My sincerest apologies

September 16th, 2010

This morning, I was with Emily, an awesome friend of mine. We were at the park with our fantastic playgroup and having a lovely time.

In the midst of supervising our young ones loving the playground, Emily suddenly turned to me and said, “Hey, I saw your post about pests last night!”

“Oh really?” I looked over and smiled.

“Yeah–but I couldn’t get past the picture of the baby mice. Once I saw that, I was like, “Whoah! I’m done!” and I couldn’t read anymore… I’m really squeamish,” she explained.

My smile froze.

“Are you serious?” I asked, staring at her in disbelief.

Baby mice make people squeamish?

The thought swirled around in my head, trying desperately to attach to something and be understood.

“Oh yeah,” she answered, “But it was no big deal, I just thought you’d think it was funny.”

I laughed.

But my brain was still swirling.

Seriously?? Baby mice make people squeamish?

Overhearing part of our conversation, another friend asked, “What happened?”

“Oh,” I replied, “I posted a picture of some baby mice we found in our garage.”

She looked at me blankly.

“You know,” I explained, “Baby mice…  They’re little and red…  And hairless.  And their eyes are sealed shut.”

Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a perfect circle.

“I’ve never seen that before, but it sounds awful,” she said with a shudder and then chased after her son.

I stared after her.

She’s never seen that?  She’s never seen a baby rodent before?…  And it sounds awful?!

Then I scratched my head.

“Huh, no way…”

You see, I grew up surrounded by animals on our beautiful 3-acre parcel of land in the shadow of the wondrous Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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In this picture, you see Cimarron.  A wonderful stud llama we owned as part of a small herd of llamas we had in my later childhood.

Cimarron was great.  He loved grain and he loved to be scratched at the base of his neck.  And if I dug in just right, his neck stretched and his lips curled out in sheer reflexive joy.  Like a dog kicking if you scratch its sweet spot.

In addition to raising llamas, we owned goats, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, gerbils, peacocks, a cockatiel and a pony.  And part of raising these animals was being involved in everything with them.  Their births, their injuries, their disappearances and their deaths.  We lived it all as naturally as it came.

But now, looking back.  I’m beginning to realize how different that may be from the experiences of others.  And how things that happened on our little farm, while part of daily life for us, would make other people stare in disbelief.

Like the morning one of my brothers went out to milk the goats.  And one of them was missing.  So he hiked out into the pasture and found the poor girl dead.  She ate more clover than was good for her and it bloated and killed her.  Well, he told my Mom as she was loading the rest of us kids into the van to take us to school.

“Okay,” she said, “Let’s load her into the back of the van and we’ll take her to the dump after we drop off the younger kids.”

So I got a ride to school that morning.  With a dead, bloated goat’s legs sticking up behind the back seat.  Poor girl.

Then there was the afternoon when one of our llamas was giving birth.  But all that came out was one little hoof and the rest got stuck.  The poor mother paced around and around as the little hoof became more and more limp.  We couldn’t afford a vet and my dad was still at work.  So my Mom turned to the only man in the house.

“Son,” she said to the brother just above me, “You need to go help her.”

My brother stared at my Mom like she’d sprouted wings and started roosting.

“Are you serious?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

My mother nodded gravely and my brother sighed.

Then he rolled up his sleeves and walked out to the pasture.  He was inexperienced at birthing llamas, but he was strong.  And he yanked that little leg poking out with all his might until POP!  Out came a sweet, soaking wet little baby llama.

And that’s what we did.

When a goat got cut on a fence, my dad laid her out on the grass and stitched her up. When a mama hamster went missing, my sisters and I nursed the newborn, red-hairless-eyes-sealed-shut babies through the night with goat’s milk and eye droppers.  When the whole neighborhood gathered around to watch the visiting stud breed our llamas, I took pictures and sent them to my brothers on their missions.  (Okay, so that may have been a bit much…  But I was only 10 years old–you gotta cut me some slack!)

As a kid, I didn’t think much of it.  But once I became an adult and moved away from Nevada, I started to think that maybe, just maybe, not everyone’s been bucked off a chubby pony… or milked a gentle, smelly goat… or rescued a litter of newborn kittens from their house’s crawl space.

So, if my picture of our baby field mice grossed you out, I am so sorry!  It honestly never occurred to me that it could.

And you know what?…  I am so glad I didn’t post a picture of their poor, deceased mother.  In our trap.

(Whoah, whoah!  Okay, so I didn’t really take a picture of that…  I thought about it, but I didn’t.  See?  I must be learning!)  :):)

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9 Comments

Ailene Hert | 9/17/2010 7:38 am

Honestly, they looked like baby somethings… but I didn’t know what until you said what they were!

Honestly, I thought they were kind of cute! But the thought of having mice in MY house would definitely gross me out. Since they are in YOUR house… well… different story. :)

Yikes! *Trying not to think about the poor motherless baby mice!*

 
Emily | 9/17/2010 7:39 am

Heidi, you are too funny! You totally did not need to apologize! It really wasn’t a big deal at all! I think it is awesome that you are not squeamish like me! I think there are a lot of people who would be interested in the photos; I actually was too…it’s just I am city/beach girl and don’t have much experience with that sort of thing! I should also tell you sometime about a bad experience I had with some mice on a sticky trap in our garage…it made me not so fond of the little pests…

 
Heidi | 9/17/2010 10:04 am

@Ailene: Aw, I thought they were cute, too! It totally brought back my days of nursing the newborn hamsters. It probably helps to know what they are. Otherwise they do look kind of alienish.

And I completely agree on the motherless baby mice! It would have been kinder to euthanize them when we first found them… :(

@Emily: Oh, no problem! I found it very amusing. And the funniest thing to me is that I’ve been away from animals so long now that I totally think of myself as a suburb-ite. But when something like this happens, I remember, “Oh yeah…” It’s good for me to know not all women enjoy (or recognize!) hairless rodents. :) In fact, come to think of it, I don’t think Charming knew what they were, either, until he called me out to look at them… Too funny!

 
Cara | 9/17/2010 1:46 pm

I think most people think of rodents in their garage as a threat to their family’s safety. At least I do. I think of the diseases they could possibly carry and potentially give to my children if I don’t get rid of them. I’m glad your baby mice were an isolated incident. :) And I think it’s very cool that your were raised around so many animals. :)

 
Heidi | 9/17/2010 2:11 pm

@Cara: I agree. Having kids made this much more serious to me than if it was just us adults. Although, having traps now feels just as dangerous, if not more, for the kids. :(

What caught me off guard with my friends was their reactions to what baby rodents look like. Even if they perceived them as threatening, I didn’t think they would be grossed out by seeing a picture of them. Does that make sense?

And I am also very glad they were an isolated incident! They were an excellent learning experience, but I hope we never have to kill one again.

Thanks–we really loved it. I’ve often wanted to get some animals, but they are soooo much work. And we feel so consumed with just our kids… But someday we’ll at least have to get a dog!

 
Vicki | 9/17/2010 3:55 pm

I have to explain that the day that Heidi had a dead goat in the back of the van was a day when her father (who normally took care of dead animals for the family) was out of town for several days. He told me to have a son help me get the goat in the van and help me dispose of it as I wasn’t strong enough to do it myself.
I normally pulled all of the babies out of the llamas myself (because they came in the middle of the day when my husband was at work). Usually there are two legs protruding and I could pull on them and get the babies out. I wasn’t strong enough to get the one baby out with just one leg, so I needed some manpower to help.
We also had cattle, a pig, a lamb, guinea pigs and rabbits before Heidi was born or was old enough to remember.

 
Heidi | 9/17/2010 9:02 pm

Hey Ma! Thank you for your comment! It’s awesome to have more of the back story on those–I totally forgot that you used to pull the babies out. And the rabbits! I do remember the rabbits–how could I forget back legs that strong and nails that sharp? I knew I’d missed something in there! :) You and Dad were awesome–thanks for having our little farm for us.

 
Neighbor Katie ;) | 9/17/2010 9:48 pm

I am sorry, but that story of you riding to school with the poor dead, bloated goat in the back with its feet sticking up, gave me a chuckle! I could just picture it in my mind, while it was probably something normal in the rural area you were raised, it would be quite a site in the suburban area we are in now! ;)

BTW, Your childhood sounds like a dream life for Olivia! What she wouldn’t give to be raised on acreage surrounded by all kinds of animals! ;)

 
charlotte | 9/20/2010 12:54 pm

I love your farm stories!! It’s such a part of what makes you, you! And yes, you did have a rather unusual upbringing;) The only other time I’ve seen dead baby mice was when we caught some in our sticky traps a year or two ago. I almost fainted. Jase had to take them outside while I hyperventilated. I just got a full body shudder remembering it. Gah!!

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your memories! Your goat story is a classic! (PS> WHy didn’t you guys butcher it and eat it?)

 

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