Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Great Mouse Safari

One of the little exigencies of life in a hundred-year-old farm house in North Missouri is the Great November Mouse Migration. At this time all the mice pack up their little mouse bags and take the shortest route into the first available residence. They bring all their relatives and invite any other mice who might have been visiting at the time. Mice who have lived very happily and quite comfortably all summer and fall in the tall grass beneath the apple tree or under the propane gas tank or under the corner of the shed, are compelled to check out more substantial housing.

I am never ready for this and this year was no different. One night I could sit comfortably in my living room watching TV and the next you could hardly hear over the scratchings and goings on in the corners. I opened the drawer that held my important documents, (bits of old poems, calendars from 1999-2001, registration papers of cars smashed into tin foil years ago, etc) and out jumped a mouse. I was not quick enough and by the time I got down off the wall he had escaped.

A Great Mouse Migration can only be countered by a Great Mouse Safari.

So I geared up. The question was, how best to drive them from the house without endangering the legal residents, namely myself, my daughter, my son and Bingo the terrier? Hesitant to risk the side effects of all the available poisons I gave it serious thought.

I decided that the list of side effects were not as hair raising as those listed for Viagra or most blood pressure medication so I bought everything I could find. I brought home a sack full of mousetraps, four little bags of tiny pellets, two bigger bags of bigger pellets, a pack of big round cakes of green stuff supposed to be irresistible to mice and most interesting of all, a pack of little oblong things with stick 'em stuff on it that is designed to literally stop mice in their tracks.

Well, I am glad to report that all of this effort has been a resounding success in more ways than a dozen! I have been motivated to clean out all the cabinets and closets, (thanks little mice people) that haven't been touched since last year, just in case they had left their little calling cards behind. A good deal of effort has been put into finding little entry holes or gaps and all have been stuffed with steel wool or covered with carpenters cloth. Bingo, the terrier, was so inspired by the mouse trap thing that she would come running to tell me "we had another one". Mousing is one of her favorite things but obviously she never knew it could be this easy. She seldom catches anything on her own.

The only glitch was the little sticky things. I thought they worked great but Sarah wasn't too pleased. It seems the little mice people get stuck alright but tend to surf around the house for quite awhile on their little sticky surf boards. I personally have not seen this happen but she and Brian did as one of the mice people decided to surf clear into the dining room while they were eating their tenderloin sandwiches and french fries.

Anyway, I think my Great Mouse Safari has been a great success.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the World

According to Gallup Polls, Eleanor Roosevelt was the most admired woman in the world for fifteen consecutive years, from 1946 to 1961. That admiration was hard earned.

A homely, introverted child born to a family of wealth and influence her childhood was a miserable one. Her mother disliked and ridiculed her as being “ugly” and “clumsy” and upon her death when Eleanor was eight years old, her grandmother continued the same. Being sent to England for schooling as a young teenager proved to be a real opportunity for her and she blossomed both emotionally and academically.
At seventeen, she returned home and soon resumed her acquaintance with, and married, a fourth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt who later became our 32nd President. Eleanor had six children in ten years, one of whom died in infancy.
During this time, Eleanor also became active in politics and social causes. She campaigned for Alfred E. Smith for president, and worked for the Women’s Trade Union League, which promoted a 48 hour work week, minimum wage, and the abolition of child labor. She also worked with the League of Women Voters and taught literature and American history at the Todhunter School for Girls in New York City.
In 1920 her husband, Franklin, became ill with Infantile Paralysis and was crippled for life. She became his legs…and nurse..and secretary..and number one supporter in his run for the presidency. She suffered through his extramarital affairs and never put her good above his and the children. She began to travel, on his instructions, to see people and places around the world that he could not, carrying messages, encouragement and sometimes threats from the presidential portfolio without portfolio. She constantly juggled the “little woman speaks” thing with the power of the presidency that spoke through her in ways that no official portfolio had.

She became the conscience of the New Deal recovery program. While the federal government was developing big and complex programs to turn around the depression, she became, quite literally, the liaison between the government and individuals who were suffering. She would personally visit the slums of cities, talk to miners and destitute farmers, sit with widows and orphans and hear their stories. She was the conscience of the government by showing the human face of sympathy and concern, rather than simply an impersonal government program. She was the human face of the New Deal.
Of two political cartoons from the midst of the Great Depression, one showed dirty coal miners discovering a woman entering the mine wearing a miner’s hat. With astonishment, one says to the other, “My gosh! There’s Mrs. Roosevelt!” The other showed a shipload of immigrants in New York’s harbor. A mother and her young son were looking at the Statue of Liberty, and when the mother asks if he knows who that is, the boy responds saying, “Of course I know who that is. That’s Mrs. Roosevelt!”
After Franklin died, President Truman appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as our first delegate to the new United Nations. In that capacity, her main focus was protecting human rights. She became co-chair of the UN’s Human Rights Commission and the person most responsible for getting nations to approve the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone on the road of civilization.
She was a staunch defender of the separation of church and state. It was perhaps her active role in racial civil rights and citizen civil liberties that caused J. Edgar Hoover to suspect her of being a communist. At the time of her death, Eleanor Roosevelt, the voice of our national conscience, had the thickest F.B.I. file of anyone in the country. In hindsight, this was an achievement worthy of respect.

Ref: Rev. Bruce Clear, Indianapolis, Indiana for some of this content and www.whitehouse.gov/about/first-ladies

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Family History

Well, it's almost Thanksgiving and our thoughts turn to a day of cooking or a day of eating, whichever end of the stick you're on, but either way it's nice.

Also we might pause and adjust our thinking a little bit about that original old American holiday and the people responsible for it. If you believed everything they taught in school, that totally Godly, warmly dressed, well tooled and well armed men and women stepped off the boat, bid fond farewell to the captain and immediately joined a feast of turkey, venison, succotash, (that's a corn thing,) and pumpkin pie all over the place, Not So!

Starvation, disease and ignorance killed far more than were ever saved by pumpkin pie and family prayer. I just want you to know that our family was well represented during those hard times and the following centuries before we were finally liberated by the invention of frozen pizza and instant hair remover.

So lest we forget:
Our grandparents were Lewises, Lambs, Allans and an unknown. These predecessors had been infiltrated by the Bakers, Shaws, McDonalds/McDaniels and Wiskersons/Wiskerchen/Whiskersons.

Our first Lewis's got off the boat in 1628. This trip included a sixteen year old young lady by the name of Mary Lewis but she was so obstreperous she was threatened with a dunking. Yes, they actually dunked people, mostly women who did not act godly or talked too much or criticized someone's stupidity, and they had Mary's tank ready. But in her defense, her old Dad, Tom Lewis, had been co-owner of a thriving tavern in London Town and what sixteen year old wants to leave a party place like that for a bunch of dancing savages and pickled succotash ?

But in a document still readable in the Winthrop papers,a kindly and godly older gentleman was moved by her, (how so moved we can only guess) and petitioned Governor Winthrop for her hand in marriage, notwithstanding the age difference , in order to save her from perdition and subsequent lawful punishments.

Permission was granted for her release and marriage to the gentleman. He spent the next several years in the new world's courts trying to protect her from a multitude of defamatory charges against her "character and reputation", one of which was inspired by a gentleman who stated publicly that she "lifted her skirts" for him on several occasions. This particular defamation charge was thrown out of court because the judge said, "there can be no defamation if all statements are true and fact." Well, what can a girl do? Ultimately the nice gentleman gave up and took his girl back to merry old England where heaven only knows what trouble she got into.

So begins our family saga in the new world.

And for all you unbelievers out there..these transactions are documented in 17th century court records, the Winthrop Papers and a wonderful historical publication:,

Appendixes of the Real Founders of New England, Appendix A page 155