Writing about that old army barracks remodel we lived in reminded me of one of the most hilarious city girl vs country boy incidents we ever experienced.
A few weeks before our first Christmas there I found Dell the most wonderful new tool box for a Christmas gift. I wrapped it in some large retail plastic bags and hid it in my part of the bedroom closet (unlike the first old place we had rented this one did have a few closets). Note this detail as it will be important later in the story.
One afternoon after a snack of eggnog and my mother's Christmas baking, I was enjoying reading a book when I heard a fuzzy sounding"thunk" in one of the spaces between the studding in the shared living room/kitchen wall. There was a short silence and then loud, frantic scrabbling and squeaking noises ensued. It went on and on for the rest of the afternoon. I realized a mouse had fallen from the roof between the joists and into the mess of uninsulated 2x4's behind the drywall. By the sound of the high pitched squeaks it was obviously one of the babies who had fallen.
When my exhausted husband got home that evening from a particularly long day on the construction site he decided he couldn't relax and eat his dinner until this problem was dealt with. So, he got himself a drill and an ice cream pail and proceeded to drill a hole about a half inch in diameter in the wall just below friend mouse. He had me holding the pail up to the wall for the mouse to fall into.
Remember I was not used to mice yet at this point. The only mice I had seen were the dead ones in our first house. Dell barely got the hole drilled and I was just securing the bucket when the world's smallest mouse leapt from the hole. I was so frightened by its speed, and the knowledge that mice can bite, that instead of pushing the top rim of the bucket flat against the wall to trap the mouse, I pulled the entire bucket away from the wall, and threw it across the room, screaming at the top of my lungs and hopping up and down, thus allowing the equally terrified mouse to catapult himself right into the middle of living room. He hit the linoleum, skidded to a stop and then flew at light speed toward the bedroom and the very closet where I had hidden Dell's Christmas tool box. I ran after him and hoped to trap him in there.
And where was Dell while all this shrieking and hopping and terrified running about was going on? My screaming in his ear had shocked him to the point of total paralysis. He was standing absolutely still and white faced, his now shaking hand still holding the drill.
"Please Dell, please come, I've trapped the mouse in the bedroom!! HURRY UP WHAT IS WROOOOONG WITH YOU???"
"I'm sorry Sue. Give me a minute. I can't move. You scared me so badly. I thought something worse than a mouse must have come through that hole."
It took him nearly a full minute to put the drill down and come to the bedroom closet. (And it took me a lot longer than that to forgive him for getting himself paralyzed when we had a live mouse running about the place! It's not like he hadn't heard me shrieking in terror before, right?)
Fortunately for us, while all the personal drama was going on the mouse managed to trap himself in all the layers of plastic the tool box was wrapped in. When Dell could finally force himself to move again he was able to simply remove the bags from the tool box, thank me for the cool gift, and transfer the mouse to the pail.
Although Dell was now physically moving it took his mind a longer time to come back. He couldn't bring himself to kill the mouse. Okay, I admit the stupid thing was awfully cute. Apparently baby mice are like that before they grow up into hideous, destructive adults. (When Dell had to put our elderly ill cat down years later he cried for 2 weeks and when our arthritic hedgehog developed pleurisy and passed away in Dell's hand years later again, he was nearly inconsolable. He is a most tender hearted man.)
So what to do with the mouse....Dell had a brilliant idea. He would drive the mouse out to a farmer's field and put it into a bale of straw. I can't imagine any farmer agreeing to this plan, but that is exactly what Dell did. He was gone for half an hour, during which time I washed my tearstained face and calmed my nerves.
When he got home I served him up a well deserved dinner. About 2 mouthfuls into it we thought we heard something......yup, you guessed it: another muffled "thunk" as a second baby mouse fell into the wall in a different space. The squeaking and scrabbling started all over again. Sigh......poor Dell. He put his fork down, looked at me like his life had just ended and headed for the electric drill. This time he banned me from the entire procedure and managed to drill the hole and hold the pail up all on his own. Mouse number 2 was also the recipient of an escorted trip to the country to the same bale of straw. For the next 2 years I lived in complete paranoia every time the walls creaked in the wind. But we had no more mice tumbling between the walls, no more screaming and hopping about. The mere mention of this incident still causes my husband's face to turn a very light shade of green......