The rustlings and squeaks coming from the big medicine box on the milking room wall had made me curious so a few weeks ago I opened the drop-down door to take a peek. I didn't write about it at the time because I felt so bad about what happened next. The box was literally teeming with mice; I mean a lot of mice. Mice of all sizes and they were in a panic at being discovered. I couldn't shut the door right away because a dozen or more baby mice, fully formed but no bigger than a peanut in the shell, were in the crack and I didn't want to squish them. As I hesitated, the tiny creatures began to fall or leap off the door to the floor. I was able to catch a few by the tail and put them back in the box, but most scrambled away. I felt terrible for the little kids and for their mamas. I knew there was no way the adults could get the babies up the wall to the nest and thought the infants would never survive on their own. I underestimated their resourcefulness and will to live.
My mother and sister (both terrified of mice) would call me six kinds of idiot to hear me say that I have been so happy in the last week to see the kindergartners come to get spilled goat chow for breakfast. The waifs, now half the size of a walnut, have made their own colony burrowed in the used-wipe bucket, running up and down the section of broom handle I put in there to allow the wayward to escape. I hope I'm not spawning a gang of hooligans, as this group will grow up without adult supervision to keep them in line. They don't have much fear of me and will sit and munch on a corn kernel as I move about. Five or six at a time will come out of the bucket to play hide-and-seek behind the shovel and rake. Their antics make me smile and sometimes laugh out loud.
I know. I know that mice are considered vermin. I know they can be destructive. I know they are costly in terms of grain wasted. I know they are prey to cats and hawks or that I will find the corpse of one who zigged when it should have zagged in the goats' stall. I know the chickens find them to be a delicacy. I know all that, and I don't care. I find mice amusing companions while I tend my farm animals. Live and let live, I say.