Years later. Another farmhouse. Mice, no cats. I was visiting faculty at a New England college for a year and shared a big farmhouse on the bucolic campus with colleagues who commuted from the city to teach classes and one who was permanently installed in a big section of the house. Second semester he would go on leave and I took over his spacious digs, but at first I had a smaller room upstairs,
We had mice. And this time I couldn't get a good mouser cat because my housemates might object and, after all, I was there only for one academic year. I never saw a mouse, not even mouse droppings, but every morning I saw their handiwork.
At this phase of my life I was (over)indulging in pot -- not to be too hard on myself, many of my colleagues, though none of my housemates, were overindulging in booze. So there was always a bag of weed somewhere in my room, waiting to be seeded and rolled. I started noticing little holes in the plastic bag.
At first I was perplexed. But soon enough I figured out mice were getting into my herb at night. Were I a cartoonist, I'd do a short animated film, shot from a mouse's p.o.v., showing this schleppy guy coming home, rolling a doobie and taking a couple of hits, turning off the lights and getting in bed for the night. That's when the mice would come out and tear into the bag on the night table. After a very short while, mice digestion being fast given their minuscule size, they'd start feeling the buzz.
My cartoon would show them carrying one of my Beny More (a stoner back in the 50s) LPs put it on my turntable and some of them dancing, showing off their salsa moves. On a corner a guy mouse in a sharp suit would be laying a smooth rap on a lady mouse in a sexy dress. They'd find some of my wine too and toast to my generosity. Eventually they'd be too buzzed and would pass out, getting up and staggering back into their burrows in the morning as the guy in the bed would wake, stagger to go brush his teeth and wonder about the holes in his bag of weed. End of cartoon.
So these were stoner mice. Figured. We were in a college campus. Maybe they were auditing art classes too. I came up with a plan where the mice could have their pot and I could smoke it too. I cleaned all the grass. Then I took the seeds and put them on a bowl I set on a table. I put away the bag. Sure enough, in the morning I found some of the seeds had been shelled, the rich insides consumed.
I wasn't the only one giving offerings to the mice. One of my housemates was a dance teacher from the city who was a Buddhist or something. He'd never dream of unleashing cats on the mice, never mind setting mouse traps. Instead, he left food for them every night, possibly by some sort of altar. My colleague and housemate who occupied the spacious apartment in the house was a Frenchman who was an atheist or something. He was horrified by the dance teacher's reverence for mouse life. "He's feeding the 'ghrats'," he'd say in disgust. No point telling him these were no rats, merely field mice, as in any farmhouse -- some of the fields on the campus were actually cultivated. I was feeding them too, feeding their recreational needs.
I spent the rest of the year in peace with the rodents. I partied, so did they. Was it good for either. Possibly not. I don't do any of those things now: smoke pot, share hemp seeds with mice, keep cats, teach college. I do live in the country. Polite cats saunter up the road and go to the barn to hunt mice and rats. I guess, for I've seen none. A pair of hawks, male and female, nest in the trees and they too hunt for small game. At night, owls do. Nature is wondrous and violent and balanced. I don't even drink wine. But I remember. And write.