Dead-Mouse Carpets

I don’t know if the image of thousands and thousands of crushed mice on a city street—mice crushed so thoroughly and efficiently that their guts and gore are thick over the road, carpeting it in a semiliquid paste-like sheet, a slick sluice, making said road too slippery to drive on, totally impassable without maybe those winter tire chains I’m not even sure people have anymore except maybe in Alaska, I’ll have to ask someone in Alaska—I don’t know if that gets you, but it bothers me.

Gooey crushed rodents. Top of the list of things I don’t want to see. Or have described to me. Disrespectful even bringing it up. It’s Hitchcockian, or biblical, whichever came first.

Worse yet, it skews that driver’s-ed answer. When’s the slipperiest time to drive? Who knew it isn’t like they teach you at Kaplan? “a) When it’s been raining for hours” or “b) When the oils of the road lie with the fresh warm droplets of a summer shower” or “c) In a flood, right?” No, it’s “d) Lo, when there are hundreds of thousands of freakin’ crushed dead mice on thy macadam.”

They had an argument in the 1920s, the Bureau of Biological Survey and some mammalogists. That’s how you get Squishy Mouse Street. It’s this whole thing about ecology, and how everything-is-connected-to-everything-else, which could sound trite or profound, depending on your mood or age or sobriety, and all I know is, you mess with one thing out there, you’re messing with another, and it’s all pretty hard to figure out. Next time you’re getting your kid’s braces tightened and they have old issues of The Journal of Mammalogy in the waiting room, check them out. It’s all in there.

This was in Kern County, California, the mouse stuff. Actual real-life reports had it that housewives skittered about on the furniture for a full week, never touching their mouse-covered floors. The rodents got into people’s hair; they ate through school desks; a local warehouse caught pert near two tons of them with traps and poison. Very well then, they didn’t say “pert near,” that was an unfortunate rhetorical flourish. But anyway, the other stuff, housewives and schools and tons of dead mice, that’s legit. Multiples of thousands of pounds of dead mice.

The biologists had said, “Let’s poison predators (with strychnine) to protect ranchers and sheepgrowers and whatnot from losing their animals.” Like from coyotes. Coyotes eat sheep. And apparently they also chase, but never catch, roadrunners. Mammalogists had different ideas, but what could they do? They didn’t command the public prestige they do today, those paparazzi-loved No. 1 Trusted Americans. So, not enough predators, too much prey, and you get millions of uneaten rodents. Not pleasant.

Flaming Fur Balls

This isn’t related to the mouse thing, except sort of, and I really should move on anyhow. But how about those fires in Malibu? They have lots.

Malibu has burned 14 or 16 times just since the 1930s. Probably more, if you count small fires like that one that recently got Suzanne Somers’s ThighMaster-filled house.

Look at the San Dimas Experimental Forest in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. Scientists paid attention and saw that fire was good for nutrient recycling, for the pyrophytic flora. Plus, it helps keep down massive fires later, if you keep the brush down earlier. But this all gets tricky when people decide to build future MTV sets there, because then you have to put those fires out.

Forest Service folks were kill-all-fires-dead types for a long while, and, like the biologists’ death wish for Wile E., that didn’t work out so well in the long term. Instead, let ‘em burn! Except if one is headed for a house, then, OK, don’t let it burn! If the house belongs to a famous person, to someone who was on that precious Three’s Company, it’s a big deal.

In 1978, wild rabbits got caught up in a blaze—one guy called them “balls of flaming fur”—and they ran around, spreading the fire to wherever they dropped dead. That’s kinda graphic. That’s up there with the dead-mouse carpets for getting me queasy. But charring doesn’t give me the nauseous wobblies as much as sploshy slopping. Crunch crunch, not squish squish.