Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Of Mice And Muck

During the time I worked at Cycle Guide, my then partner, Mary, worked in the art department of Road & Track. R&T and Cycle World were in the same building, and Peter Egan wrote for both titles, so he and Mary often worked together.

One year Egan bought a new toolbox, and Mary bought his old one and gave it to me as a birthday present. Because she knew I admired his writing, she got him to scratch his autograph in the paint under the lid.

I brought the toolbox with me when we moved to Oregon in 1988. After a couple of years in a house in town, I bought a three-and-a-half-acre property outside of town, which we shared with two dogs, some deer, the occasional owl, and a million small rodents.

About half a million of those rodents took up residence in the toolbox, which lived in the unfinished half of the basement. I discovered this one day when I pulled open a drawer looking for a 5mm hex key, and instead found a clump of dryer lint with a depression in the middle big enough for several generations of mice to snooze in. The drawer under that one was stuffed to capacity with another nest. The bottom drawer was carpeted with mouse crap.

I cleaned out the toolbox and a month later they were back. The smell was horrific, and eventually I left the squatters in possession of their home and moved my tools elsewhere, fully intending to get in there someday and reclaim it for its intended use.

I never got around to it, until tonight. I’m in a new house now, and for the first time in more than 20 years I have an enclosed garage where I can work on bikes in comfort, and by golly, I want my toolbox back. So I removed the drawers, held my nose while I pried out the urine- and crap-soaked felt pads lining each one, and took the drawers outside where I sprayed them with S-100 and then hosed them down.

After taking the drawers out I found several things that had fallen down behind them. I found a 10mm wrench I thought I’d lost years ago. I found a receipt from a Snap-on dealer for a tool of some kind sold to “Elroy’s” sometime in the 1960s. I also found out that dried mouse pee smells just as bad almost 20 years later as it did the day it passed through the mouse—bad enough to make my eyes water. I might have to burn the clothes I was wearing.

This job might take a while. Hell, it might take a hazmat team.


Mark said...

I too still have my "vintage" Craftsmen tool box, somewhere mine too, became a condo project for mice.
Mine like yours, has all those old stickers -Torco oil,AFM,NGK, etc..

I pressure washed mine,WD-40'd the hell out of it, relined the drawer with new Snap-On matte, etc..
didn't do much with the rust however, which it looks like yours has too..

Dancer's mom said...

And then there's the other rodential excitement of living in the country -- and parking in a carport: mice building their nests in car heating systems. Oh, so cozy!

Don't ask me where, or how they get there, because I'm in the city now and have forgotten the details. But I do recall my kindly Honda shop twice taking apart my heating system and removing little twigs, shredded paper, dryer lint, all soaked in -- yes, mouse pee. They said I was lucky it didn't involve the air conditioning system.

Do I miss living in the country? Absolutely. Do I miss the mice? Not in the least.