Ranch Report 4.0: Rodentia

Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of violence against rodents.

Now that I have your undivided attention . . .

The cabin under reconstruction was built in three sections; 1930 (approximately), 1952-53, and 1960, and has been a haven for rodents since the day my grandfather nailed the last shake on the roof in 1930. My sis and I and several others call it the “mouse house,” which it was for as anybody lived in it. The battle with invasive pack rats was ongoing. When I began taking the place apart, one of the most daunting — and nasty — jobs was removing the rodent-ruined fiberglass insulation.

So, how do I feel about rodents?

When I last lived in the cabin, I named a certain mousetrap “Old Betsy” — after Daniel Boone’s rifle — because it was so effective. I was very fond of it.

I was once cleaning my .22 magnum revolver at the kitchen table when a mouse wandered onto the kitchen counter. I pushed a shot shell into the cylinder and killed the little cretin where it stood. There was ever after (until that section of counter was removed) a mouse-shaped hole in a shot pattern on the splashboard.

That’s how I feel about rodents.

There was a time when I was a bit more tolerant. But, I came to realize that mice, pack rats and the occasional squirrel have no empathy. So, I have no sympathy. They steal my food, poop on my counters and chew holes in favorite quilts and other things for no apparent reason. They smell bad, and they make noises in the middle of the night that disturb my sleep.

“Hate” is a very strong word, so I will just say that I very, very, very strongly dislike mice and packrats in my house. And sometimes, squirrels.

How I deal with rodents.

Mice are the worst, because they are small, sneaky and, except for certain fortuitous situations like the pistol cleaning incident, difficult to kill directly. One must be sneaky as well, and place the trap just so— in a likely mouse run — and bait it just so — with peanut butter — and set it just so — on a hair trigger.

There is something very satisfying about hearing “SNAP!” in the middle of the night, followed by a bit of flopping around and then silence. Another One Bites The Dust plays in my mind and I drift back to sleep. Smiling.

Packrats are another story. They are not so easily trapped, and often survive the trap long enough to either escape or to be alive enough to be a bother to deal with. My sister uses “Have-a-Heart” traps to catch them, and then releases them in the driveways of folks she doesn’t like. (Just kidding. Really.)

I evidently have no heart. I prefer my packrats d.o.a. — dead on apprehension. To that end, I’ve established a packrat hunting protocol that is quite successful. So far with this method, I’m batting a thousand.

I’m not going into complete details, because maybe you will want to hire me to come deal with your packrats if I don’t tell exactly how. Just call me the Tom Horn of packrats. I’ll just say it involves that same pistol loaded with bird shot, a flashlight, an appropriately placed chair and a bit of patience.

Packrats are noisy, so it’s easy to tell when they are up and around and looking for some personal possession to eat, steal or ruin by chewing or peeing on it. They are also creatures of habit, and once I figure out their travel pattern, they are, as they say, toast.

Goodbye packrat!

It is very satisfying to snap the flashlight on, which paralyses the packrat for about a second, which gives a snappy shooter like me time to shoot, and — kaboom — another packrat meets its maker.

If you feel this is cruel or inhumane, you have never lived with a packrat. It’s actually cleaner and more humane than a trap, because it’s quicker. Much better than poison, which I don’t use on any rodent. The packrat is launched immediately into the next world, instead of lingering here, wondering what bad thing is going to happen next.

And, the look of surprise on their little ratty faces is priceless.

Bwahahaha. Oops. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get emotional.

So, now you know how I feel about mice and packrats. And sometimes, squirrels.


Please note: I don’t go out of my way to kill rodents. I rather admire packrats. They are intelligent and somewhat pretty with beautiful blue-gray fur. Mice have their place in the world — coyote, wolf and hawk food — and other less apparent ones, I’m sure. Squirrels are the most prolific tree planters on the planet. They are all safe and welcome to live nearby — as long as they stay out of my house, and off the kitchen counter.