I CONSIDER MYSELF a humane person.
I brake for crows.
I swerve to miss squirrels who employ the practice of using automobiles to crush spruce cones they have dropped in the road, then scurry about the blacktop stuffing their cheeks with the loose seeds.
I have always supported a spay-neuter program for pet dumpers, those lowlives of the human breed who leave defenseless domestic animals out in the woods to be preyed upon by wild creatures or die of slow starvation.
This concern for the welfare of all creatures great and small went out the window one morning upon discovering a warm winter-fishing hat in a drawer filled to the brim with goose down from a pillaged sleeping bag.
This hard-weather gear had become a nursery for a family of mice.
While in modern times, mice have been reviled for their role in the spread of pestilence, disease and famine, throughout history and around the world, mice have played an important role in folk tales, a role that has no relation to their size.
In their various mythological legends, mice have trapped the sun, stolen fire for the humans, given humans leadership over the animals, found mates for lonely suitors, provided wisdom and even been accused of witchcraft.
One of the moist poignant accounts of the mouse’s role in human history was not a legend at all but a well-documented account from World War II.
The 48th Panzer Corps under Gen. Ferdinand Heim had run out of fuel during the Battle of Stalingrad.
It was a major turning point in the war.
The Germans had buried 102 tanks in pits to protect them from the Russian winter.
When the Russians counterattacked, the Germans tried to start their tanks, but mice had chewed the ignition wires.
Some of the tanks burst into flames when the Germans started them.
Gen. Heim ventured out with only 42 tanks in a vain maneuver for which he was court-martialed and imprisoned.
My own version of a mouse attack on the Eastern Front occurred one winter when I started my truck and turned on the heater to let it warm up.
When I checked back, the interior was filled with the choking smoke of a burning mouse-nest and its inhabitants.
It was an aroma that did not improve with time.
People say I should get a cat to get rid of the mice.
But I love cats too much to have one.
There are just too many predators, from great horned owls to coyotes, to be safe around here for a kitty.
Efforts to eliminate mice are as varied as the human imagination.
A friend once tried poison.
I would not recommend this practice to anyone.
When offered a cup of coffee, I noticed the cap had been left off his fancy electric coffee grinder.
Mixed into the coffee beans was a scattering of the bright-blue mouse-poison pellets.
I said I already had enough coffee, thanks.
It seems as if the mice these days are just as crafty and persistent as they ever were.
I have tried trapping the mice.
This can be a painful lesson in self-defeat and futility.
More is not better. I know that after setting two dozen mousetraps in the house and forgetting where they were.
That midnight trip to the bathroom takes on a whole new drama when you snap your trap on your toe.
I tripped about half the mousetraps, and the mice stayed out of the others.
By now, I’m convinced the only sure way to get mice out of your house is to move.
Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].