Mouse 49½

For some years now, I have been displaying the latest score in the Rodent Wars in the sidebar on the Gruts home page [removed since this post was written]. I use the plural because the wars are seasonal, with Open Season beginning, as these things tend to, on the Glorious Twelfth. The new season has already seen a lot of action, with good old homo sapiens continuing to hold the upper hand.

The wars began on Sunday, 13th October, 2002 (rather appropriately, Margaret Thatcher's 77th birthday). I recorded the great event for posterity a couple of days later in a letter to Stense:

This Sunday, Jen was rooting round in a food cupboard and uncovered clear evidence that we had a mouse. Half a (very large) bar of Milky Bar chocolate had been demolished. Ordinarily, I'd have let bygones be bygones, but I'm particularly partial to Milky Bar, so this meant war…

I then remembered that I'd seen a Little Nipper mousetrap behind the kickboards in the kitchen, so I dug it out and loaded it up with Milky Bar. The following morning, the chocolate had gone, but the trap remained unsprung. Clearly, I was dealing with a wily rodent here. So last night we tried a new strategy, viz. Toblerone. Ten minutes after we'd retired to bed last night, I heard the trap snap shut…

Since then, it has been all-out (albeit seasonal) warfare. As the above quote demonstrates, in the early days, the campaign was fairly evenly matched: sometimes the mice escaped (one point to the furry fiends), sometimes the mouse was caught (one point to the human beings). But, as we have became more battle-hardened, Jen and I have become much better at setting our trap: it has been over two years since the mice scored a single point against us. But still they come.

Yesterday morning, the Rodent Wars reached a major milestone: mouse 49½.

The ½ is a particular sore point with Jen, who believes she earned the full point. I explained how the half point arose in another letter to Stense written a month later:

I told you about the mice, didn't I? We trapped two a couple of weeks back, then didn't catch any more, so we thought we'd got rid of them. Then we noticed fresh droppings (or spoor as we big game hunters tend to think of the stuff). So we set the trap again and caught another mouse last Saturday night. We set the trap again on Sunday night and, on Monday morning, we came down to the kitchen to find the empty mouse trap sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, six feet from where we'd left it. No sign of any mouse. No sign, that is, until Jen picks up her work bag in the hall and sees something moving inside… She puts the bag on the kitchen work top and steps back, and this mouse climbs out of the bag and sits on top of it looking at us kind of sleepily. So Jen grabs an empty pint glass and a magazine and catches the cheeky little bugger! She then releases it into the adjacent field, singing the theme song from Born Free. I think we'll call that one a draw.

What do you think? Should catching a mouse with a glass and magazine, as if it were nothing more than a wasp, have earned Jen the full point? Or, should the mouse have got the point for avoiding the trap and coming out of the ordeal alive? Or was I right to call it a draw?

(I made up the Born Free bit, by the way.)

See also: Dispatches from the Rodent Wars

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. Methinks that would depend on whether you feel the need to dispatch the little blighters to join the choir invisible, or whether leaving them to squeak another day would be the preferred option.

    We once had 2 tame rats, called Skip & Flip (because they loved cherry pie)....what's the connection? you may ask (or not as the case may be)

  2. 1950's US "Pop Duo" - Top 20 Hit with Cherry Pie

    Clyde "Skip" Battin & Gary "Flip" Paxton

  3. Re. homing mice: my dad tried a humane trap under his floor last year and after catching a seemingly endless stream of mice, decided to mark the scruff of their necks with white paint. Lo and behold, mice that had been released in fields hundreds of yards away ended up back under the floor, in the trap. It occurred to him that something resourceful enough to find its way home really shouldn't fall into the same trap twice. I must ask him how it was resolved.

  4. I wanted to do a similar experiment re. the homing ability of the slugs I frequently sling over the garden wall, but I couldn't think of a way to tag them.

  5. I once owned a ball baring mouse trap (a tom cat)!

    Skip Battin was also a member of The Byrds at one time & he also invented the nail gun.

  6. No, it was Jimmy Nail who invented the Nail Gun. I can see why you would confuse him with Skip Battin, though - an easy mistake to make.

    By a strange coincidence, the Sten Gun was invented by Sten(se)'s great-great-grandmother, Brenda Stense. She also invented the Bren Gun. Her maternal great-great-grandfather was Tommy Gattling. He came from Enfield, and lived to the ripe old age of 303.

  7. Acknowledges applause, waves & exits stage left.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *