Tom West: Anybody have a better mousetrap?

I've always thought of myself as having a live-and-let-live attitude toward all of nature and my fellow man. Of course, like most people, I am self-delusional.

I've always thought of myself as having a live-and-let-live attitude toward all of nature and my fellow man. Of course, like most people, I am self-delusional.

However, sitting in my desk in fourth grade, I was uncomfortable watching the kid next to me catch a fly in mid-air and then proceed to pull off its wings. And I was appalled in sixth grade when another classmate used a clothespin to attach a cat by its tail to a clothesline.

Make no mistake, I have no compunctions about swatting mosquitoes, massacring army worms or eating meat. But generally I do only what I need to do to keep my own blood, keep the worms from crawling down my neck and to keep my weight up.

Several weeks ago, I wrote in this space that I am married to a philosophical descendant of St. Francis of Assisi. Squirrels and chipmunks fling themselves at the side of our house in hopes that she will notice and throw them a peanut. We treat our rodent neighbors quite kindly, thank you.

At least some rodents.


We have a rule, however, that rodents are not allowed in the house. The squirrels and chipmunks understand the rule. However, the deer mice do not.

The peak time for deer mice was a few weeks ago. With the nights turning colder, they began seeking shelter from the Arctic onslaught.

At our house, it then becomes mouse trap season.

I check my trap lines regularly at first, and sporadically thereafter. A couple of days later, early one morning, I went down to the laundry room, and noticed that a mouse was in a trap next to the furnace.

I left it there, figuring I would remove it on my way out the door to work.

I'm up early, and I generally eat breakfast alone. It is a quiet time assigned to reading and eating.

Not that morning. Suddenly the Secretary of Health and Human Services came around the corner and said, "There's a mouse caught in a trap."

"Yes, I know," I said calmly.


"And it's still alive," she said not so calmly.

When I had first seen the mouse, the trap was about five feet from where I had set it, but the mouse was not moving. I sighed at the news, knowing that what followed wouldn't be pleasant, but then finished getting ready for work.

Big mistake.

In the intervening 15 minutes, the mouse had disappeared. The furnace sits on several bricks, and has a two inch space underneath. I got down on my hands and knees and tried to look under. I had to put my head almost to the floor, and I still couldn't see much. Finally, I lay flat on the floor, and could see the trap underneath.

The furnace is in the corner of the laundry room. I suspect the furnace was there first, and the interior walls were erected later. I went to the garage and found a stick. It was a good stick for the purpose, just slightly longer and thicker than the average yardstick.

I figured I would sweep the stick underneath the furnace at an angle and knock the mouse and trap out from underneath. The mouse had other ideas. Understand, all this time I am lying flat with my head tilted just so I can see underneath. I make an awkward sweep, hit the trap and managed to sweep it over to the other side of the furnace where there is no room to maneuver because of the aforementioned wall.

In fact, there was a crevice underneath the baseboard, and the mouse crawled underneath that -- except that it couldn't crawl all the way underneath because of the cumbersome trap that was attached to it.

The more I poked and prodded with the stick, the more it struggled to stay in the crevice. Finally, I looked at my watch, realized I was late for work and told the secretary that I would take care of it when I got home that evening.


All day I dwelled on that mouse. What would an animal ethicist say? I didn't want the mouse to suffer -- just to die. Can't anybody build a better mousetrap?

That evening, after supper, I put on old clothes, and tried again. I saw the trap and tried to prod it with the stick. There was movement, but not from the stick. The mouse was still alive. I couldn't believe it. But I still couldn't work it out. I felt terrible -- although still not as bad as the mouse.

The next day was Friday. I didn't check the trap in the morning, but when I came home from work, I checked again. The poor mouse was still alive, although just barely.

Don't forget, for three days I was not only dealing with a mouse but with St. Francis' soulmate. "It's suffered enough. Can't you just get the trap out of there and take it outside and let it go?"

Uh, no, I cannot.

Finally, Saturday morning came, and I finally figured out what I needed to do. I took a meat fork that we use for barbecuing on the grill and taped it to the stick with (what else?) duct tape. I figured if I could get the base of the trap between the two prongs, I could twist it and gain some leverage.

It worked like a charm, but, alas, poor Mickey had met his maker overnight. He was caught only by his front feet.

When I threw him in the garbage, the trap went with him. No need to allow fate to repeat itself.


Anybody got a better mousetrap?

Tom West is the editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at .

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