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It was Sunday morning and Boppa sat on the back steps enjoying the sunshine when down the sidewalk walked a young boy about ten years of age carrying a gallon clear glass pickle jar with some holes punched through the metal top. He stopped at Boppa's feet.
"Wana buy a mouse?" he asked.
"How much do you want for it?" inquired Boppa.
"Does that mean fifty cents for two?" Boppa asked, as he looked closer through the glass. "Why are you selling them anyway?"
The boy hung his head. "My Ma won't let me keep them," he replied.
The sale was made and Boppa called me to carry my new pets into the house.
When the cage was completed it was everything a mouse could want, that is a mouse in captivity. There was an upstairs sleeping room with a great staircase ascending to it. And to make things even cozier for the couple, Boppa had cut a wooden cheese box in two and put shavings inside where they might nest and propagate their young.
There were only two bedrooms in our duplex, one which was occupied by my brother Tom, who was four years older than me, and the other by my parents. The front porch just off the dining room was my room. It had windows all around. I loved it for I never wanted to miss out on anything and from there I had full view of what was happening both outside and in. It was here that the cage with the mice was placed.
One mouse was pinkish in color and was affectionately named Pinky. The other simply remained, the gray mouse, and their care was left to me. They were really quite nice pets - very much like cats in the way they washed their faces with their little paws and played about chasing one another.
One evening as we all gathered around the table for supper, Mama told us that she had seen a mouse running across the floor in the dining room looking up at the mice in the cage. Boppa teased her a bit and said he was sure she was seeing things.
The next day while she was talking to her best friend on the phone, again she saw this mouse come out.
Mama not being a screaming woman over mice, described the mouse to her friend as having a crooked tail and being so defiant as to stop and flip its tail at her.
"It is happening at this very moment," Mama declared. "It really is. It's right here! You should see it!"
As the days went by Mama continued to talk about the mouse and how it would climb the table and look into the cage at our pet mice. And Boppa and Mama's friends began to tease her more and more saying, "When you start seeing pink elephants, let us know and we will be right over!"
One evening as we discussed this at the table, Boppa said, "Maybe the two mice in the cage are mama mice and this is a papa mouse wanting to get in because he is in love with them." Now this was becoming quite a mystery!
"Why don't we devise a way to catch this papa mouse and put him in the cage too," Boppa ventured.
And so a plan was devised and together we set the trap.
The two pet mice were placed in a clear jar with a holed lid on top so that they could still be seen. The door of the cage was then left open and attached to it was a string that ran from the door to the dining room table. The next evening we would sit waiting until the mouse was lured into the cage where we had placed some scrumptious alluring bait - Land-O-Lake cheese!
Silently we sat and waited, and waited, and waited...
At last the mouse appeared that Mama had been telling us about. And we were sure, because he did, in fact, have a crook in his tail. We held our breath as he made his way past us in a very brave manner and proceeded to climb the leg of the table where the cage stood.
Gingerly I held the string. I was shivering with excitement to think that now I would have three mice instead of two and maybe babies too.
Smelling the cheese, the mouse crossed the threshold. Zap! I pulled the string and the door slammed shut!
"Now," said Boppa, "We must let out the other little mice so they can become acquainted face to face."
With that he proceeded to carefully reach in and unscrew the top from the glass jar.
Then the tornado hit with its full fury! Round and round they went. The two pet mice being chased by the foreigner. It was a life and death whirl. The little pink mouse being backed into a corner held its hands as if in prayer, shaking all over.
"It's a shrew!" yelled Boppa. "Don't let him kill my little pink mouse! Don't let him kill them!" I cried hysterically.
It had all happened so fast. Something that seemed so good, something we had made happen. Would this moment ever end?
Somehow the mice ran into the little cheese box nest, and as the shrew ran for the door, Boppa held the glass jar up to it. The shrew ran into the jar and the door dropped shut. We then looked into the jar at the poor little Shew, for he was frightened, too.
Things are not always as they seem. To us the Shrew did look like a mouse and we were decieved. Our family didn't know very much about the Shrew at that time. Shrews are not rodents. They are fierce small mammals, but most useful too, as their main prey includes insects of various types.
My brother Tom and I sat staring into the cage at the two little mice. Mama, however, got on the telephone to call her best friend about our day.
"Heelloo," came a comical voice over the phone.
Mama, recognizing the voice of her friend's husband who was a big tease, poured out the story in one long breath about the mama and papa mice and the possibilities of baby meece...
When at last she stopped to breath, the voice on the other end of the line said, "Whaaat???"
"This is Bill, isn't it?" gasped Mama.
"Lady, you have the wrong number," moaned the man.
We laughed and laughed until our sides hurt and the tears rolled down out faces. And although Boppa tried to tell us that the shrew was like the Devil because he looked so innocent but really was very dangerous and out to get us, the best lesson that we learned that day was that it really helps to laugh when you've had a bad day!