“That’s it!” said Terry. “Willis, we’ve got to figure out something to get rid of these mice. We’ve tried steel wool in the cracks in the wall, we’ve tried tinfoil around the barrels and they still chewed into ‘em.” Willis chuckled. “They’ve got to earn a living too.” “Let them earn a living off somebody else’s grub then” said Terry.
They had a long day ahead of them rounding up cattle that had wandered off the ranch during the winter months. The mice problem would have to wait till another day.
A week later Terry and Willis coasted the truck to a stop in front of the shack, got out, lowered the tailgate and slid out an old claw-foot tub. They carried it into the shack and set it down next to the stove. They returned to the truck and got several large bricks, a two by four, and a small lead weight and carried them into the shed. Willis went around to the back of the shack and opened the window from the outside, lifting the hose through the open window. Terry took the hose and put it in the tub. Willis turned on the water and stood outside the open window. It was his job to make sure the water level reached to exactly five inches below the rim.
Terry took the bricks and stacked them pyramid-style in the middle of the tub. They filled the water until it was about five inches below the rim. While the tub was filling, Terry stacked the bricks one on top of the other in the middle of the tub. He balanced the two by four on the brick so that one end rested on the edge of the tub and the other hung out over the water. He put one of the lead weights on a spot between the rim of the tub and the brick, in a spot they’d marked earlier. The lead weight and its location on the two by four had to be exact or the contraption wouldn’t work.
Terry put a piece of cheese wrapped in bacon on the end of the board that was suspended over the water and tapped it into the board with a tack. He took a plastic mouse out of his pocket and laid it gently on the end of the board next to the cheese. The two by four dipped down and the mouse fell off into the water. The board swung back up to rest over the water, the cheese still attached. Terry and Willis smiled at each other.
“This is gonna be something to see, Willis” said Terry.
“Yessir, I think we’re witnessing a piece of engineering genius” said Willis.
They played some cards after dinner, then went to bed and turned out the light. Not long before dawn, a splash and a squeak woke them up. Soon they heard another splash, and a squeak, and then another.
“I think it’s working” whispered Willis. Terry just smiled.
The squeaks, squeals, and growls of mice fighting over the one dry spot on the brick, or trying to crawl up each other’s backs to avoid the smooth sides of the tub filled the shed. After a half an hour Terry had lost count of the number of times he’d heard a mouse fall into the water. He got up and Willis swung out of his bunk and turned on the light.
They counted thirty seven mice either dead or drowning. Willis found a small fishing net in the corner and fished out the dead mice and threw them in the 55-gallon trash barrel outside next to the porch. Then he fished the live mice out, cracked them on the head with his knife and threw them out with the rest.
“Not bad for a night’s work” said Willis. “Too bad we can’t think of a way to shut ‘em up once they get tipped off the board. No way you can sleep through a ruckus like that.”