The sudden, distant “snap” sound as I was trying to get to sleep reminded me of a rather unusual (I was going to say “odd”, but what follows involves Dudley, and is therefore always odd) conversation I had with my pal Dudley some 20 or more years ago. Dud, like me, had been a hunter for a good part of his life, and we were talking about our “old timer’s” view of hunting. This involved ammunition ads in Field and Stream and other magazines where men in red plaid shirts sat smoking pipes next to a quaint fireplace (always lit and warming, of course) with ancient bamboo fly rods and lever-action carbine rifles readily at hand. That was how my generation seemed to see the “outdoorsman’s life”.
Well, Dud was saying how he missed those days at hunting camp, and the associated adventures we had there. “And I still have a hunt every fall,” he said, “even though I gave up the camp and quit going to the woods.” Obviously I had to ask how he hunted without going to the woods. “Mice.” He was actually straight-face and serious when he said this, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“Oh, yeah!”, he said. “Every fall the damn things come into the house from the field across the street, and they scare the bejeebers outa the wife!” He got that far away look in his eye that meant a story was coming and I had to hear the rest. “So, missing the fall hunt as I do, I grab the kid’s old BB rifle and park my butt in a corner of the kitchen and I hunt ’em.” He was actually enjoying the mental image as he related the details. “It’s me against them,” he said. “I sit real quiet and after a while the critters think I’m gone and begin to move. They’ll stick their nose out from behind the stove or the cupboard just far enough to look around.” He was seriously into the story by this time: “I studied them over the years, and they always do the same things. They smell the food and water in the kitchen, and that’s always where I get ’em.”
Now, you have to know Dud to understand this, but to him this all seemed like a mini hunting trip and he was glad to recount his adventure. “I hate to brag, (actually Dudley LOVES to brag about just about everything) but even with the simple sights on a kid’s BB gun, I usually managed to get them all. I even got seven in one season two years ago!” He was absolutely beaming at that marvelous feat! “Damn wife still sets the traps, so I sometimes don’t get them all myself, but most years it’s down to me to outsmart the things and get rid of them.” (I should say here that I’m sure that, except for Mickey – who made Walt Disney the Donald Trump of comic books, I believe Dud could outsmart any mouse I ever met.)
He went on to explain how he’d sit for two or three hours at a time, waiting for his quarry to show itself. His wife insisted he was insane (which she still often does), and once accused him of trying to kill her with the BB gun when a ricochet tapped the wall next to her. His son also thought he was crazy, but he was a teen when he said that and all teens think the old man is crazy. But apparently this annual hunt for the dreaded mice went on for several years until it was noticed that one of the rare(?) misses had hit the gas line running to his stove and his wife said she’d leave him if he fired it in the house again. She was afraid he’d blow the house up if he hit the gas line in just the wrong way. It was useless trying to explain that the lead pipe running gas to the stove wasn’t likely to be damages by an air rifle.
And so ended Dudley’s last desperate attempt to keep the sporting life alive. He doesn’t talk about it much, and I probably won’t tell him my trap has bagged three of the critters this “season”. And at least once one of the sly little creeps has eaten all the peanut butter off the trap WITHOUT setting it off. That, of course has MY wife speculating about evolved, intelligent mice who can outwit man-made traps. I don’t want to tell Dud about her theory, because he’d bring a lunch and set up a stand in my kitchen and we’d have to eat out for weeks until he was convinced we were rodent-free. Sigh! I guess once a thing is romanticized and gotten under your skin, it will always be with you.