AUTUMN is a time for tidying up the garden, making bonfires, raking up endless leaves, painting garden furniture - getting ready for the onslaught of a Slovak winter. It is also a time for field mice to head down to their local estate agents and start choosing a warm, cosy hideaway in which to take refuge for the long cold season ahead.
On this last point, my partner and Viktoria, my daughter, put their feet down and made it abundantly clear that no mice or even mouse shall take up residence in our house this winter. So they took it upon themselves to rush out and buy piles of mousetraps and other gadgets, the like of which I have never seen before, and then proceed to set them up. But what tasty morsel to use to tempt these winter intruders? The final decision, made entirely democratically by the two of them, was cheese.
I asked, "Why cheese?" and received the stern reply that all mice eat cheese, at least that is how it is on television. Now this got me wondering. Do mice really like cheese? So I got on the phone to the Agricultural University in Nitra, and also the Veterinarian University in Košice, to ask if this is indeed the case.
Well, I eventually managed to consult two experts in the field. Both of these learned professors concurred that cheese, in fact, IS NOT the preferred choice of hungry mice. These cuddly rodents actually prefer to munch on grain or nuts, and only when starving would they want to sink their sharp little teeth into a chunk of cheese. I informed my partner and Viktoria of this piece of professorial knowledge and got a resounding, "Poppycock, they don't know what they're talking about."
Far be it for me to argue with Viktoria and my partner (I gave that up a long time ago). So, last week they put "operation mousetrap", as my son Samuel christened it, into action.
Imagine, if you will, what our loft looks like. There is not one trap, nor two or three or four. No, there are, so my son informs me, no less than 27. I for one think this is excessive, but they are adamant that they wish to destroy any small furry creature that dares to hole up there.
Darwin's argument about species depending on each other for their existence was flatly rejected. He was nothing short of an idiot, they told me. Now that may be, but what he said, at least with regards to this matter, makes a whole lot of sense to me.
A few days ago, after school had finished and I was busy finishing something urgent, Viktoria came rushing into my study, screaming in an ear-splitting voice: "I've caught one, I've caught one."
Kindly, I asked her to bury it somewhere in the garden. Her reaction caused me some concern. "This vermin [háveď]," she said sternly, "doesn't deserve such a burial, I'll just throw it in the dustbin."
Later I took it out and buried the poor animal. Now I'm praying those mousetraps won't work and I'll also let you into a secret: I've been up to the loft in the last two days, setting off those darned traps. Call me soft, call me what you like, but I really hate it when people, no matter who they be, interfere with nature when it is not really necessary.
So, to conclude, let me stick up for mice. If you find them in your pantry, loft or cellar, be kind to them, buy a cat and give these unwanted tenants a sporting chance, and let them end their days in a natural way.
22. Nov 2004 at 0:00 | Bryan Reynolds