After months of trying, I finally eradicated the population of mice and rats inhabiting the nooks and crannies of my walls and attics.
It was quite a job, I can tell you. Anyone with a house as old as mine can attest, they’re rodent magnets.
Well, after months of toiling with glue traps, sunflower seed kernels for bait (best there is) and the occasional foray with a .22 Winchester rifle in the neighborhood of a century old (it was my great-grandfather’s…straightest-shooting dang thing I ever saw) loaded with bird shot, and an unfortunate attempt at poisons, I had ‘em rousted.
It was a peaceful few months: No galloping in the ceilings. No gnawing in the walls. Occasionally, when I was in the workshop, they’d get in a quarrel in that ceiling, bickering and squeaking and fussing and scrambling and it was all I could do to keep myself from getting a shotgun and blowing the ceiling to pieces. Rodents will do that to you, after awhile. Drive a man crazy with all the racket.
Of course, with cooler weather settling in, they started moving back in. Now, renovations to my secondary bathroom in the back of the house have necessitated me opening the ceiling in two places, and I haven’t completed enough construction to close them back up yet.
Middle of one night, I awoke to a sound I couldn’t quite identify. It’s a strange thing, lying in the dark in a 160-year-old house listening to something you can’t determine the source of in the back. My calico cat, Patches, is curled up next to me, and she’s looking out the bedroom door, too, ears perked at the sound.
Finally I realize what I’m hearing is mice, who apparently have organized a soccer game in the area near the bathroom being worked on.
"Well?" I ask the cat in a whisper. "Why don’t you do something cat-like?"
She looked at me and yawned.
"No, I’m serious," I said. "You need to earn your keep around here, young lady. Go!" I said in a loud whisper, if you can imagine that. "Sic ‘em!"
She stood, arced her back in a luxurious stretch, turned around three times, then settled in to go back to sleep.
Frustrated, I nudged her with my foot. "Go get ‘em, dangit!"
At this she whirled around, leaped on my foot under the covers and attacked with teeth and claws for a vigorous and painful split instant, then sailed off the foot of the bed and into the front room of the house, thereby avoiding the half-time show going on in the back.
So realizing I was on my own, I went the next day and purchased more traps and sunflower seed kernels.
"Mothballs," my pal who used to be an exterminator told me. "Put ‘em around the edge of the house, up on the rafters in the garage. They hate the smell of it."
I’m sure they do. I hate the smell of mothballs. But it sounded like a good idea. So I bought a box of "old fashioned" mothballs. Then I got to wondering what mothballs are made of.
Here’s what I found on the Internet: "Older mothballs consisted primarily of naphthalene, but due to naphthalene's flammability, modern mothballs use 1,4-dichlorobenzene instead. Both of these ingredients have a strong, pungent odor often associated strongly with mothballs. Camphor, an insect repellent, can be used in mothballs also."
Now, I am strongly nervous about using any chemical that has five syllables in its name, but figured I’d give in just this once.
However, my mothballs were advertised as "old fashioned" so I wondered if they were using the older chemical? I tried to read the box, but the printing was so small I couldn’t make out the words, so I gave up.
I’ve therefore set out traps and mothballs, and am hoping to free myself once again from the invasion of vermin. I’ve loaded the Winchester with birdshot and it stands in the corner of the workshop ready for action. Meanwhile, the cat is napping on the sofa oblivious to all this.
One night I was watching television and I heard a crashing sound in the back, followed by a squeaking and scurrying. I jumped up and ran back there, and Patches was hauling tail the opposite direction. I looked around and saw no signs of a scuffle, but she didn’t come out from her hiding place for hours. I don’t know whether I scared her by running back to see what was going on, or she got her behind whupped by whatever she tangled with. A frightening thought, but she’s only a little lady, after all. I called her a "toy calico" (you know, like "toy poodle" or "teacup Chihuahua") once in reference to her size, and she got so offended she pouted for a week.
And believe me, Patches can pout like nobody’s business. She exudes pouting. She just seethes and teems with it. She could be sitting on a tread of the stairwell ignoring you and you say something like, "How’s my wittle Patchy-watchy, hmm?"
She’ll turn her head so far away from you she’ll make you think she’s part owl, and the back of her head with those two laid back ears will just scream silently: POUT!
Oh, and about those bathroom renovations. So far, I’ve put up two new walls. I’ve put down a cement board underlayment subfloor thingy, something I hope I never have to endure again. Nasty stuff to mess with. I’ve also installed and run the wiring for a vent light in the ceiling and a vanity light over the mirror, ready for my electrician to hook up for me. Doesn’t sound like much for a couple months work, but believe me, in this old house, just getting the smallest thing accomplished is sometimes like moving a mountain. Next I’ll do the paneling and close in the ceiling, then start installing the fixtures. I’ve got a lot left, but it’s coming along.