I think my least favorite thing about living in the country was the close proximity to wildlife, or, as the country folk say, varmints.
One day I woke up to a very bad smell. After a quick sniffing-sweep of the house, I realized it was coming from our bedroom closet. Using a set of kitchen tongs (I never claimed to be brave) I removed one shoe at a time from the bottom of the closet. There, among the last couple of shoes, I found a dead mouse. I had no idea the smell of one mouse corpse could fill an entire house. I had so much to learn. Rubber gloves and a snow shovel later, the mouse was removed. If I had owned a haz-mat suit and goggles, I would have put those on, too. I sat on the bed feeling pretty good that I had handled the situation myself and not resorted to a frantic phone call to my husband. Then, I heard a sound...
It was coming from the pile of shoes. My first reaction was to stand on the bed and scream, and the second was to look around for a weapon. The muffled sound continued, and I realized the pile of shoes was between me and the door, so there was no escaping. I had to face whatever it was. As I got closer, it became apparent that the sound was coming from one of my boots. I decided that it might be another mouse mourning the loss of their friend. I turned the boot upside down and shook. A large ball of fluffy boot-lining fell to the floor. Inside the ball were half a dozen tiny mouse babies.
My first instinct was now I have to raise them as my own. I was thinking mouse milk, an eyedropper, maybe a heat lamp…I realized that was unrealistic, so I had to find another alternative. I couldn’t stand the thought of watching them slip away one by one. I knew I should have put them outside to be food for some other animal, you know, circle of life and all, but I just couldn’t do it. It may sound cruel, and I still have nightmares about it, but I flushed them. As I was putting shoes back in the closet, our cat showed up looking curious. I glared at her, and asked her what-the-heck kind of cat was she, who couldn’t even do basic cat things like keep our house free of mice. I made a mental note to cut back on her cat chow.
So, after three months of living in the middle-of-nowhere, isolated, varmint-riddled, prone-to-flooding country, we put our house up for sale. One very interested buyer came back to see it a second time. It was a father with his two year old daughter. He wanted to walk the backyard to see where the property lines were, and he talked about what a great yard it was for kids. We stood talking for quite awhile, the man holding his daughter, and me trying not to look too anxious. I wanted out! We told the man how much we loved living there, and how we would really miss the peace and quiet. My eyes drifted around (which happens when I lie) and I caught some movement in the grass behind the man.
There, coming in our direction, was a five foot long black snake, which I instantly nicknamed “the deal-killer.” Now, I like to think that if the man had chosen to put his little girl down, I would have stopped him and pointed out the snake. I’m almost sure of it. Thankfully, my scruples were not to be tested, because the man and my husband started walking towards the house. I followed behind, trying to look nonchalant.
Eventually, the house sold, I kissed the country goodbye and headed back to the suburbs. Ah, the sound of barking dogs and bickering families, the sight of trash cans all lined up on the curb, the smell of burning burgers on a grill. I was home.