Of Mice and Grandma

     I used to laugh at my grandmother’s behavior when she spied a mouse in our house. She’d let out a bloodcurdling scream and, in a demonstration of amazing physical dexterity for a woman of 60-something, take a flying leap into the nearest chair, where she hovered in fear until the little creature--surely as stunned and frightened as she--scampered hurriedly away into the deepest recesses of the house. Following this scenario, my grandfather and brother were quickly summoned into the cursed room, usually the kitchen, to rescue her from the monster’s claws and certain bodily harm. The task then fell upon this dubious duo to rid the premises of the terrorist mouse forever.

     Using skills no doubt passed down from his own father, Grandpa baited several of those huge wooden traps, the ones with the deadly metal springs attached, and placed them in strategic places throughout the house.

     Watching him complete this procedure was fascinating for us kids, since his bait was usually small pieces of uncooked bacon or cheese placed onto the bed of the trap. We wondered why the mice were treated to these tasty tidbits when we were not allowed to partake of such rare morsels.

     While we realized the nation was heavily into its second World War and that our food was rationed, we could not make the connection that catching the rodents benefited us all so was worth the sacrifice of the rare delicacies used to bait the traps.

     Which brings me to the crux of this story: Did you know there is a very unique rodent super highway right here in the city of Stockton? If you live in Central Stockton, as I do, you might be sitting out in your backyard one evening enjoying the balmy breezes that accompany our lovely autumn weather and behold a light-footed rodent (often the size of a small dog!) deftly running along the aboveground cables that crisscross our neighborhood.

     The rats are no wimps either. They are bold and consistent in their cross-town sojourns, seeming to enjoy taking the same route to wherever it is they’re going.

     What’s more, they are smart and elusive. Unlike my grandmother, however, I cannot jump above the smoke-colored creatures, so must watch helplessly from below as they travel on, beady eyes glittering in the velvet darkness of night, along the Rodent Freeway.

     My daughter, Michelle, the gentle animal lover who once confided to me that “animals are better than people,” might take a different view of these critters. I guess I’m partly responsible for her pro-animal outlook, having taken her years ago to see the semi-horror movie “Ben”--a movie about a gentle rat who turns savage when his benefactor disses him for a woman. Hollywood even produced a sequel to that one. You might remember a very young Michael Jackson singing the title song, which made the charts. Maybe it was then that he, too, became interested in animals and ultimately wound up with his own zoo.  I wonder.

     But rats are no joke these days, especially for those who are homeless and have to vie with them for food and living quarters.  Many of these scavengers carry disease and their bites may be potentially fatal. Cities have been known to be overrun with these filth mongers and horror stories about their destructive capabilities abound.

     We sure could use a Pied Piper or two in our town...