Men try to impress women-even after they are married. Part of that can involve clothing, but may include moving loads of firewood or giving bunches of roses.
Some years ago, when I was single, I was trying to impress the single woman next door with how much wood I could carry. It was a cold day in February and, although it seems like an inconsequential detail, my jeans were not tucked into my boots.
In the middle of moving the wood into her pickup, her dog spooked a herd of mice in the woodpile. Hundreds of the little critters came scampering across the snow. I was standing with my arms full of wood about 20 feet from the woodpile, watching the furry little bodies fan out away from the woodpile.
Several of the mice began running towards me and, as they did, I recalled a couple stories I had heard about mice running up things. For instance, there was the mouse who ran up the clock, and the mouse who ran up the pants leg.
I had always thought it unlikely that a mouse would run up anybody’s pants leg if a person were occupying the pants at the time. I felt like I had squatter’s rights to my pants. I watched and hoped that the mouse understood these principals. It turns out that he did not understand them.
The feeling of tiny feet clawing their way up your leg inside your pants can cause panic, even among those who, like me, have had extensive experience with small rodents. Dropping the wood, I grabbed my leg and attempted to seal the mouse off in the lower part of my pants leg. I accomplished this task too well and, after a moment or two of clenching my leg, realized that I had cut off the flow of blood and all sensation below my knee.
The neighbor woman and potential valentine saw me stooped over holding my leg, and asked if something was wrong.
“Yes,” I replied calmly, “a mouse has run up my leg.”
“Yes. Did you happen to see a mouse come out of my pants leg?”
She said she had not seen a mouse. I could not feel the mouse, but I could not actually feel anything in my lower leg-and there were no exit tracks. I was afraid that, if I let go of my grip around my knee, the mouse would move further up. There seemed to be only one solution.
“I know this is going to seem unusual,” I said to my neighbor, whose respect I was about to lose, “but I have to take my pants off.”
After waiting for her reaction, which amounted to fleeing to the other side of the pick-up with her hands over her eyes, I quickly took off my pants.
Northwoods Wisconsin winters are cold, but I never fully appreciated how cold until I had finished shaking out my pants, looking for the mouse. When weather forecasters warn about potential frostbite, they never mention how many minutes it takes to get frozen kneecaps. As it turns out, it was about two minutes.
This is why I would like some mouse-proof pants-perhaps several pairs. I have not found any yet, but I will be attending the Northern Arts Council’s fashion show in the hopes of finding some. If you, too, want to know what is fashionable-I am also hoping for kneecap warmers-be sure to mark your calendar for Monday, Aug. 20.
By the way, I never did find that mouse, and I married a nicer woman.
Rhinelander District Library Director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070.