Gray Maynard (mus-musculus) PACHYUROMYS duprasi
By Ludddford Creef
Hello, my story begins in 1951 in a small community in a place called Norfolk County, Virginia. The area was quite rural, and farming was the primary vocation for those who did not work at the Ford Plant building automobiles.
Home for me was a one-story schoolhouse built in 1907, a place where children would sit for hours learning reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography. Happy kids who brought their lunches and said the pledge of allegiance to the flag each morning. Kids are clumsy and did not always eat all of their lunches, I never objected to left-overs from the trash can.
I was able to get to know some of those kids, and I remember the funny things they did - and some of the mean things too. These kids were mostly 11-12 years old and just full of energy and mischief. The boys were always ready for a game of softball or catching mice, frogs, lizards or the occasional green snake. The girls played volleyball, jump rope or hopscotch, causing the custodian to fuss about the messy chalk left behind. These were mostly poor farm kids who wore hand-me-down shoes and clothes. Their haircuts were home-made just like their lunches. The boys knew their trucks and tractors and loved to argue as to which was better, the Ford or the Chevrolet, depending on which their daddy drove. The tractor arguments were much more intense and really separated the Men from the Boys! The better-off boys drove big fifty horse-power tractors. The kids who only had little garden tractors of ten horse-power or less accepted their status as second-class citizens.
Some of the girls actually learned to drive the farm’s tractor, especially if there were no brothers in their family. Driving the tractor was not much fun for the girls because they had to wear a hat, boots, and bib overalls. They were always yelled at for going too fast or too slow! The girls really liked to cook or baby sit and most of them liked to pick garden fruits or vegetables.
It would be two or three more years before they began to notice each other, which caused most of them to spruce up and get store-bought haircuts and wear deodorant and primp at the mirror.
My family had expanded so many times I often wished I had paid more attention in math classes so I could count them. Each one of us had to find a place of our own because our mom was always expecting some more to arrive. I found a nice corner in the supply closet which was cluttered with books, brooms and every kind of boot and shoe. A great big book was shoved into the darkest corner and it was exactly what I needed. I was only one-year-old, but my teeth were really sharp and within a couple of days I made a very cozy place to sleep. Well, the word got around, and pretty soon Miss Barbara Lou from the math class closet came to check out my pad; she liked it and moved in. I warned her about the big orange cat, but I guess she forgot. So I am a widower and three-years-old now. I just mind my own business and always watch out for Buster the cat.
There have been many kids in the old schoolhouse, and some still live in the area; some of them married each other.
One of the boys, Bruce, was the school marble champion and real fond of softball too. He liked school and never missed a day because if he stayed home, he had to work on their hog farm. He became a policeman and one night he shot a young woman who was robbing the 7-11 store. He went to the hospital to visit her and they were married a year later.
There was a pretty girl named Joanne, she was oogling the boys as soon as the first grade! Then in the seventh grade the boys began to oogle the girls, and Joanne quickly earned her “flirt” nickname. After graduation her father died and she took over his Insurance business. She bought one of those hot rod Mustangs and had a near-death head-on collision with a large truck; she still wears the scars.
There was one boy who did not like school but loved tractors and for that reason decided to become a farmer. That summer he worked on a peanut farm in North Carolina. The farmer had a nice almost new John Deere tractor that only he could drive. His kids said, “If we could pull the plow daddy would sell the tractor!” Farming was moved to the back burner, and he obtained a part-time job at the Cities Service gasoline station weekends and nights. He saved his money and bought a new Volkswagen his senior year in high school. Now retired from two jobs, his hobby is restoring tractors, one per summer.
There was tragedy too. One morning as the kids were loading onto the school bus to school, a teenage driver ran over little Donnie. It was an accident all of the kids on Bus 117 had to watch. That was a tough day, everyone at school was crying, I knew Donnie, I cried too.
My kids also suffered tragedy as many were caught by Buster and his kid Junior. The traps and poison blocks got many more. Eventually my book nest was discovered by the janitor and home sweet home was tossed into the dumpster. Once I was caught by a couple of boys at recess and they put me into a quart jar without holes for air. They put my jar in the yard so Buster could play too. He tried to get the jar open but in the process he just rolled the jar around. Thankfully a teacher stopped the torture and I was released. Girls carried their lunch sandwich in their pocketbooks, and I was caught nibbling on a peanut butter sandwich. The girl screamed (of course), and one of the boys tried to kill me with the broom! That was a close one.
Overall I have had a good life, I enjoyed watching the kids grow into adult people and I did my part eating food that would have gone to waste. I never damaged anything except Buster’s reputation, I have been one lucky mouse. The old schoolhouse was demolished in 2014, and I died the next year. I like heaven much better than that old schoolhouse; angels are not allowed to kill mice.