As many pet rodents as I’ve had–I always have a soft spot for the wild mouse.

We worked a hazelnut orchard growing up. I think my stepdad managed it for a portion of the harvest. It was soooo boring as a child but as an adult I think I was pretty lucky to have the experience. Not many people can say they drove tractor at the age of 7 (I was too small to keep up with anything else). I would bounce along in the seat humming songs in my head while the bigger people ran around pruning or harvesting or fertilizing. When I needed to go faster my stepdad would jump on push down the clutch for me (still to small or maybe to scared to do it myself) switch gears, the tractor would jump forward and I would hold on for dear life because I am sure we were going about 80 [10] miles an hour. I only ever hit a tree once–which is less than most. Though I did almost flip a pickup truck–but that is another story.

So it was hard work: harvesting, fertilizing, killing gophers, tantrums, exploring. During busy seasons we would sometimes stay the weekend and sleep in an old trailer that stood on deflated tires and blocks at the edge of the property. It smelled like mice.

The orchard was full of mice everywhere and after we were done for the day I kept myself busy hunting them in wood piles, fields but especially the trailer. I am not sure if you have smelled mice or mice nests but its a very distinct, earthy, pungent, sweet odor. Like faded old people perfume gone awry.

I could track that scent, any movement and I was small so I could squeeze into the tiniest corners getting mice–I was a way better mouser than a cat. Of course I never had any intention of killing them. BUT they would become my pets for the day before releasing them deeper in the orchard which, to them, was probably worse.

The best adventure came when my stepdad found a mouse nest with babies–live babies. I think we had found some before but usually the babies were dead. This was exciting–unbelievably exciting. I got to spend the day mothering pink squirmy things with no eyes in their disgusting nest.

Also–usually nests like this got thrown in the ever-present bonfire. Not today! Nope, I was the savior of the mouse babies. I cooed over the pink things for awhile then negotiated their release. My stepdad said I could move the nest to the woodpile where I was sure mom mouse would find them or someone in the mouse city below the woodpile would take care of them. Sure…..Hey- I was 8 or maybe 10, reality hadn’t quit sunk in.




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