My daughter told me a while back that she heard something in the walls of her New York City apartment. Then she called and told me she saw a mouse scurrying by in the kitchen. She named it, even though she only met it once. Or twice. She is so like her momma. But, it made me think of what else could scurry through her apartment. I guess a rat could scurry.
When I hear the word, “scurrying,” all I can think of is mice. Mice scurry. Nothing else scurries. Nothing. Well, the freedictionary.com uses stupid examples of the word, “scurrying”:
“….lashed the scurrying horses” and “…..the pedestrians scurried for cover.”
I just don’t see it. I know what scurrying looks like. The word evokes sneakiness. Running away from trouble quickly. Horses are not subtle or sneaky. Neither are pedestrians. I really think these dictionary people need to confer with me more often. I would set them straight. Amazon.com is selling a book that I would tend to agree with its title:
Something “scurried” past Obama at a White House press conference. I am sure there is a metaphor for that one. I myself, wondered how he got by security. He scurried, that’s how.
I finally found a reference that I agree with. Merriam-Webster has their shit together. They used “….mice scurried around the house.” I like this example, because it is a true statement. Mice scurried around the house…… They sure did.
My house. But, let me back up a bit.
The first introduction to a mouse for many of us is when we are little, with the introduction of Mickey Mouse. Mickey is not scary, or rodenty. (I truly enjoy making up new words). He doesn’t carry diseases like the mice and rats did during “Black Death” during the 14th century, that killed twenty-five million people. Twenty-five MILLION.
The Danse Macabre -photo via wikipedia creative commons
Oh, they still carry diseases. A bunch of them. So, bubonic plague is nothing to laugh at. The oriental rat flea was the main culprit back then, hitchhiking on a black rat. I know a rat is a rat and a mouse is a mouse, but some view a mouse as a rat. Some view a chihuahua as a rat. Some ex-husbands are rats. So, you know, whatever.
Maybe we should be pissed at Walt Disney for making his main character a mouse. Children all around the world think that it is ok to pick up a field mouse and hug it. (I know where you think I’m going with this, but no, never hugged a mouse.)
But, you gotta love Mickey Mouse. Sure, I’ve worn mouse ears and have seen my plastic flip flops melt from standing in two hour lines on asphalt at Disney World in August. Sure, I have no brain. But, it was for my kids. I introduced them to the main mouse when they were little.
My next meeting with a mouse is when we learned to sing the ever popular “Little Rabbit Foo Foo.” This is how we sang it-
Little Rabbit Foo Foo
Hopping through the forest
scooping up the field mice
and bashing them on the head….
Now, I have to admit that all of the online versions of Little Rabbit Foo Foo has him scooping up field mice and ”bopping” them on the head. I am thinking that we changed the version. Or, I am thinking we were violent children. Regardless, mice were getting hit on the head left and right. Why?
Because they scurry and can’t be trusted.
There were other mice. For example, let’s take a look at Speedy Gonzales.
Speedy Gonzales was the self-proclaimed, “fastest mouse in all Mexico.” Speedy never scurried. He wasn’t known as Scurry Gonzales, was he now? No, he was speedy, quick, and efficient. He got in and got out.
Now his cousin is another story, but he doesn’t scurry either. No, his cousin is a slow-poke. Slow Poke Rodriguez.
Slowpoke was the slowest mouse in all Mexico. He would never scurry. I think he was drunk half of the time. If he was on The Andy Griffith show, he would have been sitting in a cell with Otis, the town drunk, discussing stuff. You would never see Otis scurry either, I mean, if he was a pedestrian.
One of my favorite mice was Jerry Mouse from the cartoon, Tom and Jerry. Oh, the trouble those two crazy kids got into! Even when I was little, I had a problem with his name. Who the hell names a mouse, Jerry? Jerry Mouse. Sounds stupid. Harry would have been better. Tom and Harry. Maybe they had another friend named Dick. That would have made sense. Tom, Dick, and Harry. But, the names of the cartoon characters was the least of their problems. It was the violence that made some parents shudder. Yeah, parents who lived in a box and never got to watch Saturday morning cartoons during the era that cartoons ruled. My era!
But, besides watching Tom get electrocuted and sliced with a knife, this cartoon taught me about rivalry. Jerry taunted Tom. Tom chased Jerry. Tom got abused and injured. Comic violence. Poor Tom makes numerous attempts to catch Jerry. I mean, it is Tom’s house. He’s a house cat, just trying to protect his owner from contracting the bubonic plague I’m guessing.
I’m trying to think of all of the ways they tried to kill each other. It was like War of the Roses, but without a divorce. My favorite one is when Jerry put Tom’s tail in the wall outlet to electrocute him. He would light up and you could see his skeleton. Oh, cartoons, how you make me laugh! They also used an axe, guns, explosives, traps, and poison to try ot finish each other off. I also liked the one where Jerry put matches at Tom’s feet and lit the matches. Yeah, I bet there were little kids in the early sixties lighting their baby sisters on fire after watching that episode.
The final reference to a mouse is the most important to me. Hickory Dickory Dock. We all know the rhyme.
Hickory Dickory Dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
The mouse ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock
I never knew what this nursery rhyme meant. I was smart enough to realize that “one” and “down” didn’t rhyme worth a shit. But, but besides that, what the hell was supposed to happen at 1:00? And what is the importance of a mouse?
Well, I found out years later.
My husband and I purchased 13 acres of farm land in 1989. We decided to build a house on a site that an old dairy barn was previously located. It was an exciting time. I had fun decorating the house. We purchased an antique gingerbread clock and set it upon the mantle in our hearth room. I called the room the “Hearth Room” because I refused to call any room a “living room.” And, well, it had a hearth in it. A living room reminds me of plastic on expensive furniture and a room with no television. Well, that wasn’t going to happen.
After a couple of years, we brought home a kitten from the animal shelter for our daughter. Whiskers. Now, Whiskers was a great cat. She was entertaining and could leap buildings in a single bound. She could locate a spider and pounce on it as quickly as she saw it.
But, she didn’t give a shit about mice.
Of course, we didn’t know about the mice either. But, Whiskers sure did.
My kitchen had an island where the stove was located along with a seating area with three highback stools. I loved my kitchen. Sometimes late at night, I would walk downstairs to get a cold drink of water and see Whiskers perched on top of the island. What the hell are you doing sitting up there, Whiskers? Boy are you going to get in trouble if he sees you sitting where we cook.
Well, this happened quite a bit. The kids told me that they saw Whiskers sitting either on top of the stove island or right beside the island, looking under the stove. Uh oh.
Uh Oh for sure. I was wondering if there was a mouse in the house. After all, we built our house in a field. A mouse may try to infiltrate the solid construction. My husband would not hear of it. “This house is built air tight.”
Tell that to the mice.
Mice as in plural.
One day, I decided to clean and dust the stuff on my mantle. Normally, I don’t take the gingerbread clock down. I just spray some Pledge on it and dust it and around it. But, I was feeling especially energetic and decided to take it off its lofty spot.
A mouse had built a nest in the back of the clock. A nest. In the back of the clock.
Hickory Dickory Damn!
So, that meant that Whiskers would watch a nightly parade of mouse or mice coming from somewhere near the stove, scurrying across the kitchen floor, turn the corner, scurry through the Hearth Room, up the side of the mantle to build its nest. Ok, so unless the mouse used U-Haul, it had to make many many trips to the clock. And that also meant that it liked it enough in my house to make a nest there.
Nice job, Whiskers.
So, after I showed my husband that a mouse or many mouses (mice, whatever) were making their way to the clock, he put a couple of traps under the house, in our crawlspace. I cold hear some snapping every once in a while and it just made me cringe. Poor mice. But, what made me really cringe is that I found another nest in my laundry room, behind a shelf. And I found yet another one when I was hunting for the remote control down in a couch in the Hearth Room. We had all been sitting on baby mice.
Dear God, the cat probably popped some popcorn and watched the fun unfold nightly. Why try to catch mice? Her bowl was never empty. I did notice that she seemed to be eating more than usual. Ew, the mice were eating her cat food.
I wouldn’t let the husband put a snapping trap under the stove. I didn’t want to hear the trap go off. I can’t kill a spider, let alone a poor field mouse.
So, he purchased one of those traps that a mouse can crawl into but can’t get out and then I would make him drive the mouse a mile or two down the road and set it free. I think we caught several mice that way until Spook showed up at our door. Spook, the stray cat. I talked the husband into letting him stay. Caspar the cat showed up soon after. Two outside cats kept the mice away after that. Over the years, Muffin the cat and Izzie the cat have also stayed awhile. Mice were never a problem after that.
Three years ago, I divorced and moved out of our home. I never spoke of the mice in the house to anyone because it just makes you feel sort of….cockroachy in a way. But, hey, it’s not my house anymore, now is it?
The clock just struck 1