When I was a kid I’d gather Texas horned lizards (horny toads we called them) in Oklahoma, toss them in fluorescent beech pails, and “feed them” sticks and grass. They’d bleed from their eyes, a defense mechanism, and I’d get disinterested and run off to kick over anthills—the preferred food source of the lizards / toads. I didn’t use magnifying glasses to burn ants or dismember grasshoppers, like some friends. And I always let the toads go after a day or two. Here, I think, is where my respect for wildlife began.
In early December, last month, our clothes weren’t getting dry in the machine. I know, use a clothesline. Let’s skip that. Turns out we had mice in our dryer vent duct, so we took down the whole 20′ line over the course of a day, cleaned out the nest, wiped away the urine, sprayed rubbing alcohol on everything, and for days wore eau de mouse. Multiple trips to hardware stores ensued, too, and now despite my best efforts the mice are back.
Obviously a nest in the line is a fire hazard, but in the back of my head I keep thinking how I could maybe, just maybe live with the mice. Maybe a faux line just for them? Do mice carry plague? I wonder if I had lawn instead of a wild garden all around the exterior vent, if there’d be no mice—it’s perfect cover from most predators, and we have kitchen scraps in an open compost pile nearby.
Nature is a nuisance much of the time for most of us, even those reading and posting on this blog (you can argue, but unless you live naked in an oak tree I won’t believe you). It’s a nuisance for me right now—I don’t like my laundry room or clothes smelling like mouse lemonade. My dad suggested building an enclosure outside for the cats, forcing the issue. I think I might see if hawks are sold at pet stores, keeping it green, tooth and claw.
When we took down the dryer duct last month my wife was careful to rescue the lone mouse—I’d proposed just letting it fall to the ground, set out traps, and get it in a day or two via some Skippy. Now, I bet my electric screwdriver it’s the same one nesting in the line again, and so I ordered a fancy new $20 exhaust vent made of plastic, overnighted via UPS from Amazon, spewing carbon emissions on its way to me. I built the garden for you, sir mouse, not the house, and look what you’ve done. Nature belongs in its place, defined neatly and cleanly. That’s what a garden is, even a wildlife one. Right?