It’s that special time of year. It’s the time of year when temperatures drop and snow falls. It’s the time of year to snuggle up in front of the fireplace (if you’re lucky) with some hot tea and a good book (okay, Netflix). It’s the time of year to watch a field mouse scamper across your floor. Wait, what?
Yes, just as you seek the shelter of your toasty abode, so do the local little critters. We all love living in Colorado because we love nature. But unfortunately, that nature sometimes wants to join us indoors. Small varmints seem to especially like older homes with their cracks and crevices – the types of homes in which my family likes to live.
Currently I see mouse droppings outside by our coal chute that tells me field mice are trying to get inside. (In case you don’t know what a coal chute is, it’s a little door about a foot square at ground level outside of old houses where folks used to have coal delivered for heating.) Mice used to wedge through the door’s gaps and scootch into our basement until we tightly sealed the chute with weather stripping.
But I think decades of generations of mice using this chute like a revolving door has ingrained it hereditarily into their teeny brains, and even after our six years here they still can’t believe they can’t get in it anymore. I imagine these irritated mice in late fall stamping their cute little feet in frustration, super perturbed they can’t shimmy in through the door cracks. (Historic easement rights get nullified when you poop on floors.)
When we first moved into this house there also were squirrels in the attic. It’s a lovely thing when you’re tucked in bed all snug on a cold winter’s night and you hear scratching and skittery fighting above your head. Soooo relaxing. We found the little hole under an eve where these fuzz faces were squeezing into the attic and patched it up, and relocated our uninvited houseguests to a lovely tree-filled spot in open space.
Unfortunately, another intruder did not fair as well. During remodeling, we opened up a wall and found an electrocuted and petrified squirrel that must have been there for decades. He died chewing on a now defunct electrical wire (a common cause of squirrel demise), thus I dubbed him “Sparky” before we gave him a proper sendoff.
In the first old house we lived in when our boys were small we had no idea we had a varmint issue. One day our oldest son, then about six, told me to come to the upstairs playroom and see his buddy Bob the squirrel, who I assumed was a Beanie Baby. He told me Bob was eating raisins and getting them all over the place, making such a mess. Messy Bob!
Turned out Bob was not a Beanie Baby. Turned out Bob was a real squirrel that got in through a loose cable wall plate. And Bob certainly wasn’t eating raisons; he was crazily running around and pooping all over the place. Meanwhile our boys were gleefully watching him, jumping up and down on the couch while screaming with delight. They were a bit upset when we relocated Bob (again, to open space). I’m not sure how spoiled suburban Bob faired in the great outdoors. We can only hope for the best.
Presently we are mouse-less and squirrel-less in our home. It’s blessedly quiet. But give it time. Nature’s little critters are pretty determined to join our comfortable lodgings. Who can blame them? It’s pretty cozy in here.
By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn is a Colorado freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected].