Horror created by mice

By Bob Huber: CNJ columnist

Throughout my longtime marriage to Marilyn, she often asked, “Why do these things happen to us? Why? Why?”

I always replied with a shrug, because I didn’t know.

(Secretly I thought our adventures probably happened to everyone, but they just didn’t talk about them. I wanted to mutter, “We’re just lucky, I guess.”)

Take the time we remodeled our house, and the mice got in. For a long time I thought about writing the incident as a horror movie called “Gnaws.” To this day I can hear the rumbling beat of ominous music whenever I walk into a darkened room.

That’s the cue for theater goers to yell, “Don’t go in there, stupid!” But I keep going until an army of mice suddenly charges and stampedes over me. Well, you can imagine the rest. Hollywood would love it.

But what really happened was, we expanded our bedroom and in so doing tore down an outside wall. While the room was temporarily exposed to the night air, mice invaded our territory. For a long time I woke up at night hearing the sound of tiny bugles and a squeaky voice yelling, “Go get ‘em, boys! Charrrrge!”

Before I tell you more, I should say that we went through mouse traps, poison, fly swatters, and a myriad of home remedies from former friends and store clerks before the last mouse went to that Great Cheese Factory in the Sky. For a long time we thought “X-Files” on television was a sitcom and “Tom and Jerry” cartoons were high dramas.

Something else to ponder was the promiscuity mice were known for. You let them in your house, and the first thing they do is have sex. It’s in their genes.

Then within a month, their offspring also are old enough to have sex, and each pair has between seven and 10 youngsters before you get your next light bill. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize you can get in the mouse business pretty fast.

Of course we didn’t know all this, because mice normally are rather quiet and like to be left alone. The first we realized the problem was when our granddaughter Penny visited us, and she looked up from the supper table one night and screamed. A lamp in the kitchen was swinging, and a mouse was doing a high wire act on it.

Penny kept screaming, Marilyn screeched, and I drove downtown for hunting supplies. I also picked up a wealth of local folklore on how to rid your home of vermin.

One solution from a fun-loving clerk at a hardware store was to place bowls of Coca Cola hither and yon. He said mice don’t have the capacity to belch, and when they drink Coke — well, they blow up! So I bought a six-pack.

I spread the mouse traps and poison around and put a half dozen bowls of Coca Cola in other locations. We immediately caught mice in some of the traps, but we didn’t hear the sound of exploding pests. So much for practical jokes.

Unnerving trap snapping went on routinely for while. On more than one occasion a trap would snap before I got out of the room. After awhile, I didn’t even bother with bait. That’s when I put a swatter under my pillow at night.

Then one evening, two mice suddenly appeared in front of our television set, performed a soft shoe routine, and thumbed their noses at us. Marilyn yelped, and I went out and bought more fly swatters.

Marilyn insisted on her own swatter and put it in a homemade holster strapped low on her hip. I shook my head and said I could handle all the swatting, but she replied, “But what if they get you first?”

We soon lost count of our kills. When you knock off that many mice, they begin to meld into a giant Cecil B. DeMille production. Finally, when our trap line turned unproductive one day, I put my left hand on Webster’s and swore, “No more remodeling.”

Fact was, I also promised no more workable doors or windows, and told Marilyn we’d have to enter and exit through the fireplace chimney. But that made her even more anxious. “Cripes! she cried, griping her swatter like Wyatt Earp. “Do you mean you haven’t sealed off the chimney?”

Folks often asked us how come we moved here from Santa Fe, and Marilyn always answered with, “Why? Why?”

Now, wouldn’t that make a great horror movie? Look for it next summer at your friendly neighborhood theater.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.