When my husband says, “I’m going out to check my trapline,” I know what he means. He’s going out to his car to check the mousetraps he has set. Like countless others, my husband’s car became the nesting ground of choice for a family of mice this past winter. He knew he had company when the Kleenex he keeps in the loose-change holder between the two front seats kept being chewed. He knew he hadn’t been chewing it. And eventually a suspicious odour confirmed that the car needed a critter inspection.
It’s common for mice to nest in cars in cold weather; they have a particular affinity for the warmth and cozy geography of car ventilations systems, complete with insulation to use for automotive nest-building. Mechanics do a good business in removing these nests – along with mice, living and otherwise. This has happened more than once, and the last time it happened the mechanic suggested that my husband set some mousetraps in his car to ensure that the pattern stop – for good. He did so, catching a fair number of mice over several weeks before the mouse traffic finally dried up in early April, although not before he was challenged by one little fellow who was happily chewing Kleenex on the passenger seat one morning and, rearing up on his hind legs, took exception to being asked to leave. Once that encounter was resolved, the long-running winter mouse sanctuary seemed to be officially closed for the season. Or so we thought.
Then, out of the blue, in the middle of one of the warmest summer stretches we can remember, evidence of chewed Kleenex reappeared in my husband’s car. He got out his traps, baited them with the usual tasty dabs of peanut butter and set them out on the car floor, front and back. Sure enough, one morning last week, yet another mouse bit the dust, or, more accurately, the peanut butter. When I questioned why a mouse would want to go into a car in the middle of the summer, with such bounty and warm temperatures outside, he suggested that it might be coded in their DNA. Given that mice reproduce every 6-8 weeks, and that a lady mouse may produce 50 newcomers in a year, he might be onto something.
The story from the mice’s perspective may have been something like this:
Henry Mouse: But you can find the softest Kleenex in there. You’ve never had a really good night’s sleep until you’ve slept on a bed of chewed Kleenex.
Harvey: Why can’t you just be satisfied with pine needles and chewed bark like the rest of us? And it’s so nice and cool in our holes during this heat wave.
Henry: According to my mother, my great grandmother came across this Kleenex during a cold winter when the family was looking for warmth. She couldn’t believe how comfortable the nest was compared to her old one. Our family has been going back for this Kleenex ever since. And sometimes there is a tantalizing scent of peanut butter in there as well. It’s a special place for all of us: my parents, my brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, even all our cousins.
Harvey: That reminds me, I haven’t seen your brother Dave around for awhile. Or Fred, now that I think of it. Did they move?
Henry: Hmmm. Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen them for a few days. Maybe they went to visit Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary.
Harvey: Where are they?
Henry: I’m not sure. They didn’t come home after they left to gather some new Kleenex in our car a few months ago. We figured they must have taken some Kleenex and peanut butter and gone to start their own colony.
Harvey: Wow, that sounds pretty exciting. It does get pretty boring around here. Well, I’ve got to go now. See you later.
Henry, thinking to himself: Now that nobody is around, I think I’ll go check in our car to see if I can find some of that tasty peanut butter for myself.
Whoops, Henry, not such a good idea!
Moral of the story: If things seem too good to be true, they probably are.
Other fables on Robby’s Journey:
The fable of the porcupine and the cows
The fable of the cabbage moth and the desperate cabbages
The fable of the fox and the ducks