Pickled Mice

Rick is my bucket-trap mentor. He is a park superintendent who has lived all his life in these woods, and he is wise in the ways of mouse murder. For instance, if you don’t put water in the bucket to drown them, the first mouse becomes a cannibal who preys on fellow victims. Rick described coming home after a trip to the city to find one fat mouse, red in tooth and claw, and eleven skeletons in a bucket trap.

   ‘Yeah, mice aren’t the only ones with bloodlust,’ said Tim. Once, during a freezing Ottawa night in an unheated farmhouse, buried under a stack of comforters, he had dreamt that someone had his nose in a pincer vice. He woke up to find a shrew clamped to his septum. Shrews are tiny, busy creatures who need to eat three times their own body weight to stay alive. When the temperature falls to twenty below, they start wondering if they could maybe wrassle down the large, sleeping mammal in the corner.

With a bucket trap, plain water stinks as the mice rot. So does antifreeze, but not as badly, and they die faster. Rick had tried a mixture of water and vinegar to pickle them, though possibly he didn’t use enough vinegar. They still stank.

One fall, when the mice were plentiful, there was a whining inspector-type who used to come around to his cabin uninvited. Rick couldn’t stand him, and couldn’t get rid of him. So he took a dozen drowned mice from his bucket trap and stuck them in a pickle jar. He topped it up with vinegar and added lemon slices, rosemary sprigs, and garlic cloves. The mice floated like sea horses, their eyes milky-white from the acid. He put it on the table at the seat the inspector liked, and the man sat down, a long complaint in full flow. Then he caught sight of the pickled mice. He was not a profane man, but he jumped up, shaking, and yelled.
   ‘Vosper! You fucking motherfucker!’
   ‘And the fucker never came back,’ said Rick with satisfaction.

The jar of mice added to Rick’s wild man reputation in the backwoods. His staff asked what they tasted like.
   ‘So I told ’em, the texture’s just like a peach gone woolly. That threw ’em off stride. Heh!’