Okay. Even I’m not sure I believe this. But I have no other explanation.
We bought a little farmhouse and finished off the attic over the kitchen. The roof came right down to the floor on either side so we built thirty-inch-high knee walls that hide crawl spaces just big enough to squeeze into if you have an eating disorder – but plenty big enough to hold a parade if you happen to be of the rodent persuasion.
The first time I heard critters scampering around in the crawl space I made a trip to the hardware store for mouse traps. It’s not that there were that many mice, but a scurrying noise in the wall once a month was enough to keep me up wondering about them for the next week.
That was about three years ago. We considered poison bait but it seemed cruel – and we really didn’t want the stuff spread around the house for our cats and dogs to discover. In the end we opted for traps that look like large plastic clothespins where you put a dab of peanut butter on a yellow trigger and wait for some hapless mouse to lick its way to the hereafter as the jaws clamp down.
I put three traps in the crawl space and a few days later had three dead mice. I repeated the exercise a few days later with the same result. Over the next month I harvested a dozen mice before the traps seemed to stop working. I’d put a dab of peanut butter on the trigger, set the trap, and come back to find the peanut butter gone but the trap still open.
I tested the traps with my finger. The triggers were still very sensitive. A single lick should have set them off. It did before. What changed?
That mystery hung in the air for nearly three years and twenty repetitions of setting the traps and coming back to find the bait gone and the trap not triggered. Was the peanut butter being eaten by something lighter than a mouse? An ant? The Tooth Fairy? How was this possible?
I had no explanation for the disappearing peanut butter. Until this morning.
Delphine and I made our rounds with our jar of peanut butter. I opened the access panel to the crawl space in my room and found three set traps with the peanut butter gone.
And a nail. An old sheetrock nail. An old sheetrock nail wedged underneath the yellow plastic trigger on the trap. An old sheetrock nail wedged underneath the yellow plastic trigger on the trap so that you could lick peanut butter until your tongue fell out and the trigger would never get pressed.
Finding an old nail is not such a surprise – the house has been worked on by various owners for a hundred years. But I know for certain that I didn’t put that nail under the trigger. And it didn’t walk there on its own.
When we first started with our mousetraps did we remove all the creatures from the gene pool who didn’t know how to use the Holy Nail to defeat a trap? Do we have the only tool-using mice in North America? Did ancient aliens leave some tiny black monolith under our floorboards humming wisdom into our whiskered friends like the beginning of 2001?
I’ve thought about those traps and the disappearing peanut butter. A lot. And it never occurred to me that they could be defeated by putting something under the trigger before licking. If it were up to me I’d end up wearing one of those plastic clothespins on my nose.
Do you suppose if we put a little dab of peanut butter on the sequestration bill Congress might figure it out? Just in case it matters, we only use Jif. Extra crunchy.