will come right back in.  They can find their way back across a football field or something like that. The last mouse intruder was walked to the top of the hill and far down the driveway before being released. It was now 2:00 in the morning, and I was not hip on the idea of walking anywhere, so I decided to set the trap outside the door until morning.

The next morning, as we were getting ready for the day, I remembered our captured mouse friend. I decided to drive it to the end of the driveway, as we were on our way to town.

Halfway into town, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I saw it again. It did not register for about a minute but I then realized I forgot to let the mouse out of the trap. I had set the trap on the passenger side floor, and somehow it found its way out while we were driving. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, which was towards the middle median. My daughters were in the back seat, and the mouse had just found its way back to them. Each time the mouse moved, a shriek would escape my lips.

I don’t know if I am stereotyping, but the Deer Mice in our neck of the woods seem very laid back and slow-moving. This particular mouse stopped several times to pick up a crumb, and nibble a bit between escapes from my gloved hands. It never really ran, rather sauntered from here to there. It left me ample time to grab it but was distracted by the screaming, plotting and laughing.

After about 15 minutes, a truck pulled in behind us. A man hopped out of the truck and asked if we needed any help. I explained our predicament to him, he got right in there and had that mouse caught within a minute. I half expected a snicker about our catch and release mouse policy, but not a patronizing peep out of this rugged looking man.

The heart-warming part of the story was that instead of throwing the mouse out into the grassy median of the highway, where we happened to be standing, he crossed the 2-lane highway and released the mouse into an open field. He joked about it finding a new home in the development adjacent to the road.

He said farewell, and off he drove with a nod and a wave. I have wished for all of these years that I could have sent him a thank you note. I am a firm believer in spontaneous acts of kindness and recognizing the kind acts of others. They really do make a difference.

The Shadow in the Dark

“This  suspense is terrible. I hope it will last”   Oscar  Wilde 1-8-08 004

Today I am transporting all of us back in time. We are going back to my families’ 11 acres of land in River Falls, Wisconsin during the year 2008.

It is dusk, and my family and I have just come back from a summer campfire in the woods. We all settle in for the night, in our 27 foot Palomino Puma travel trailer. The outside world does not seem very far away in our plastic home, with the night sounds pressing in through our thin walls, open windows and the woods wrapped around us on all four sides. Mother Nature gently invites herself inside our dwelling with a variety of animal sounds, including hoo- hoohoo’s, and yip-yips, long into the night.

On this peaceful night in the woods, we are all busying ourselves with something, when our daughter Caroline asks, “Is Jemie outside? Jemie is our 80-pound Black Lab. No, Jemie was not outside. Caroline then proceeds to tell us that there is definitely SOMETHING outside. She is peering out the front of the travel trailer into the pitch black. We have no outside light, so whatever she is seeing is just a shadow. We all race over to the window, most likely envisioning a wide range of creatures. Could one of the goats gotten lose? Is there a coyote lurking around? Are the deer looking for a place to lie down for the night? All possibilities, I suppose. Caroline goes on to tell us that this shadow was REALLY big. We all have our noses plastered to the window, looking intently into the dark. Then, we all see it. An outline in the dark, about 40 feet from the travel trailer, moving up and down…stop…up and down…stop. Oh my God,what is that? It is huge! The first thing that I think of is a moose. A moose? What the hell am I thinking? A bear…too small. It moves again, away from the travel trailer. Goosebumps on my arms begin jumping up and screaming, “Run…hide!”

My husband Chris bravely opens the door and heads outside. The gigantic shadow is now on the move up the driveway. We waited to hear screams, growls, flesh ripping (maybe not flesh ripping), but we heard nothing but the rustling of many feet on the gravel driveway. My husband finally yells to come outside and we see the creature in its true form. It was an enormous…cow. Yes, a cow was in our “front yard”. We live in the country, so a cow isn’t that surprising and probably should have been the first thing I thought of. I am not quite used to country living yet, so a cow in the yard is far from a first thought.

It is now halfway up the steep driveway. We all jump in the car and follow it up the hill. By the time we are up to the driveway, we see that the cow is now heading back down the other side of the hill. It is heading into the woods, and towards the road below our property. We wind the car down the driveway and around our property, exhilarated by the possibility of meeting it on the road below ( yes, I know it’s a cow). We arrive just in time to see the beast entering the woods on the other side of the road. Tree branches are breaking and crashing to the ground, and we see the back-end of the cow disappearing into the dense forest. There are no roads into those woods, so the adventure has come to an end, leaving such possibilities for the next. We wish the creature well in finding its way back home safely, as my family and I find our way too.

Birthday Party in the Barn

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Luna; our soon to be champion milk producer

We know we are there…we pass the stone sign that says Poplar Hill Farm and head down the long driveway towards the many red barns in the distance. My anticipation is killing me. There are two baby goats, born just days ago, ready for us to be their new family. Of course, they know nothing of this new family. They are single-mindedly waiting for the warmed bottles of milk to show up again and fill their hungry bellies.

As we pull up near the main house, we see two barns. I notice right away the adult goats peek their heads out of the barn door. They are curious. Despite the frigid temperatures, we roll down the windows and take in the eclectic mawwwww, mawwwww, mawwwww coming from everywhere. There is another barn that is full of younger looking goats and I wonder if our kids are tucked away in there somewhere.

The owner of Poplar Hill Farm meets us by one of the barns and asks us if we want to take a tour. As we wander from barn to barn, room to room, I am listening for our baby goats. He has still not told us where they are. As we enter the last building, where the goat’s milk is pasteurized, I finally hear the first maw that is like nothing I have ever heard. The farmer just keeps talking over the calls, but I am barely able to contain my joy. They are in that room, right there, behind that very door.

He finally grabs two bottles that have been warming in the sink, and we walk through the door into an office and a makeshift nursery. The choir of baby goats begins the second we walk in, each having a distinct and heart-wrenching call. There are 3 kids, two of which will be ours, Luna the Saanen and Areida the Alpine.

He hands Caroline and Sabrina the bottles, and gives them some basic instructions, and off they go. They are feeding their Luna and Areida, a moment I will never forget. It was over in a matter of minutes. We sign the papers, hand over the cash and we are heading to the car. The farmer asks, “What are you putting the goats in?” “Ahhh, we have some towels,” we answer. He tells us that should be “interesting”. We get a clue on the way home and buy a plastic laundry basket that they both fit into with room to spare. They quickly curl up and fall asleep.

One year later…a birthday party in the barn. Carrots, pine tree branches and vitamin C tablets for all! We sit in the straw, scratch their chests, and let them pull our jacket zippers up and down, up and down, up and down…

LunaNewest Iphone 020