There are so many bloody tails to share |

There are so many bloody tails to share

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The sound of an intruder woke me in the predawn darkness. A small scratching betrayed his presence. For a moment I stared at the ceiling of the RV, my eyes adjusting from their slumber, and then reached for my gun, shiny black as the night and waiting by my pillow for this moment.

Mice. Mice are the issue for me these days. The (soon to be) blasted little bastards come in swarms. Nothing is safe from their diseased turds and gnawing little teeth. They squirt through doors and crawl through holes in my camper, negating the reason for their existence – a food source for the owl, which hoots outside in futility. But they have made a mistake, to be sure, for there is also a predator inside this metal box, which seemed so safe at first, and he is far too barbaric to be sane.

As far as I’m concerned, our rivalry began years ago when I was on a six-day backpack trip with my dad and step-mom in the Grand Canyon. It was Day Three. We had carefully hung our food in sacks from trees before retiring to the river for a couple of hot, afternoon hours, but that didn’t slow the mice in the least. When we returned for dinner, the ropes had been chewed through (we learned then to use wire). The bags with all our provisions had been ransacked, every appetizing morsel eaten or carried off, leaving only a hunk of spoiled banana bread and a box of potato spuds to sustain us for the last 18 miles of our trip. The pests even chewed through my new backpack and destroyed the binding of a favorite book. Then 13, I cursed the rodents with every bland bite of water-mixed spuds. Someday, they would pay.

Now, 13 years later, my day has come, though they were still to strike first, about a week ago. I was eating breakfast before work at 5 a.m. when two had the audacity to pop into plain site – one stood on hind legs a mere yard from my booted foot, another foraged on my stove top, uncaring that I looked on. Apparently they thought I was harmless. The arrogance! I slammed my bowl of oatmeal to the table, stood up and barked words unfit to print in this column, stomping my foot (I could have smashed the one on the floor but I feared the mess). I’d be damned if I was going to permit a hantavirus free-for-all flooding my tiny living space. I bought some snap-traps that day, baiting them with peanut butter, honey and Cheese-Its. There was an immediate victim. His mousy counterparts, however, quickly learned and soon all the traps were consistently licked clean. (I still marvel at the self-discipline, taking all but the last, tempting bite that would trigger the trap; many humans, including myself, tend to lack such restraint). Even then, I was reluctant to take the game to less humane measures, such as glue traps, where a mouse is stuck until he chews his legs off, starves to death or dies of other means. That changed when I awoke another morning to discover the problem was getting worse; after one night, there were turds on the table, turds on the counter, the stove, in my drawer of forks and spatulas and three puny poops in a clean frying pan. I went to Wal-Mart and spent about $55 on glue traps, BBs, CO2 cartridges and an air-pistol. When they joined me for breakfast again, I was going to be ready.

The balanced weight of the gun felt empowering as I switched on my headlamp and leaned out of my bed, scanning the shadows of the room through open sights. Silence. Still I waited, calm, ready, breathing softly. Then more scratching. My arm swung back down to the right – there! He knew he’d been spotted and tried to hide behind a table leg. His hind foot was stuck to a glue trap, preventing his running anywhere fast. He chewed his ankle, still hoping for an escape. His fate was sealed, however, and I was committed to finish the deed. Two shots split the quiet and there is nothing more to say about that. I imagine his furry friends looking on in horror from their hiding places with shocked, beady eyes, perhaps a startled squeak at the realization that the war is on and there is little mercy beyond respect for the bodies of those deceased or about to become so. Yes – the lines have been drawn, and they roughly match the dimensions of my RV. Beware, to those mice who enter.

I will add that since that first shot, there is a small stain I have now to contemplate during breakfast. I chew my food and wrestle with the morals of the path I’ve chosen. For the dead, there is no going back, and certainly their blood is on my leather gloves. Regardless of how awful that might make me as their fellow living being, one thing is obvious: Rodent activity is greatly reduced, especially in that they keep a respectful, low profile whenever I’m around. Most importantly, there are fewer turds on my table.

Derek Franz hopes God isn’t a giant mouse. He can be reached at rockgripper8000@

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