We have lived in the woods since we built our house in 1987. We have had coyotes, foxes, snakes, brown recluse spiders and so on. I love all the deer, squirrels, even the raccoons and the cacophony of brilliant colored birds. Yet there is one pest that still gets the best of me every time – the dreaded, cheese-eatin’, sweater gnawing, poop trailin’ mouse! Don’t ask me why but that seems to be my animal nemesis.
I am not your typical girly-girl who can’t stand the outdoors. Quite the contrary. We camped for a week in the Okavango Delta in Zimbabwe where we got up close and personal with hippopotami, crocodiles, leopards, and stampeding elephants. We even had to sign a contract that we were aware people had been killed in this camp before and we would hold no one responsible. We had an armed guide who would walk us to our tent each night and make sure we were zipped in. I loved the excitement.
We walked in a cobra cage in Egypt, rode elephants in Bangkok, got kicked by a kangaroo in Australia, swam with the sharks at the Great Barrier Reef, slept with jackals while camping in the Kalahari Desert, and even posed for a picture with an alligator in the Everglades.
So a few days ago in the safety of my own home in south St. Louis County I am ashamed of myself for my reaction to an animal dilemma. Having just had our “Bug Doctor” exterminate our house, as he does twice a year, we were pleased to know we were bug free. However, we still had the occasional mouse that sneaks in through the basement downstairs. Our walkout here is surrounded by two acres of dense woods, so we keep the sliding doors closed at all times. My husband was sitting at the computer in our basement office as I returned from a speaking engagement one day. With satchel and laptop in hand, I greeted him and our dog with a quick kiss. Heading to the bathroom there, he nonchalantly said, “Will you check the mousetrap under the sink? I put it out because I kept hearing scratching.” As I have done so many times, I opened the cabinet. As I have not done, I screamed bloody murder, and with the dog wildly barking I slammed the door. In strolls my husband retorting, “I guess we have one?” Now thinking I have been set up for his sick jokes, like the voice activated mousetrap that still airs on America’s Funniest Home Videos, I surrendered with a “You got me!”
I know my husband’s expression and it wasn’t a gloat I saw as he opened the under-sink door himself. It was horror, mixed with disbelief, and a hint of fear. I’ve rarely seen that visage accompanied by his own guttural scream, as the time we semi-crash landed in Hong Kong with airbags deployed and luggage flying everywhere.
Knowing my husband is not a great actor and now questioning the veracity of what lay beneath the sink, I peered over his shoulder again. What I thought was a great joke – a huge rubber snake chomping on a mouse caught in the trap, was not a joke at all. Evidently the mouse had indeed been caught in the trap, but the five foot long Black Snake had gotten in through the pool pump room and had a tasty mouse served up for dinner. He obviously didn’t know he couldn’t free the mouse from the trap after he had swallowed him.
“Go get a hoe!” Bud commanded, keeping his eye on the massive writhing reptile. As if playing a role in a melodrama, I have now scooped up my dog; I am standing on the toilet, screaming like a banshee, “You go get the hoe!” As he takes off for the upstairs garage, I now realize I have left myself in a precarious position – and he left the stupid cabinet door open for me to watch “Guess Who I Had for Dinner!”
With déjà vu of the rat joke video running in my mind, I saw my bag I had just deposited right outside the bathroom door. If I could just get the nerve to step down from the toilet and sneak by the monster filling my sink cabinet, I could grab my camera and get it all on video. With a whoosh and a snatch I was back atop the toilet in a split second. Videotaping from above and without feet on the ground, I felt safe enough to watch my husband either be a hero or a martyr. I didn’t think about how ridiculous I looked or the stupidity of what I was doing until he comes running in with gloves on, a hoe in one hand and a machete in the other. Realizing what was about to take place, all I could scream out was, “Don’t kill it!” Looking at me hovering over him with dog under one arm, video on the other, I indeed captured the whole affair, up to that point. Having a minute or so of the snake with mouse and part of the mousetrap lodged in his throat, I now had my hero husband bounding in to protect his fair damsel in distress. He didn’t see it like that at all. The final seconds of the video hear him wielding a string of expletives, waiving the machete at me, grabbing the camera, and blackout!
It wasn’t the ending I had anticipated. Let’s just say this will not appear on America’s Funniest Videos.
Dr. Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, is one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which followed her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. Her web site is www.pepperseed.org.