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Voiceless #3 Herding Ants and Mice?

by Joyce Johnson

We share our home with over 40 lush plants, including a giant cacti all of which are happy because they have the best spots in front of windows, and love the swamp cooler soon to be on. We have lots of rocks laying around outside of course, this is the Rockies, but some inside too which are collectible, Ron is a gemstone jewelry peddler; some are flat and smooth for my painting faces on. Our place therefore “rocks” right? Anyway...

I believe everything has a level of consciousness and native peoples of old agree with me, too. Lately life has presented me with some “little wildlife” advocacy opportunities, to teach me balance or something. I saw the first ant of the season on the wall above the kitchen sink the other day, and I said hello, instead of knee jerk “removing” it. I put a big note on the cupboard: ANT SEASON KEEP COUNTERS DRY & CLEAN (so that we wouldn’t attract any more.) Next day I saw two ants carrying tiny bread crumbs off the counter. Ron asked, “Bonnie and Clyde?” I nodded and smiled. The two busy little ants were not bank (breadcrumb) robbers, just cleaning my work space—a co-operative. Next day I saw a third ant,... uh…, Roland was his name, and oh dear, soon a few more. Bonnie and Clyde probably sent out a message, “Dear friends, here in the Giant’s cage, you don’t get instantly clobbered or sprayed with evil rain. They share food, and give you an exciting ride on their finger to the spider plant on the window sill.” And word soon got around I think, because Bob, Ted, Carol, and Alice moved in the next day. All life is a cooperative and messages each other I read.

Ants like order. Seems like another lifetime ago, in Singapore in the late 70s, and in a past PCCJ column wrote: “I left a bottle of coke on the counter with not much left at the bottom, and came back an hour later to see an orderly two-way procession of ants marching across the counter and up into the bottle and down to the bottom where they got a sugar hit, then climbed out again, went back where they came from, leaving the bottle clean, the counter bare, and not a single ant in sight.” (Seriously) What an impressive co-op ants live with us giants—a win-win! I had a new respect for all life. Anyway, I guess I have answered my own question. I will put a bottle of Ron’s almost empty root beer on the counter to see if Bonnie, Clyde, Roland, Bob, Ted, Carol & Alice, will come to... the bar for Happy Hour.

I woke up to a soft thumping sound the other night. The last time I heard that was my neighbor’s dog come to visit and she actually knocked and I was stunned and delighted. Otherwise one just never knows if the yip of distress one hears is a dream or an animal, or a beep from some appliance, or a late night burp from the smart phone I thought I had turned off. I have experienced all of that. But I laid there wishing the noise was a bear outside so I could capture it with my phone-cam, and brag about it here in the Journal. And/or try my bear horn on it, but that horn would wake up the entire valley. My mind wandered to something I read in a novel about getting rid of moles by yelling into the holes in the lawn (:-D) and wondered if I blew the bear horn in the holes, the moles (and/or voles) on my lawn would run away? Likely to my neighbor’s garden. We just have to live with some things I guess. But the mysterious thumper was likely not Gertie the Grizzly, and not worth getting up out of a cozy bed or jiggling Ron out of his sleep to check. But what was that repeated thumping? In the past, much louder, it was a creature trapped under the house. I did actually get up then, and remove a big rock on the side of the steps that hid a hole, and it stopped thumping soon, so I closed the hole again, and bingo—no more trapped critter under the house. But now fully awake a movement caught my eye, and a mouse ran across the floor at jet speed in my line of vision. “Ah ha!”

I caught... Mort the next day and put him outside, only to see,... Mindy dashing across the kitchen floor that night. She magically shape-shifted flat and disappeared into a 1/2 inch high rectangle under the dishwasher! What a cool survivor trait, but I very soon caught and escorted her outside. I plugged some brillow pad into the hole because hey can’t chew through that stuff and the soap in it tastes nasty I bet. Next day, Ron saw another one… which we shall call Mickey, just standing still on the floor in the office and I felt sad. Me thinks Mickey was missing his mates, the other two Mouseketeers? He very well might have been waving a little white flag. Ron put him in a big jar and carried him down to the line of cottonwoods above the creek, hoping he would find another forever home. (The mouse not Ron). Yes, I know, maybe it is just one mouse, come again, (and again…)

Uh Oh! I just got back from town, and must, to be honest, though sadly include the lecture I got at the mouse trap aisle in the hardware store, I wanted to buy a mouse “hotel” type trap to be more kind and release them down at the tree line, but the hardware store guy told me in strong words that “right here in river city” is Hantavirus territory and knew of people who had not survived that fever which comes from the dust of deer mouse droppings. The season is upon us. In 2023 there were 17 cases in Montana and the surround states.

My friend believed she cut to the chase by advising, “Just borrow the cat next door for a couple of days.” Three loose parakeets and a rented cat? I swooned almost and was sincerely trapped on the fence of indecision. But we are mysteriously back to two ants, and no more mice, so obviously a message went out that we are off limits. Phew!


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