Mouse Olympics

People are often surprised I go to the cabin by myself, and often doubt the wisdom of this.   My boyfriend is just happy to get me and my relentless nervous energy out the house when I’m not working.  My soul craves movement and the open road always….


I love being at the cabin alone.  It gives me time to think and reset.  Dive into the endless chores and manual labor that I so enjoy about being out in nature and the homesteading environment of the cabin.  I like that I am only on MY agenda.


No guests to entertain, no trying to decide on an activity that will make everyone happy, and no battle of wills with my boyfriend over chores versus relaxation…!  See I love the chores.  Love the stacking of wood, testing my mettle with a wrench, and seeing how many uses I can come up with for Gorilla Glue.  (You’d be surprised.)


I can do whatever I want, when I want.

Sometimes that involves trying to carry an immovable large stump by myself, sometimes that involves rearranging all the lamps in the cabin in a creative mission to come up with a better lighting aesthetic, and sometimes that involves enjoying a whole bottle of wine by myself in front of the fire with a good book and no commitments.


It was on one of these nights that I realized the cold snap had become frigid enough that it had become “critters inside the cabin” season again.  The one reason that I sometimes regret my decision to go it alone is the proverbial “bump in the night”.


It’s interesting how the different seasons of the cabins each involve their own set of natural invaders to get accustomed to and deal with.


In the spring it’s the massive explosion of spiders that coat the exterior in a fine glistening web of terror, in the summer it’s the gnats and moths beating against the window trying to get near the shimmer of the lamp light, in the late fall it’s the small, soft, rodents trying to escape the cold outside by finding there way into the walls of the cabin, and in the winter everything goes silent except for the wind.  Which is why it may be my favorite of all the seasons at the cabin.



You see there is a space in the windows where the panes drop into the wall.  This small, tiny really, crawl space that has become the refuge of the rodent kingdom and also an object of terror for me.


The first fall season in the cabin upon hearing something nosing around in the wall, I didn’t actually think it could get into the room, that is until it poked it’s furry head out right next to the bed!  img_3130

I wish I could explain the level of terror I felt when confronted with this little beastie right in my face.  Why does this scare us so much, this confrontation which such a small creature that probably wouldn’t harm us?

I think for me it’s the knowing that it could jump on me at anytime.  The knowledge that it is in there with me and completely out of my control.  That night he popped his head up, I screamed, he dropped to the floor.

Well that at least was an improvement.  From my perch in the very high bed that was custom made for the cabin I can keep my feet off the floor, no problem!


This night though there was a different sound in play.  I had mentioned to the neighbors the night before that I thought I heard something up on the roof.  They assured me it was probably just tree branches falling from the wind, or maybe a squirrel.  I concluded that their thinking was sound and didn’t investigate further.

Until the next night when I heard it again, crawling around in the small water heater shed attached to the bedroom.  Then I heard it hit the metal shower wall HARD.

Ok, obviously something larger then a mouse had gotten into the shed.  Was it a raccoon?  Was it a squirrel?  Mountain lion?  Nah, too big.  Should I open the door and have a look?


Regardless it was in the exterior shed not inside my room so I could probably just leave it alone and chase it out in the morning.  Let it get a cozy night sleep as well.


The shed that had a small door that led into my bedroom was also adjacent to my actual bedroom closet as well.  I heard the noise shift into the top of my closet.  Crap.  It’s inside now.  It also sounded like it was gnawing on something.

I felt like I was in one of the Edgar Allan Poe stories that I had so loved reading as child.  The thing is, when one is alone in a cabin in the woods one does try to avoid scary stories and horror movies of all kinds.  Disney classics are the better way to prepare yourself for a night alone, maybe some Jane Austin, and Indiana Jones thrown in for good measure.  I’m not opposed to Star Wars or Harry Potter, although both of those have sufficiently creepy enough bad guys that they are even borderline.  I try to avoid reading any Stephen King novels before a trip alone.


As a young pre-teen my parents used to have some of our slightly older friends from dancing school come over to watch us when they were all out together at an event.  Normally a Mardi Gras Ball during the colder months of the year.  These friends that were our sitters thought it was really “fun” to sit in the creepy Victorian room in our house complete with sadistic looking old dolls and read scary stories to us.

The dolls had patch work faces with parts rubbed off with age and use, sitting in Victorian strollers that I was always convinced would some how shift forward when I wasn’t looking.  This room was decked out completely in Victorian pink, as if the dolls weren’t scary enough….


We would sit on the floor with our backs leaned against the old radio cabinet and they would read to us out of Stephen King’s “Night Shift” collection.  “The Boogeyman” was a favorite, “The Mangler” was always good for a laugh, and of course for a nice cold night “Sometimes They Come Back” was always a real charmer.


I decided the best offense was a defense.  Perhaps I could scare “it” outside.  Instead of “it” scaring ME to death.  I grabbed the paddle off the wall and a flashlight, banged on the outside of the closet, and slipped the door open armed for a battle.  Typical to all scary stories, there was nothing there.  I did however realize there was a basket at the top of the closet and that’s what, “it”, whatever it was, was enjoying a late night snack on.


I removed the basket, looked around the closet, satisfied that there was nothing there, closed the door and climbed into bed.

There was silence for a bit.  I thought my plan had worked and “whatever it was” had moved onto greener pastures.  Until I heard a scurrying from overhead and saw this long tail with a tuft on the end hanging off the side of the wooden rafter beam directly above the bed.

I wonder how long it took me to get out of the bed, grab the paddle, and scream my way through the French doors and into the living room.  That wasn’t a mouse!  It had to be a rat!

As I shined my flashlight at it, he turned around and looked at me with large ears and a mouse face.  So not a rat.  But not a regular mouse either.  This was a bonafide CRITTER!  It proceeded to run directly across the rafter above my bed and dive into the wall space.  This guy wasn’t as smart as he thought as he left his tufted tail sticking out the top of the wall so I knew he was still there.

Now what.

I made sufficient noise that accomplished a whole lot of NOTHING, so I decided maybe tonight was the night I should sleep in the living room.

After a half hour of reading on the couch and contemplating checking into Tamarack Lodge for the night I went and had another look.  Tail was gone!  I didn’t hear any other noises so assumed it was safe to move back into the bed.

About 15 minutes later was when the Mouse Olympics started to unfold in my walls.

He had already shown his skill in the balance beam department.  Which promised to cause me endless nights of unrest now that I knew the damn things could run over the top of my bed and drop on me anytime they wished.  Perhaps a mosquito net made of chainmail was in order?  Do they sell those at the Renaissance Festival I wondered….

Now he started doing what could only be based on the noise level a combination of the relay race and hurdles happening all at once.  This guy was FAST.  I didn’t think there was enough room in the wall to get up that much speed!

Mice in the walls was one thing, “Mouse Olympics” going on above and around me all night with what was either a Deer Mouse, Kangaroo Rat, or some other large rat like mammal was something I was not quite ready to take on.


What was next?  The pole vault with the fireplace poker?  Water polo in the toilet?  Maybe the discuss throw with the kitchen coasters?  Or maybe he had a friend and there could be a nice fencing match with the fireplace matches?  I do love a good fencing match.  I’m sure Mark Harmon in Worth Winning never considered the live action version.


I’m an animal lover and had recently decided I wasn’t going to leave out rat poison anymore although most of the cabin owners did that or something similar to avoid nests being built in their cabins.  This little guy was determined to ruin it for everyone!

I heard it “drop” back into the shed and decided as long as he didn’t prance over my bed again I should try and get some sleep.  All was quiet till about 5am when he decided to go for Olympic Gold with what could only have been an amazing gymnastics routine happening on and around the various contents of the shed.  I imagine the camping cot legs and the water heater coils provided some incredible opportunities for extra points.

As I was leaving that morning I left him to it.

I hope that he didn’t decided to open the floor to other competitive rodents and that my next visit doesn’t entail a call to the Mouse Olympic committee.

Sigh….it’s always something, which is why they invented champagne!