Wednesday, March 28, 2007

THE ANTS GO MARCHING ONE BY ONE


My husband is a ‘mouse trap’ kind of guy.
The bait and lure then snap them in half and be done with it kind of guy.
The toss away the dead and set the next trap kind of guy.

This was not always the case and I wonder what of life’s abrasions filed his edges so sharp.

When we moved into this old house eleven years ago, we discovered that our new home, which had been vacant for months, had beckoned various members of the animal kingdom to take up residence. The first to make their squatters rights known were the mice. This was our very first encounter with territorial issues and within the first few days, I purchased more than the required number of ‘have a heart’ traps for the little vermin.

Peanut butter, we were told, was best to attract and keep them inside as the little hatch closed behind, making a lovely travel container to relocate them.

A car ride, we were told, was required to move them far enough away from our dwelling to prevent their return.

Our first catch was accomplished in the early morning hours and my youngest and I ventured a mile down the road to open the hatch, freeing one peanut butter smeared and confused little mouse to the woods.

Quite pleased with myself for having discovered a humane solution to our problem, I set more traps. I worked evenings at the time and returned home on that first evening to my husband relaxing sheepishly on the couch. I joined him for a glass of wine to catch up on the day’s events and then saw something that made me both love him and question his sanity. On the kitchen island sat my son’s small rectangular bug catcher hosting the day’s catch; mouse number two blinked and I think smiled at me as I moved in for a closer look. Inside the mini cage were strewn slivered almonds and crumbles of Monterey Jack cheese.

“I couldn’t leave the kids alone to drive down and dump it and it seemed so cramped in the trap,” he explained with the look of a boy in trouble. It would only be a matter of time until the word of the ‘mouse spa’ got around town and attracted even the smeared and dumped critters from miles away.

Over the years we have dealt with bats and squirrels, birds and mice, all finding our home as suitable as we have; each one, wearing away the kindness and the patience of the almond and jack cheese guy.

My daughter is a 'save the animals' girl.
The “Mom, my friend and I are holding a protest at the grocery store to stop people from eating animals” girl.
A “Drive slowly so you don’t squish the frogs in the road” on a rainy night girl and a go back home to get a bucket to collect said frogs to release them to safety by the pond girl.

She appears to be her father’s polar opposite.

I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle.

I am an animal person and as a child brought home more than my share of stray, injured creatures in need of saving. Currently we co-hebetate nicely with a variety of living things:

One beta fish given to the children along with several others (all in separate bowls) by Father Hank at Christmas—don’t ask.

One five year old hermit crab, which in spite of a fair amount of neglect, simply lives on and on.

Two anoles, which are the little lizards that turn from green to brown and back again, depending on their surrounding, or if you listen to my daughter, depending on their mood.

One Siberian hamster, who has been banished to the family room for nocturnal antics.

One dumpster rescued cat, who simply cannot remember from day to day that the dog actually does want to eat him.

One thirteen year old mutt, adopted from the pound on a New Year’s Eve by the former animal loving husband.

One four year old Rat Terrier, also a pound rescue, who, according to the dog trainer, considers me his woman and follows me endlessly from room to room, including the bathroom.

And one four year old Cockatiel who whistles at me every morning no matter what I look like; LOVE that bird!

I love animals… in their cages, crates, aquariums and bowls. I can tolerate reptiles, as long as they never come out of their cages and I do not have to touch them.

I draw the line at insects.

For all of the saving and rescuing I have done in my life, I become a cold-blooded, heartless murder without a conscience when it comes to bugs. I react with extreme fear driven violence when faced with a spider and have no problem whacking a yellow jacket with a shoe.

This winter, in the frozen dead of winter, we were invaded with another type of wildlife.

Sugar ants.

It seemed impossible at first to see ants at all with the ground frozen solid, but every day they would appear on the countertop between the refrigerator and stove. Every day I spray them with Windex and wipe them away with a paper towel. We cannot locate the origin.

“I’ll get some ant traps,” my mouse trap expert informs me.

“Mom, what can I use for a cover so they can still breathe?” asks my daughter, showing me the little bottle cap living room, complete with a cookie crumb, a drop of water, a piece of fuzz for relaxing; two happy ants settling in.

Daily, I struggle with their return and I am sure there must be thousands of them.

“Mom, what are you doing? They’ll die if you spray that on them!” My save the animal girl shrieks.

Somewhere in the middle, I am.

As winter rolls over and spring shows its face, the teeny tiny soldiers continue to come. Ants live in complete harmony among the colony; each responsible for his own job. These are the front line, sent out to the face of danger to bring back food. I watch as one struggles to carry a dead comrade back for burial.

Still others march on in search of food, ten or more cluster around a kernel of dog food on the opposite side of the kitchen. In comparison, the journey would be like walking across the state of Texas carrying a pizza for home the family.

Amazing determination.

I am unable to accept these tiny warriors moving across my counter, and yet I cannot pick up the Windex bottle after all they have been through.

We have arrived at an understanding of sorts. I flick on the kitchen lights at 6am and pull the coffee pot toward me, giving them to the count of ten to make themselves disappear.

I slowly fill the coffee pot with water, counting to eleven just in case.

Not a one there when I come back.

5 comments:

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Thanks for the smiles! LOVE the mouse spa!

Jerri said...

This is masterful. Love your descriptions of the animals and your ant war. Love the description of the events that have filed your husband down to sharp edges.

A complete pleasure to read, Nancy. Thanks.

Jenny Rough said...

Too funny!

Terry Whitaker said...

Great post, Nance. I have the opposite problem. I am the filed-down to the edges woman with a stray dog, stray cat, and cockatiel all brought in by said husband and children. This week, while BOTH children are gone for spring break, we have been up 4x/night dealing with dog/cat fights.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Wow. That's a lot of animals. And ants.

Good luck with that!

I make my husband kill the insects, but I know their blood is still on my hands.