Walking down the driveway last month, I found a mouse path going from the exterior wall of the house, across the driveway, and out to a spot underneath the birdfeeder. It does not take a rodentologist to know what was going on: I was feeding and sheltering a mouse.
I first tried putting a mousetrap in the path of the mouse. Next day, I found that the trap had frozen in the open position. The peanut butter, meanwhile, had been consumed as a kind of frozen dessert.
Using the bitter cold to my advantage, I cleared away all of the snow in the mouse’s path and, taking a pump spray bottle full of water, I coated the area in a thin laying of water which instantly turned to a glaze of very slick ice. My thought was that, when the mouse came out to feed, he would slip and fall, perhaps twisting an ankle or worse.
Next day, I went to check to see if any mice had fallen and hurt themselves, and to fill the birdfeeder. While there was no evidence of mouse mayhem, I had considerable difficulty steadying the ladder to reach the birdfeeder. When I was near the top of the ladder, it suddenly shot out from under me. Finding nothing else to hang on to, I grabbed for the line that suspended the feeder over the driveway.
This was a special kind of line designed to deter squirrels from getting onto the feeder. The line from the feeder was attached to a horizontal pole which was attached to an eight-foot vertical pole. These poles allowed me to suspend the feeder at the end of the horizontal pole with four feet of five-pound-test fishing line.
The squirrels do climb the vertical pole and the horizontal pole with ease but, when they come to the clear fishing line at the end, they, like their cousin the trout, cannot see the line. Since they do not believe in magic, they know that the feeder is somehow attached to the pole they are sitting on and feel for it with their front paws.
However, even when they feel it, it is too thin for them to grasp. They sometimes think about sliding down the fishing line to the feeder but, unable to grasp the line, it would be a four-foot fall, head first, to a hard surface. For squirrels, that can be dangerous-and if they miss the feeder, there is another four-foot fall to the driveway asphalt. I have never seen them attempt to slide down that line.
After all their attempts and cogitations at getting to the feeder fail, they sometimes sit back and wonder what evil force had come up with this sort of deviltry. I am proud to say that I have a patent pending.
It was this line I grabbed when the ladder slid out from under me. As I grabbed the line, I had vague hopes that a five-pound-test line would stretch and let me down easy. Alternatively, I thought that I might survive the fall with minimal injuries, certainly no more than a couple days in the hospital.
My life flashed before my eyes-a life partly filled with an incessant struggle against mice, squirrels and chipmunks. The line held for a millisecond but, after it broke, I wondered if squirrels had angels or patron saints assigned to them. Sister Mary Elephant had not mentioned it, but perhaps I was shooting spitballs at my friend, John, and missed that part of the lesson.
I survived the crash and crawled away to one day boldly return to that noble battle between mice and men.
Rhinelander District Library director Ed Hughes is available at 715-365-1070.