Voices from the Wild
Not a Creature Was Stirring
By Tamia Nelson
A Note to the Reader
The opening lines of Clement Moore's A Visit from Saint
Nicholas are probably as well known as any poem in the English
'Twas the night before Christmas,
But how well did Moore know mice? Not very. At least that's the opinion
of one expert, who's taken advantage of the late hour to set the record
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirringnot even a mouse
December 25, 2001
Not a creature was stirringnot even a mouse
Sheesh! Nice poem, sure, but give me a
break, will ya? It's Christmas Eve, right? And I've been on the move for
hours. My brothers and me, we own the night. And we don't need
night-vision goggles, either. Our capabilities are hard-wired. Big,
black, dark-adapted eyes. Long, sensitive whiskers. A sniffer that never
What's that you're sayin'? Who am I? Sorry. I forgot. You guys
don't see so good in the dark, do you? I'm a mouse. And not one of your
city mice, neither. Foreigners, that's what those city mice are!
Johnny-come-latelys, always talking about the old country and how things
just ain't the same over here. Well, I got nothin' against foreigners,
y'understand. It's just that we white-footed mice were here first. We're
like, you know, native sons.
Anyway, my name's Hannibal. Same as the famous general. The one who
beat the Roman legions at their own game. And very pleased ta meetcha, to
be sure. But watch where you put your feet, OK? Like that old
Revolutionary War flag said: "Don't tread on me!" I got enough to do
without havin' to watch out for some idiot's size-10 clodhoppers. Got a
lot of ground to cover tonight.
Small? Well, yeah. I'm not what you call big, exactly. But so
what? Me and the brothers are big where it counts. In spirit. That's what
really matters, ain't it? We take our hard knocks, sure, but we don't let
anything stop us. And when push comes to shove, we got a lot of big
friends. Bet you didn't know we shared a common ancestor with the
elephant, did you? Yep. That's a fact. Pretty strong family resemblance,
too. Leastwise that's what I think. Big ears, right? Skinny tail. Long
nose, too. Kind ofwhat's the word?expressive. Right.
That's it. Long, expressive nose. And smarts? Sheesh! You ever see any
dumb mice? They say an elephant never forgets, don't they? Well that goes
for us mice, tooin spades. Like I know every hidden corner in this
drafty old shack, see? Plus an acre or more of ground around it. Every
tunnel and hollow, each shrub and tree. If Tamia moves a book on a shelf
or cuts a branch off a pine, I notice it next time I come through.
Whazzat you say? Why "white-footed" mouse? Use your eyes, guy! See
these white stockings? What else you gonna call us? Well, yeah, sure.
Some folks call our close cousins "deer mice." I guess that's all right,
too. But we've all got white feet. And of course our toes are pink. But
you have to get mighty close to see that, anddon't take this
personal, OK?I don't know you that well. You can see my white
belly, though. Pretty handsome, huh? One of Tamia's field guides says
we're "among the most attractive mice." A little patronizing, maybe, but
I wouldn't argue.
"Cute"? Yeah, I guess you could say that. Glad you think so. We mice
get a pretty bad rap, but every species has a few bad apples, you know
what I'm sayin'? That ain't any reason to take it out on all of us,
though. I mean, what would a camping trip be without all those funny
sounds in the woods, anyway? You know what I'm talking about. That LOUD
noise that woke you up the last time you slept out. The one you thought
was a bear? And then when you shined your flashlight out of your tent
door, what did you see? A mouse. Right on! One of the brothers.
What'd I tell you? Like I said, we own the night. And by the way, we
noticed that the hand holding the flashlightyeah, I'm talkin' about
your hand!was shaking. How'd I know? Word gets around. We
mice have a saying: "Are you a mouse or a man?" Nothing personal, but me
an' the boys like a good laugh.
Of course you'd hear even more if your hearing was as good as mine.
You'll find us white-footed mice almost everywhere in canoe country, and
we've all got a lot to say to each other. But with your ears
Sorry, buddy. It's not your fault, I know. Still, the next time you're
camping out and night closes in, listen up. You hear this noise I'm
making? Yeah, rightthe thing that sounds a little like an angry
bumblebee, only up close and personal. That's me drumming my front feet
and vibrating my tail. Sort of a warning, if you know what I mean. Just
like you'd say, "Watch it, buddy. You're crowding me!" Nice and friendly,
like, mouse to mouse. And it almost always does the trick. We mice have
enough enemies without fighting each other. You humans could learn a
thing or two from us, if you don't mind my sayin' so.
That ain't all, either. The buzzing's just the beginning. If your
hearing's real good, you'll catch even more of what we've got to say.
High-pitched chirps and trills. Squeaks. Single notes and choruses.
'Course you won't know what we're talkin' about. And that's a good thing.
We like our privacy.
Still, even if you can't understand what we're sayin', you're sure to
hear us moving around in the night. Whoever said "quiet as a mouse" just
wasn't paying attention. And we do a lot of moving around. Take
me, for instance. I live in a comfy little bachelor pad under the brush
pile near the river, lined with shredded maple leaves and molted
feathers. But I'm no stay-at-home. No, sir. I patrol all of my property
every night. I even check out Tamia and Farwell's house to see what's
Why? That's a no-brainer, buddy. Mostly, I'm on the lookout for a good
meal. Insects and earthworms in summer. Mushrooms in spring and fall.
Seeds all year round. Sure, I store a lot. I've got food-caches all over
my property. But a guy can't have too much put aside for a rainy day, can
he? And around this time of year, you never know what you'll find. Take
Tamia and Farwell's place. As humans go, they're pretty tidy. But
whaddaya want to bet I don't find a piece of popcorn or two, or maybe a
cracked walnut, every time I go looking? Sometimes I even find a slice of
cake. Like tonight. Now that hits the spot!
There's more to life than eating, though, ain't there? Tamia was
reading Beatrix Potter's The Tailor of Gloucester just before she
went to bedit's one of her favorite Christmas stories. She left the
book open on the table, and I couldn't resist taking a look. I'm glad I
did. It was mighty hard work turning the pages, but I read it right
through from start to finish. What a great book! And the pictures?
Outstanding! Sure, the mice that Beatrix Potter drew aren't like me and
the brothers. They're
well, you know
foreign. But that doesn't
matter. After all, Beatrix Potter was foreign, too. So it's only natural.
And anyhow, the mice are the heroes of her story. She knew a thing or two
about us, let me tell you. The mice in the story run in and out of the
tailor's shop "without any keys." Just like I run in and out of Tamia and
Of course I've got my trail network all laid out and posted. Whazzat?
You say you've never seen any of these trails? No surprise, buddy.
They're scent trails. It's just like we mice say: "The nose
knows." Saves us a lot of time. And it can be a life-saver, too. We may
own the night, but there's some things out there we'd rather not run
into. Owls, for example. And weasels. Not much Christmas spirit in that
bunch. So every time we move around after dark, we really beat feet.
Jeez! Is it that late already? I better be shovin' off. Got a
whole half acre more to patrol. It's been great talkin' to you, though.
And tell Tamia "Thanks" for the cake, will ya? Now I really gotta go.
Like that guy Moore said:
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!
Copyright © 2001 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights