How was I inspired to write my book, Mouse in the Manger? I recalled the mangers in the stalls in the barn where I released two baby mice. Here’s the whole story.
Halfway down the long spooky dark hall upstairs was a door on the left with a step down into the space under the roof. There was only one window in the wall at the far end of the attic, so it was always dimly lit because there were no lights. The chimney from the fireplace below came up through the center, and behind the chimney an unused stairwell led down to the dining room.
The attic had plenty of headroom to walk in the narrow path around the chimney and stairs. The path was narrow because the room was filled with chests and trunks and shelves full of treasures of four generations. There were trunks of clothes, and linens, and boxes of seashells from Grandma’s time in Florida. Toys overflowed the shelves on the left — toy guns, a small wooden cart, blocks, Tinker Toys, model planes, comic books and puppets. A heavy wooden bi-plane emblazoned with “The Spirit of St. Louis” hung from the ceiling by the chimney.
A pile of old mattresses in the corner by the window gave me a place to curl up to read or dream, or listen to the blowflies buzzing by the window. I was in the attic, lying on the pile of old discarded mattresses in the corner reading a Dick Tracey Big Little Book when I heard a faint squeaking. I traced the sound to a chest of drawers by the stairwell. The squeaking stopped when I slowly pulled the bottom drawer way out. There it was! Tucked way in the back of the bottom drawer was a wad of shredded paper, wool, and cloth bits fashioned into a perfect rectangle so it exactly fit the space, and looked right in place with the old clothes in front of it. Was this a mouse nest in our chest of drawers?
I carefully parted one end of the nest, and pulled the top back to see inside. Wow! There, nestled in the smooth interior compartment were two tiny pink baby mice. Their pink skin had no fur, and their eyes were not yet open. Oh, oh! We had caught a mouse in a trap in the back room. Could that have been their mother? I called Mom to see. Mom told me that it didn’t matter if mother mouse was gone or not, because now that I had touched the nest, my scent would be there, and she would not return.
Obviously, mice were too destructive to have living in the house. I could only imagine where all the cloth and wool, and bits of many things had come from to make the nest. I hoped the shredded paper was not one of my favorite comic books. But how would we dispose of these tiny helpless newborn mice? I couldn’t imagine Daddy squishing them under his boot. Maybe we could flush them down the toilet? It would be impossible to feed such tiny things, even if we did want to save them.
I didn’t figure on Mom’s incredible compassion for little creatures, and her ingenuity. My sister had a baby doll with its own little baby bottle that actually worked. With Mom’s patience and steady hand, she managed to entice the baby mice to drink her milk and honey formula from that little bottle. Daddy shook his head in disbelief, but Mom nursed and cared for those mice until their eyes were open, and they were trying to climb out of their box.
I let them go in the barn where there were lots of mice. The barn was the perfect place. They could do no harm, and there was no one to harm them. They scampered free to live happily ever after!
MICE ARE NICE
Do you hear sounds around your house,
That you suspect might be a mouse?
Just think about these little mice,
And you’ll agree that mice are nice.
The average mouse is very small;
He hardly eats much food at all.
He rarely makes a squeaking sound,
While he’s sneaking all around.
A Kangaroo mouse is really cute.
He has big ears and feet to boot.
With little itsy bitsy toes,
And whiskers all around his nose.
His shiny eyes can see at night.
His tail is long, and quite a sight.
He likes to sneak around the house,
Because he’s timid as a mouse.
Chocolate is his favorite treat,
But cheese is always good to eat.
I hope imagination will suffice,
For you to think that mice are nice.