Even the mice understand the stay-at-home order
Burt's Eye View
We ran barefoot that summer day at my cousin Dale’s farm. We were explorers or pirates or spies — I forget which — on a secret mission through the cow pasture.
Why we were barefoot in a cow pasture, I don’t recall. Barefoot in a cow pasture is not the most intelligent choice a 9-year-old boy can make. Those were carefree days. We didn’t spoil them by burdening ourselves with loads of logic or common sense. What fun would that be?
Still, barefoot in a cow pasture?
Pastures are splattered with nasty surprises — thistles, burrs and stickers. Cows love them.
But a boy making a misstep onto one of those prickly plants mutates from stealthy ninja to screaming pole-vaulter in a nanosecond. No pole needed.
It was the kind of metamorphosis we kids hoped to witness. In others. As spectators only.
Another quirk about pastures: Cows are always dropping things in them. They’re not particular about where those droppings land.
While the bovine leavings are soft, squishy between the toes and not prickly at all, it’s best to step around them. Moms launch into noisy lectures when kids run into the house after tromping through cow pies.
Maybe that’s why I stood on a rock in the middle of the pasture that day. I don’t recall. Perhaps I was a scout, scanning the plains for sneak attacks. Or maybe the sun-baked rock felt soothing on bare feet full of stickers.
Blades of tall grass swishing in the gentle breeze tickled the top of my foot.
“Snake,” Dale said.
I scouted more intently from the top of Lookout Rock, barely noticing the wriggling grass. “I don’t see any,” I reported.
Dale pointed. “On your foot. You’ve got a snake.”
I looked. The blade wasn’t grass at all. An 18-inch squirmy, brown-and-tan garter snake — or possibly an 80-foot-long anaconda; who can tell about those things at moments like that? — slithering across my feet.
Dale said later, when he caught up to me four miles later, that I nearly set the barefoot jet-propulsion standing high-jump record. Only the snake flew higher. It wasn’t wearing shoes, either.
That’s when my general suspicion of wildlife and its intentions began. It also was the last time I ventured outside without shoes. And a baseball bat.
My thoughts strayed to that snake of long ago while dealing with more suspicious wildlife. A mouse has decided to shelter in place in my place.
It’s a little puff of gray that scurries across the floor right as I’m taking a startled step.
The critter has dined well the past week on peanut butter-and-marshmallow bait without tripping the mousetrap. When it fattens up, it’ll be heavy enough to trip the trap trigger and be returned to the wild where such life belongs.
In the meantime, I’ve taken to wearing shoes in the house, including to bed and in the shower.
I have not tried to break my personal best in the wildlife high jump. I’m not discounting such an athletic endeavor should the fuzzball skitter the 40-yard dash across my foot. If it does, I might break the snake’s record — right through the roof.
— Send wildlife advice by carrier mouse to firstname.lastname@example.org, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @burtonwcole on Twitter.