John Harrigan: Camp people come up with world's best mouse trap
There are three topics that are sure to crop up whenever camp people meet in a grocery store aisle — food, break-ins and mice.
The first is fun, because contrary to popular assumption, guys in camp tend to be pretty good cooks. When I meet a husband and wife headed in, the wife usually says, with a wave of her hand, “Oh, he does the cooking in camp.” In my experience, in any gang of guys there is at least one pretty good cook, backed up by a hungry and willing clean-up crew.
The second topic is not so much fun. These days, break-ins, thefts and vandalism are chief topics in camp people's conversations. Many camp owners have been broken into several times, which is why they have developed the habit of leaving virtually nothing of instant value in their camps. By “instant value,” I mean guns, electronic devices, prescriptions and alcohol — anything that can be sold quickly for cash to buy drugs, which drives the criminal engine. Some camp-dwellers have even lost their stoves and refrigerators and, in many cases, irreplaceable family heirlooms.
What a sad state of affairs this is. Camps inherently are built on trust, since they tend to be in the middle of nowhere where jackals and hyenas can skulk about doing their evil unseen, and because they tend to be constructed out of materials at hand with hardly a thought about “security.” They are easy targets, and everyone knows it — including, of course, the jackals and hyenas.
What irks the most in this pathetic scenario is that camp people tend to be about the nicest bunch of people anyone would want to meet and would give someone in trouble the shirts off their backs. They are the people out there on the porch who, when you're passing by, wave you in.
The third subject, mice, is always at the back, or even front, of any camp-dweller's mind. I get some wildly entertaining mail whenever I broach the subject. Some people even send me schematics, diagrams or just crude kindergarten-like drawings of what is usually prefaced with a note like “Hey! My old camp buddy Bill and I came up with the World's Best Mouse Trap!”
Envision here, if you will, Bob and his longtime buddy Bill in camp, maybe for a very long time, their thoughts upon arrival having been about lofty matters such as how to solve world hunger, but now, after perhaps too long a time in camp, having degenerated into lengthy, not-so-lofty discussions about (yes) mice.
Envision, also, Bill and Bob at the table with paper and pencil and perhaps, within handy reach, a slightly (or maybe largely) diminished jug of Dr. Beazley's Old Skunk. It is the letters on mouse control from Bill and Bob and their many friends, including Dr. Beazley, that I savor the most.
One mouse solution, which came from Bill and Bob and a couple of others, involves a five-gallon bucket and a ramp. You build this little mouse ramp, see — you can put guardrails and stop-lights and even a toll-booth on it if you want — and make it lead to the top of the bucket. There, you place a tiny piece of bait and the mouse is then enticed onto a baited bridge across the bucket, the middle of which involves a section that spins and presto, your mouse (for now he is yours) falls into, oh, a couple of inches of antifreeze (cuts down on the smell when you come back to camp after a period of absence).
There are several variations on this theme, but suffice to say that all you need are a few basic ingredients — a couple of small pieces of wood, a bucket, some fishing line, a couple of spinners, some antifreeze, some bait and lots of idle time on your hands. That, come to think of it, is the fount of many a brilliant invention. You, too, can come up with what Bill and Bob, not to mention Dr. Beazley, came up with in camp after a whole lot of thinking — and a whole lot of something else.
Another idea for a mouse annihilator (nobody uses “kill” these days, as witness “harvest” in all the earnest fish and wildlife handouts) came from a person, actually persons, because good ideas are often shared, who shall remain nameless because their families already believe they're certifiably insane and are waiting to call the guys with the big nets and white coats.
In this one, you take a paper towel tube, affix a dime to the top of one end, place a bit of bait in the same end and carefully balance the tube on the edge of your camp table. Position it so that a fly landing on it won't tip it but a mouse certainly will. Then run a strip of adhesive tape over the top of it and onto the table's edge (so when it tips, the tube won't fall), and then put a tall kitchen wastebasket under it with a couple of inches of antifreeze in it (see above). In this scenario, the mouse smells the bait, sees it there at the end of the tube, creeps in, little whiskers whiskering, beady eyes focused, and suddenly feels, in its little feet, its entire world beginning to become unbalanced, but oh no, it's too late—-and it's off to Mouse Heaven, or that other place, depending on how noble a life in the Kingdom of Mice it's lived.
There was one more topic, which I think was outhouses, but maybe it's best to save that one for another week, depending on whether I'm writing for the affluent or the effluent.
John Harrigan's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. His address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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