Saturday, January 16, 2010

I hate mice.

I recently read an old friends post about hunting lemmings as a child.

Let me tell you a story. Please don't judge. Dude, we had NOTHING to do when we grew up, but play with the puppies from the dog yard, shoot squirrels and hunt lemmings.

OK...prepare yourself.

As an adult college student in Oregon, one of the things you had to do was teach a lab rat to click a button for its food. My cousin Josie and I lived together, hung out every day, and generally were partners in everything. I can't remember if it was her project, or mine, or what exactly happened, but we could NOT PICK THAT RAT UP.

We would go into that large room filled with rats numbered between 100 and 1426, or something, and our rat was no exception. Students easily picked up their rats, pet them, named them, made them pretty, etc. Josie and I could NOT pick our rat up. Worst of all was the fact that our rat had to be a white rat with red eyes. WHY!?

Eventually, I think we failed the class, but upon talking to the psychology professor, we had an epiphany. We could not pick up that Rat because we had killed so many of its cousins that we were mentally blocked from developing any sort of relationship with a rodent. (Which explains why I SCREAMED when my daughters hamster got loose. I almost died!) He spoke with the professor and eventually we wrote a paper on the effects of growing up at a fish camp with nothing to do.

I used to be on my cousin Grover Jay's team, Goober, we called him. It was Me, Goober and Doccy, my other cousin. (I have like 72 first cousins on my mom's side) Josie was always on Bessie and Cody's team. Our cousin and her brother. The game was to see who could get the most "mice" (what we called lemmings) in a few hours time.

We "hunted" those mice with our driftwood clubs. We flipped abandoned boats, and boards and old sigalauqs (food storage places under ground). For some reason, I remember winning a lot.

We would each have a receptacle to put the mice in. Whether it was an old 55 gallon drum, an abandoned upturned boat, or a metal fish bin, we choose the bigger one usually.

Mice bite pretty hard, but we weren't too worried about that. I always wore gloves, cause I was a big chicken growing up. I did most of the board flipping, while my cousins Goober and Doccy did most of the clubbing and picking up. We ended up with probably 60% dead and 40% alive mice in our receptacles.

When we lucked out and found a pregnant mouse, we would take it in our hands, and squeeze out the babies, so we could have more. (seriously...I'm gagging just writing about it!) Did you know that baby mice don't have hair, or teeth? So, you can pick them up, and they feel like your pinky toe after taking a shower. Sort of smooth and soft and wrinkly and warm and moist.

After the time was up, we would decide what exactly we would do with them. I specifically remember the sound that mice make when you douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. If my children ever did this, I think I'd take them out back and have them whipped. I can't even believe that happened. I swear it wasn't ME who thought of these things.

(By the way, my Aana found out what we were doing once, and Eskimo's don't waste food. So, she MADE US EAT THEM. She made us skin them, gut them and cooked them on a stick over a camp fire. But she only found out once!) When we didn't set them in fire we did other torturous things to them, like drown them, or feed them to owls, or bury them, or use them as bait to catch squirrels.

I don't even know HOW kids think of these things, but when we were at camp this summer, my son was "hunting" mice and squirrels too. I don't know if its engrained in our psyche's or what. My six year old walks around with a driftwood stick and "hunts mice" too. With absolutely no encouragement from me.

Anyway, to this day, I can't pick up a mouse, I still get freaked out when I walk into a pet store and there are white mice, and hamsters (which LOOK like lemmings), and gerbils in cages. My heart absolutely does flips until we get away from that section. Give me a tarantula instead, NOT a mouse.

We passed the psychology class, but only because I think the paper and explanation of why we could not pick up RAT #625 was so off the wall that he had no other choice but to pass us.

I wonder if hunting mice did anything good for me, or taught me anything except to be on the better team with Goober and Doccy. Or if it just messed me up enough to freak out when in the presence of rodents?

Any of YOU have "skeletons" in your closets about crazy things you did as kids but would NEVER EVER let your kids do!? (not including drinking or smoking, which I actually never did!)

*Edited to add: I welcome all comments. ALL. Scold me, please. But don't ever EVER compare mice with CHILDREN. (Especially when you compare torching children with torching mice.) That is just plain stupid. Unless of course, you're a mouse. And if you are, then please, PLEASE feel free to charge me in mouse court with murder. Otherwise, stick to comparing mice with...say, MICE.


Lisa said...

Wow! I was doing cool with everything until the part where you were made to skin and eat the mice. I slightly threw up in my mouth with that little tidbit, LOL!

As for my kids doing stuff I did as a kid...well, as a teen growing up in CO I was pretty wild, lots of sneaking out,skipping school and getting kicked out of my kids arent allowed to do any of that, and I havent filled them in on half the stuff I did when I was their age. I can say that I never did anything to mice or any other animal ;)

The Force Family said...

When my cousin Mary, my brother John and I were at camp (Killiqmak)we went out hunting for mice too. What else is there to do when you have a pocket knife and driftwood to play with, make a harpoon of course. Then there was the .22 that we'd take and shoot at things with. I'd never let my daughter go off by herself to shoot things with a
Then again it's camp...I remember making a kite with an AC bag and string. Then I got the brilliant idea to make that AC bag into a parachute for my barbie...I never did see her again...
Ohhhh...then there was the little rubber raft that we'd boat around in, go across the little river with no life vests...ALL BY OURSELVES...
Then you know we'd chop firewood with really big and sharp really can't imagine letting my daughter just wander around like we did when we were kids.
BUT, y'all take the big prize for your mouse didn't get to burn anything...

gpc said...

I know someone who had to kill rats as part of her job in a lab years ago, and had to cut their heads off so their brains could be examined. She is now terrified of mice, too. Just like you describe, the total freak out reaction. I suspect that when we do something that we know is cruel or hurtful, whatever the reason, we are so horrified and frightened by our own behavior that we punish ourselves for it later. I think, even as children, we know on some level that all life is connected. I think that's why people, deeply spiritual people who were closer to nature than in my parts, always honored and valued the lives or spirits or whatever of the animals they killed.

In answer to today's question, I guess I was the good child. I was as immature and self-centered as any kid can be, and I've made a zillion bad judgments, but I always hated conflict and anger and being mean to anyone, even my bratty little cousins. Looking back, I don't wish I'd hurt anything, of course, but I actually do wish I had done MORE "bad" things when I was young. If I hid anything from my children, it was how afraid of everything I was. Does that count?

Cate said...

Wow. Well, you really gave me some insight into things I've witnessed around here. I have seen some Major mouse torture, and it has bothered me SO much -- it just seems like torturing something helpless is so twisted and indicative of messed-up-ed-ness! So, not that I was less bothered by your story, but I guess it makes me feel better by giving it some history and context. And, well, you don't seem like you grew into a raging sociopath or serial killer, so I guess I am reassured that way too.

I LOVE it that your Aana made you eat them. That seems like the perfect natural consequence. :)

Sabrina said...

I hate mice too. Not because I ever did anything like hung them with clubs, but because we always had them in our house when I was little. I used to check the traps. Sometimes they'd still be moving with their heads crushed in the traps. Yuck. Sends shivers up my spine thinking about it. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck!

Matt, Kara, Hunter and Cavan said...

We used to shoot frogs with our .22's. And for some real entertainment we would shot at our cows (or the neighbours) with a bb gun to make them run. I did a lot of stuff as a farm/bush kid that I find hard to imagine me letting boys do one day.

Anonymous said...

LMAO!!!sounds like me and my brothers and sisters.We used to sit an tourter then squeeze them and finly stomp on em,then throw them to the birds.A few years ago we went to Seasolik for the day and my son dissaprared for an hour or two an came back with a baby mouse,then he went to the edge of the water and started to dround it and take it out and do it over an over till I finly told him to quit,an of course he didnt.But hey thats what we did when we were his age and at camp an there is nothing to do but play cards,dice and read archie comics.

Anonymous said...

There was nothing to do so we viciously, cruelly tortured things to death? Sorry, but that's inexcusable. Try reading a book or playing board games. Shame on you.

Finnskimo said...

I didn't say I was proud of it...I'm trying to come clean with my indiscretions from my past. And believe me, this bothered me FOREVER.

But, (cause there's always a But.) Lemmings get into your food supply that we spend months and months getting ready for winter. If they weren't killed then we wouldn't have eaten in the winter...remember, we had NO grocery store, NO planes, nothing. We ordered bulk food once a year on the barge. :) But still...I see your point.