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The Christmas Mouse

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JIM ADKINS
GUEST COLUMNIST

A few years back Perry County was battered by what seemed an arctic blast during early December. My wife and I weathered the storm in our old farmhouse out on Dauby Lane that is leaning toward the century mark.

Oh, its been remodeled and is in good shape, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s old.

Old houses, after settling, have a few gaps in them that go unnoticed by man. However, these gaps are not ignored by the lesser of God’s creatures. When it gets cold outside the field mice do the natural thing-they seek warmer climes. Can’t blame them, I would too.

A week after the cold snap I awoke in the middle of the night to the pitter-patter of little feet. Alas, Leonna and I have not been blessed with children, so I knew that the tiny feet scurrying across our kitchen floor were not human. When I was little, I was raised in an old house in Hobart, Indiana so I know about mice. They come and go with a regularity that would rival the Chicago Transit Authority.

The next day, Leonna and I chatted about what to do about Fievel and company. I suggested the old-fashioned spring traps, but she vetoed the idea, leaning toward a more humane answer to the problem. “We don’t need to kill him, Jim,” she said, “we just need to remove him.” Coming to an agreement, we decided to use live catch traps. We could seize the mouse and deposit him outside unharmed, our consciences bright and shiny and free of guilt. To tell you the truth, I could have clobbered the beast with a sledgehammer and slept like a baby, but my wife opted for a more refined approach. She’s like that.

We bought and set the traps and waited. A week passed, and then another. I was hoping for an early catch because the idea of a hungry animal wandering around the house looking for something to eat was a breach of civility that I could not endure. Each morning after rising, we would check the trap. Our mouse was smarter than average, I thought, or maybe just lucky.

It was Christmas morning oh, about 3 a.m. I guess, when I awoke to a strange noise coming from the kitchen. There was an irritating gnawing sound accompanied by what sounded like a struggle. Looking over at Leonna, I saw that she was already awake, propped up on her pillow. “Caught the mouse,” she said.

Indeed we had. The rascal was inside the plastic shroud trying with everything that his one-ounce body could summon to get free. Looking at Leonna, I asked, “Next step?”

“Oh,” she replied merrily, “I’ll just take him across the road and drop him in the field. He’ll run along and one day find a great gal and get married. Someday he’ll tell his grandchildren about his adventures at the Adkins’ house.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said, stifling a yawn. “If you run into Santa while you’re out,” I added, “Tell him I’m sorry I ate the cookies that mom left out for him back in ‘65, but they were chocolate chip, my favorites. Oh…and the train set was great.”  Leonna winked and gave me a kiss. “Be right back,” she said, setting off out the door.

It was cold and frost was glittering from tufts of grass in the moonlight. I watched as my bride walked across Dauby Lane resplendent in one of my old sweatshirts and sweat pants touting the Dallas Cowboys. Stepping onto the field, she marched about fifty feet into the darkness and stopping, opened the end of the trap and bending low, released the mouse onto the grass.

This is where the fun began. Mr. Mouse, who had spent the last few weeks enthralled by domesticity, enchanted by warm surroundings and pampered by dry bedding literally jumped a foot into the air when his tender bottom landed on the icy tendrils of the frozen meadow.

Leonna jumped back at this astounding athletic display and watched as the little heathen righted himself and barreled right between her legs in a frenzied bolt towards our house. He had grown accustomed to the good life and wasn’t about to give it up easily.

Rising to the challenge, Leonna sprinted back toward home to head him off at the pass. He was having a tough go of it in the long grass and Leonna beat him to the road. He tried getting past her but she began waving her arms and stomping her feet in a threatening gesture meant to scare him into another direction.

He would run a few feet and then retreat and try a new route. Leonna would anticipate his maneuver and charge a few feet toward him trying to dissuade him from returning to what he considered his home.

Looking at my wife jumping around in the street and waving her arms wildly at three in the morning, I thought back to the shy young girl that I fell in love with back in the nineties and then wondered how the police report would read the next morning. Furtively looking around the neighborhood as I stood shivering on the front porch, I hoped that none of our neighbors were witnessing my wife dancing with a mouse in the middle of the road on Christmas morning.

All good times come to an end I’ve been told and this one ended abruptly. Leonna simply wore the poor mouse out. Limping and staggering in defeat, he careened down Dauby Lane, last seen heading toward Indiana 37 in a slow trot.

I bade him good-bye and good riddance. I felt kind of sad for a moment and then, not so much, remembering that there was another old farmhouse a quarter-mile down the lane.

I had a feeling that our mouse would be Christmasing with them. Merry Christmas, Mr. Mouse.

Adkins lives in Tell City.