Nelson: Pesky pests

Farm Forum

Our farmhouse has been pestered by pests this fall. And no, I don’t mean traveling salesmen, which, according to federal law, homeowners can repel with flamethrowers.

The kind of pests I am referring to are hairy, smelly and have deplorable bathroom habits. There’s only room for one such creature in our house and that’s me!

We’re talking about mice, of course. But if only it were only mice! Our recent spate of homestead invaders involved multiple species.

It all began with our autonomic biological rodent control system, also known as our barn cat, Sparkles.

Sparkles has been described by everyone who knows her (my wife and me) as “cute” and “cuddly.” Her fur is soft as chinchilla and she’s affectionate on a level that’s almost obsessive for a cat. But beneath that fluffy cuddliness beats the heart of a stone-cold murderer. We know this is so because she often leaves grisly evidence of her nocturnal killing sprees on our deck.

“Good kitty!” I’ll chime whenever we find a mutilated mouse corpse.

“Bad kitty!” exclaims my wife. “That’s icky!”

“Sparkles is just telling us that she cares,” I’ll point out. “She’s saying ‘I know that you guys suck at hunting, so here you go. You’re welcome.’”

We don’t expect Sparkles to make her entire living by rubbing out mice, so we provide a cat food stipend. She recently seemed to be going through a lot of cat food even though she remained as thin as a McDonald’s French fry. I decided to set a live trap near our house.

The trap soon caught a couple of wildcats who had obviously been cadging from Sparkles’ dish. One of them was rust-colored, so you might say that it was a ferrous feral feline.

The cats were released many miles from our farmstead. Wildcats can break the sound barrier when they explode out of a live trap.

Then things got worse. One morning when I checked the trap, it contained a 15-pound rat.

At least that was my first impression. Closer examination proved that the creature was actually a possum. Possums are the ugliest things. My theory is that this is because they are part reptile.

I disposed of the possum and reset the trap and the next morning it contained a raccoon.

This was not a cute and fuzzy masked bandit as seen in family cartoons. This raccoon was scruffy and debauched, no doubt a recent resident of skid row.

We don’t expect Sparkles to defend the homestead from critters that outweigh her. That’s Sandy’s job.

Sandy is our golden retriever. He’s supposed to be our watchdog, but he greets strangers by happily wagging his tail and eagerly licking their hands. The only way he could repel a burglar would be if the guy happened to be allergic to dog slobber.

But we forgave Sandy for letting his guard down regarding these recent interlopers. He was probably preoccupied with more important things such as licking himself or chewing on that expensive dog pillow we bought for him.

Cat food consumption plummeted after capturing the varmints. But then things got worse.

One evening there came a rustling sound from the laundry room. I can usually convince my wife that such noises are the house settling or the fridge defrosting or the furnace and the water heater engaging in some “basement talk.” But this noise had a distinctly mousy quality.

We’re hardened veterans in the war on mice and always have a supply of glue traps on hand. We set out some sticky boards and soon caught three mice. Then things got worse.

Panicked by the mouse invasion, my wife purchased a bushel of glue traps and placed them all over the house. Walking became hazardous as we must now navigate the maze of gummy cards that have a keen affinity for socks.

Four more mice were quickly caught, so we opted to bring in a professional rodent elimination specialist: Sparkles.

We took her to the laundry room and she inspected the premises with great interest. She paused at certain spots and stared at them with the intensity of a miner panning for gold. At length she looked up at us with an expression that seemed to say, “Yup, there’ve been mice in here. For the right price, I can show them the error of their ways – if you know what I mean. It would be a shame if your nice socks got chewed up by those nasty little buggers. You may pet me now.”

There have been no new sightings or captures for some days now. But I’m concerned about my wife’s anxiety level regarding this pest invasion because she’s been asking how to operate the flamethrower.

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at His new book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at and at booksellers everywhere.