May 27, 2009

Back when I was in high school, one of my assignments for science class was to use a mousetrap to build a vehicle. Not having a mousetrap around the house, I called my grandfather and asked him he had one to spare.

“Grandpa Sisco, can I have a mousetrap for a school project?” Grandpa was always giving me chocolate bars and two-dollar bills and bank calendars and new tube socks and golf pencils and more. “You’ve got everything.”

“I’ll check, Anton.” He pronounced it An-tin. “Come on over.”

I walked the two miles across town and climbed the steps to his apartment. As I walked in, he had a sheepish look on his face.

“I don’t have any mousetraps,” he reported. Later that night, he stopped by our house and handed me a brown paper bag with two new mousetraps. For the next 20 years, he always had a spare mousetrap in his desk drawer.

I thought about calling Grandpa again this weekend after I discovered mice in the garage. They were living among the many boxes piled in there — boxes yet to be unpacked after only two weeks in this new house — and had been gnawing at the hammock, building a nest of soft fibers. We’d left the garage open into the evening one night last week. I’m hoping the beautiful three-foot-long rat snake the girls and I watched slither across our street recently hasn’t followed the mice into the garage.

On my next visit to the grocery store, I picked up a couple of traps and put them to work.

“Dead one time,” I said yesterday morning upon discovering the first of two mice to succumb to the lure of the swiss cheese I used for bait. That’s the Bislama phrase we used in Vanuatu.

Of course, in Vanuatu our traps were set with roasted coconut and meant for the rats that liked to scamper across our ceiling at night. Pima the puscat got his share, but there were always more rats than a hundred cats could handle. (See my post Bugs in the night to learn more about our adventures with creatures on Paama.)

This weekend, we went to dinner with friends. One told a story about discovering a bat in the bedroom of her infant daughter. I spared her my own story about bats.

One summer in college, working on the farm in Sugar Grove, I got the job to clean out an old barn that was to be renovated into a high-class apartment. The spacious and dark barn, as it happened, was home to hundreds of bats, and so I spent a couple of weeks setting mousetraps with peanut butter, discarding bat carcasses and sweeping out guano.

As I’ve since learned, bats are important and to be protected.

The interlopers in my garage being mice, the traps are set.

Anton Zuiker

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