The last few days have been rather crummy. This is the part of winter in Northeast Ohio that holds no reasonable value except to make one want to off themselves or move to the tropics. Things are slow leaving idle days.
Fate intervened, distracting me with an intriguing little problem. About a week or so ago we notice mouse droppings in the RAV4. So as you may or may not remember, we got the car detailed. Turns out that two guys vacuuming out the car for three hours didn’t dissuade, or evacuate, the mouse that took up residence somewhere inside. About a day later we had mouse droppings in cup holders and the glove box again.
I decided I had to do something so I googled “humane mouse trap“. With no time to order anything I keyed in on instructions to make a home made trap. I scrounged around and found an ice tea bottle in the fridge. I poured the tea into a glass and took the bottle to my studio. Utility knife in hand I cut the top off then cut it about a third of the way down. I then flipped it over and had a trap. I even cut little serrated triangles in the opening; presumably these would dissuade the mouse from jumping or climbing back out once he was inside. Okay, whatever…who am I to pass on cutting little teeth like triangles into my “invention“. With eagerness I placed some peanut butter in the bottom of the bottle. The bottle was all set. I set on the floor mat in the passenger foot well, closed the car door and waited back inside our house. I checked periodically all night before we went to bed.
After about three check-ins I noticed the bait was gone but no mouse. “Darn it,” the mouse had taken the peanut butter and seemingly had no problem getting back out. The height must’ve been too short. Back inside for version two. This time I used a cranberry juice bottle. Cut. Tape. Little evil looking triangles. Taller funnel placement. Check. I was all set. Repeat – put bottle in foot well, check every hour or so.
An early trap made from a cranberry juice bottle. I cut the top, flipped it to make a funnel top that presumably would hinder mouse escape. It did no such thing.
Juice bottle trap in place with peanut butter bait.
Inverted cone and teeth.
Alright well I just left it overnight. Maybe the mouse was sleeping.
Next morning hop out of bed, put shoes on, coat. Flashlight, camera, gloves….check, all set to see if we caught a mouse. As I shined the flashlight into the cab (the sun wasn’t really up yet – mouse trapping is a craft executed in the dark), I noticed movement!
It was our mouse.
And he was IN my trap!
He was awfully cute. Small, brown and white with big beady eyes. Reaching for my camera, after all I wanted pictures for the blog, I fumbled and dropped my flashlight. In the time it took to pick up the LED flashlight out of the gravel at my feet and return my gaze to the foot well, he was gone. “Damn it!” I exclaimed. He must’ve jumped out; menacing cut out teeth be damned.
Back to the drawing board. This time some grape juice found its way into a random glass on the countertop and I had another bottle in my studio going under the knife. This time I made the distance from bottom of bottle to opening as tall as I could. I dropped the peanut butter in and checked again all night.
To bed I went and once again awoke the next morning. Shoes, flashlight, coat, camera….check.
Looking into the RAV4, through the driver’s side glass to get as much space between me and the mouse, I pointed my flashlight.
“Ugh,” the bottle was on its side. Squint. There was my mouse next to the bottle. I watched as he darted under the passenger’s seat and then I jumped to the back window just in time to see him scurry under the rear bench. Inside I found a peanut butter-less bottle with a bevy of mouse droppings inside of it. He had knocked over the bottle, presumably moments before.
Somewhat defeated I went to church and reflected. I prayed for some sort of enlightenment and all I came up with was a glass flower vase. In between sung responses I texted home that I needed the curvy vase from under the laundry room sink. Once home I fashioned a cardboard top for the vase and dropped in the bait. No mouse could topple a glass vase. I didn’t even line the sides with a thin layer of Crisco like I had on a previous version. I figured the hourglass shaped vase walls would be plenty slick. Unless the mouse jumped a foot and a half straight up, he’d be stuck. I even used a marker to draw a random pattern on the underside of the cardboard to confuse the mouse when looked up at the hole.
Later that evening I found the peanut butter to all be gone. For whatever reason there was a ring of peanut butter debris about two-thirds up the bottle. Who the hell knows what he did but he didn’t get trapped. He was probably gaining a lot of weight with all the peanut butter I was feeding him. I should have been feeding him cheese burgers and Mountain Dew. He’d have had a heart attack by now.
I really didn’t want to have to kill the mouse. It was pretty much unanimous on social media that I needed to poison him or by some other means kill the rodent who to this point had eluded capture, and must’ve weighed and extra ounce or two by now.
Killing a mouse doesn’t seem very elegant or sophisticated. Laying out poison seems easy to me….it seems boring. I needed a distraction from life.
That mouse was my distraction. Capturing him was my mid-January Everest. I’m a designer. I solve problems. I am not easily defeated. I lose most of the time, but rarely do I go quietly. My wife wanted a mouse out of her car. I was going to do that. At the very least I could do that. Right?
Monday morning found us at Lowe’s. I bought the last humane trap on the shelf. There were a lot of options for poison or mechanically lethal traps, but only one for humane. I guess that says something.
Humane trap at Lowe’s for less than $5.
Five bucks later we were on our way home. I opened the teeter totter trap and put a dab of peanut butter inside. It’s pretty simple – mouse goes in, trap bottom shifts under his weight, trap door closes.
I set up the trap in the foot well. I put it on the owner’s manual to give it a smooth surface to be on; I didn’t want the weather mat’s tread pattern to block the trap door from closing.
The trap is set.
As night descended I stepped outside. Once again: coat, flashlight, camera, gloves (this time)…check. Peering inside the driver’s door…
The trap was off the owner’s manual. Trap door shut. We had a mouse.
I ran into the house. “I think we have a mouse,” I proclaimed. Our oldest quickly announced that he wanted to see the mouse. He put his coat and shoes on and we went outside.
I scrambled over and opened the passenger’s side door and picked up the trap. It didn’t feel any heavier. I rotated it back and forth….I didn’t feel anything shift or move. I set it down and stared. Waiting for something to move. A teeter. A totter.
I thought what next. I can’t open it here. IF there is a mouse in there I can’t exactly open it up, have him jump back inside the car or scamper off to the wood pile. He’d just get back in the car after I left. So I buckled my kid in the back seat and we took the mouse for a ride to the ski resort up the street. Pulling under a metal halide light in the lot I put it in park.
“Here, you hold the camera and take a picture for the blog when the mouse jumps out,” I handed the camera to a bundled up toddler as we stood on a sheet of parking lot ice.
Stretching my arms out, with great anticipation, I looked at him and then the trap. Slowly I reached for the trap door with my gloved hand. In one quick motion I lifted the door and pivoted the trap to the earth.
Peering inside, there was the peanut butter intact. No mouse inside. Disappointed, we drove back home. My little guy reporting back to his mother that we struck out, upon our arrival home. I set the trap up again and retired inside.
I found that it usually only takes an hour to catch a mouse…or at least feed a mouse. So as the clock winded around to 7:30pm I decided to check again, small blond kid following my shadow from the porch light. I trained my flashlight through the driver’s window to the spot where the trap was set.
There the trap set, on the owner’s manual where I left it an hour before. Only now the trap door was closed.
Door closed means there’s a mouse in there.
We ran around and opened the door. My son started crawling in…I had no idea what he was going to do but he was eager to get his hands on that trap. “Hold on bud,” visions of a scampering mouse launching onto my face and down into my shirt flashed through my head. “Stand back.”
I reached into the car and picked up the trap. “Hmmm.” It didn’t feel any different.
“I don’t think there’s anything in here bud.” I said to a very disappointed boy. “I’ll just run it down the street and open it to make sure.”
“No dad, we should take it to the ski resort and open it there.”
A few exchanges and he’d snookered his way into coming with me to the ski resort to open the trap. “Ok, but I don’t think there’s anything in here.” Hell, I was going to open it there to check, but he really wanted to go for a drive.
Repeat – drive, park, walk on ice, (“stand there on the gravel where there’s no ice…..there on the gravel…”), hand camera over (“point it towards where I’m opening the trap and take a picture of the mouse”). People skiing in the background. A light rain coming down on a balmy forty degree evening. I grabbed the trap. “Ready?”
Not expecting much I pulled open the trap door.
Out shot a grey bullet into the wet winter night. In a flash it landed on the ice parking lot gravel. And turned right.
“Holy crap, we caught a mouse!” I thought in amazement. All I could do was let out a laugh. I watched the grey bullet circle around, not sure of where to go. This was not the inside of the Toyota. Out of the corner of my eye I could catch my boy trying to catch the mouse in his camera view screen. As the mouse circled around I paced towards the car, keeping halfway between mouse and car. No way was he coming back in. “Did I leave the door open?” I envisioned him jumping right back into the car and darting under the warm seat to his nest. Not going to happen. I stepped again and that was enough to send the him running toward a snow mound and pine tree. The mouse slipped on trying to go up the snow mound and decided the more prudent route was around.
In less than five seconds, from when he left the trap, he was gone into the shadows of that pine tree.
“Dad, I didn’t get a picture.”
“That’s alright bud, we caught a mouse,” I smiled.
“He was so cute,” my little guy smiled in excitement as we walked around the car. I put the trap back inside and buckled him in for the return trip. Upon our return home, I let him give mom the play-by-play. Mission accomplished.
Just to be safe, the trap is set again in the car as I write. I’ll check it in the morning on the off-chance there’s another mouse in there. I pray we’re done though. We shall see.
You know, I could have just poisoned the thing. Heck, I thought about, and some people suggested, I put our cats in the car and let them take care of it. That may or may not have worked for various reasons I won’t go into. In the end though I think the only option I had was to play catch and release with our little furry guest. From an environmental, psychological and emotional standpoint it was the only choice. Kill a mouse and that’s all you’ve done. You’ve killed something. Had I done so I would have missed out on the fun, and frustration of making traps, trying to improve upon them and going back to the drawing board. It’s not that I was trying to outwit the mouse, rather just trying to catch a mouse. It was a worthwhile distraction, when I really needed it.
Most importantly though, with all the trap making, trap setting and trap checking, I got to spend a blink or two of time with my little guy. I guess I’m sentimental to a fault. Shows I’m weak or got a screw or two (or twelve dozen) loose or something: chasing a mouse that any sane person would have just whacked, and got on with the important things in life such as paying bills.
I don’t know if he’ll remember the night his old man and him caught a mouse and let it go in some ski resort parking lot.
But I know I will for the rest of my life.