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