At 7:30 AM, with only half a cup of coffee in my system, the discovery
of what appeared to be a dead, bean-sized baby on the lid of the scratch feed can was not a good way to start the day.
The newborn mouse had obviously fallen from a nest somewhere in the rafters. The tiny pink legs twitched feebly and
its fate seemed hopelessly sealed. I told myself that maybe the mom would come looking for her missing child, but knew
it wasn't likely. It saddened me to leave it there to expire alone in the chicken coop, but what option was there?
At 5:30 PM I
was stunned to find the orphan still alive, but just barely. Its will to live was too powerful to ignore, so in that
instant I became a surrogate rodent mother. Every website dealing with caring for orphan / abandoned mouse babies said
essentially the same thing; it's gonna die, but if you're determined to try to save it, feed it a drop of diluted goat milk
every two hours and keep the doomed creature warm. Intensive care was hastily fashioned. He is secure in a cotton-lined
plastic incubator that floats on a tub of hot water until meal time. Then he's gently cradled, fed and massaged to simulate
a mother's behavior and returned to his cozy crib. This has been my routine for three days and contrary to the dismal internet
predictions, the patient is still alive and apparently thriving as seen by this photo taken this morning.
Over the years
I have been the recipient of many strange ‘gifts' from dear recently-departed Kenny. Most of these have been useless,
but for some reason it seemed prudent to save the can of powdered goat milk he left on the patio bench along with a can of
potato starch. That goat milk has proven to be literally a lifesaver, hence I have named my little charge ‘Kenny'
as a way of honoring my friend. The baby may be Kenneth or Kendra, who knows, but whatever the sex it has been christened
In just three days I've witnessed dramatic growth which is rather amazing considering how difficult it is
to even find its tiny mouth to administer a bit of warm milk while holding the squirming infant.
Today my wonderful wildlife rehabilitator friend Fran Kitchen offered to take over
Kenny's care. Fran has over fifty years experience with a remarkable success rate saving injured or abandoned wildlife
and returning them to their natural habitats. She also has more suitable feeding and incubation equipment than the make-shift
neonatal care here, so tomorrow Kenny will join other helpless critters at Operation Orphan, Inc., but will return to my barn
when old enough to survive without aid. Kenny's future looks bright.
If the human Kenny were still alive he
would probably quietly smile and shake his head in disbelief to think that anyone would bother to save a mouse, but some of
us know that Mouse Lives Matter.
On Sunday the dreaded,
but inevitable auction signs went up all along the road. Kenny's farm will be sold on June 25th and the prospects
are worrisome. Seven individual parcels will be offered and then the farm will be auctioned in its entirety. Whichever
brings more money will determine how the gavel falls. We on the road are hoping that the farm stays intact rather than
sprouting new houses with manicured lawns and litters of children. We'd much prefer dairy cattle. To be continued....
The dogs and I took
an early morning walk up to Kenny's today. It's been quite a while since the last visit as there's little point anymore.
My Sow Good Garden in the barnyard has been abandoned since an absolute auction of the farm looms in the near future, but
no one is sure of when.
Being at the abandoned
place that has been such a part of my life for so long is depressing, but on this lovely spring day we trudged through Mr.
Monsanto's freshly plowed fields, across the lush unmowed pasture where no cows have grazed since Kenny's trio of free-rangers
were sent to a sale and then up to the house that whines of lonliness.
In the junk-laden barn, above the rusting tractor only one stupid robin flew from wall to wall knocking himself senseless.
No other signs of life were to be found or heard. No groundhogs, no rabbits, not even Mister Stinky. It was eerie.
In the bottom of the big barn the floor is about two feet higher than it was originally, layer upon layer of manure and straw
mixed with more bits and pieces of junk. Kenny was not a tidy farmer by any stretch.
On a ledge at the far end one lone cow paddy and a rope that had tethered countless calves provoked a long-forgotten memory.
Tethering calves was Kenny's way of encouraging Cow to come into the barn for milking. Back then about five acres was
haphazardly fenced for pasture. After calving Cow and her chums would be sent out and the poor calf would be tied to
the wall with no more than five feet of rope. He kept these pathetic prisoners in this condition for months on end despite
my pleas and admonitions of cruelty.
One young bull,
wild with rage and frustration was kept this way for nine months. At night lying awake thinking about the poor creature
I knew that something had to be done. I phoned a fearless friend whom I will call Mike. Mike has no tolerance
for any kind of animal neglect and was outraged when I described the situation. We hatched our plan and the next day
around midnight we set off to liberate the bull.
Finding a breachable spot along the fenceline wasn't difficult, so the plan was for Mike to cross the dark pasture and slip
into the back of the barn. He wore a hat outfitted with an LED light and he was armed with cutting tools. I would
remain on the outside of the fence and watch the house for any sign of activity, although I was pretty certain Kenny was fast
asleep at that hour. Should there be any hint of trouble I would whistle so Mike could take the appropriate action;
run or hide.
It shouldn't take long to free the bull,
I thought, but a worrisome length of time passed and there was no sign of my friend, nor the bull. Had Mike tripped
on some of the junk and was lying unconscious in the barn? Had the bull hurt him? Just about the time I was ready
to slip under the fence and investigate an explosion of beef blew out of the barn. I'd never seen cows move so fast!
In the distant shadows followed Mike.
he moaned when he finally crawled under the fence. "He had that bull chained, tied with rope, wire and baling twine.
I thought I'd never get him free. Kenny will never catch that animal now," he predicted, and he was right. Kenny
didn't. The bull became one of the trio that eventually tore down the shoddy fence and took to roaming the neighborhood.
It was a joy to see him running free at last.
it," Kenny told Mr. Monsanto. Of course I denied it, and truthfully so for I had not set foot in the barn that
night. My only regret is that I hadn't called Mike earlier.
So many memories....