News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 8, 2013

MIKE LUNSFORD: Mice really do play when the cat’s away

I am rarely away from my place much in the summer. I like the quiet here and don’t yearn to be gone for very long at a time. To me, a vacation often means that I don’t have to start my car for days on end, or put on socks, for that matter. But this year has been different; my wife and I took a two-week driving trip through New England, the longest vacation we’ve ever had without our kids along for the ride. We had a great time, but when we got back, we were surprised to learn that all kinds of things had been going on in our absence.

I’m not talking about a break-in or a wild party. The place was locked up tight, frequently checked on, even lived in a while as the two of us hit the hottest spots in Maine and Vermont, that is if you like the homes of poets, coastline walking trails and moose rehabilitation centers.

No, the changes in and around our house were subtle, little things that made me realize that my yard and my gardens, even unused rooms, change when no one is there to walk through them.  

We saw proof of this observation first-hand before we ever returned home: The last stop on our tour was Steepletop, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s home until her death in 1950. The farm, comprised mostly of woods and rolling hillsides, is near Austerlitz, New York. Millay’s place stood empty for more than a decade, that coming after her sister, who moved in to preserve her famous sibling’s possessions, passed away. In just 10 years of vacancy, most of the time and labor and money that Millay had invested in turning the farmstead into a showplace (it had 13 inter-locking gardens and a magnificent pool and rock walls) became unapparent. It will take the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society hundreds of thousands of dollars and many years to restore the place; we’d love to go back to see it when the work is completed.

Joanie and I arrived home from our trip very late after driving all day across three states. I could tell as the headlights of our car swept across the driveway that night that the weeds I occasionally pick out of the white rock on my way to the barn or mailbox had gone unchecked; I couldn’t believe that I could see them, in some instances 3 or 4 inches tall, growing in places that were barren just a few weeks before. I made a mental note to get after them the very next morning.

Before we ever went to bed, we saw even more proof of how quickly an unoccupied home can go into decline. We had turned our air conditioning up to save a bit of energy while we were gone, so the house was warm and musty. That was remedied quickly enough, but it hadn’t been 20 minutes after I brought in the last load of vacation gear from the trunk that I heard Joanie voice her displeasure — rather loudly and in a higher pitch than usual — over spotting a mouse in our kitchen. It had come out of an open utility closet door, taken a good look at the strange creature standing at the kitchen sink, then ran for the security of the crack between a cabinet and our refrigerator.

We haven’t seen a mouse, even evidence of one, in our house for years, but it was obvious to us that night why we were seeing one then. Not only had the place been very quiet in our absence, but also we had boarded our housecat, a 3-year-old neurotic named Edgar, at our local veterinarian, so he’d have steady doses of food and attention. We were actually afraid he’d destroy our house while we were gone… Edgar enjoys shredding our hands and arms after his purrs lull us into patting him, but it is now obvious that he — and his predecessor, Arthur — must have been a pretty good rodent-deterrent system for us. Joanie was picking up Edgar the next day, so we set a trap near the refrigerator and went to bed.

A few years ago, I read Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us,” in which the author used all sorts of scientific data to paint a picture of what this planet would be like if people were no longer walking on it. In some instances, Weisman depicted the minor but certain changes that would be seen in as little as two weeks or so. Images from his book came to mind as I walked my yard that first morning of our return.  

Although my son had mowed the yard in my absence, I still found the usual litter strewn in the grass, both fallen from my trees and tossed from passing cars. I also discovered that huge black ants had taken up residence in the big patio umbrella I’d laid on our deck to keep the wind from blowing it open. They had already furiously built quite a metropolis for themselves, tending to and doting over a host of big yellow-white eggs. I shook them out and got the umbrella back up.

I also soon noticed that everything had grown, not just my grass, but the corn and soybeans in nearby fields. I mean REALLY grown — perhaps a foot or more in the heat of a humid June. A golden raintree sapling that I had started in my garden, and am going to transplant soon, had shot up another 6 inches or more in the time we were gone, as had my tomato plants and hollyhocks. I began pulling weeds and creepers away from flower beds that were clean just a few weeks before; I couldn’t imagine what a month’s absence would do to my place if I were not around to tend to it.

The moles had gone crazy in my absence, too. Without my vigilance, they took it upon themselves to tunnel themselves silly — huge mounds of yellow-red clay signaling the approach to their city of destruction near a trio of blue spruce trees on the north edge of the property. The wasps had built nice-sized nests under my cabin door and along a back porch gutter; I wasn’t home to swat them away. Just about everywhere I looked, coneflowers had bloomed, hostas had sprouted purple, and sunflowers had tripled in size. My sole grapevine was nearly covered over by a purplish-green invasive that I don’t even know by name, and Joanie and I both walked through cobwebs — contorting and spitting as we went through our garage. I found new spider webs in my cabin, too, spun from books to windows, doors to lamps.

We also gained two freeloaders that we’re not particularly happy about, both creating havoc and intimidation without us there to nip it in the bud. A raccoon has clearly been taking advantage of our absence by raiding bird feeders for seed and nectar, and a brutish gray-and-white tomcat — quite the thug — has made himself at home around the place, bullying our old barn cat, Max, and stealing every morsel of food he can find. Their fates are yet to be determined…

We’ve been home long enough now that things have pretty well returned to normal. The recent monsoons are the only thing keeping me from my duties as groundskeeper, but the shrubs are trimmed and the house de-funked. The moles and ants and unruly vines have been whipped into shape whether they like it or not.

The mouse, I am happy to say, has been dispatched, not by Edgar, but by deception, a bit of Colby Jack cheese, and a trap. After a few weeks away from home, Edgar now expects his meals in bed.

Mike Lunsford can be reached by email at hickory913@aol.com, or c/o the Tribune-Star at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. You can visit his website at www.mikelunsford.com; his new book, “A Windy Hill Almanac,” will be released this fall. Expect a photo feature on Mike’s trip to poet Robert Frost’s homes in the July 21 edition of the Tribune-Star.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • Purdue Shooting2.jpg Purdue shooting leaves one person dead

    A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.

    January 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET 042014 DOUBLE-DEATH.jpg 2 bodies found in Pimento home

    Police were at the scene of a death investigation on Sunday in southern Vigo County.
    “It’s a double death investigation,” Vigo County Chief Deputy Clark E. Cottom told the Tribune-Star at the scene.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Purdue Shooting_Will.jpg THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs

    Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.

    January 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bosma Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee

    Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.

    January 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET012014 snowtracks.jpg We enter the deep freeze again

    If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.

    January 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET012014busses weir.jpg Levy redirects school funds

    If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.

    January 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana

    School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
    More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.

    January 21, 2014

  • MET 012114 DONNELLY BOARD.jpg VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board

    Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.

    January 21, 2014 1 Photo 1 Video

  • Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase

    After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.

    January 21, 2014

  • SPT041614 morrismorris.jpg BOSTON MARATHON: Not intimidated

    One reason Mike Morris — and many runners can relate — has been a distance runner for 30 years is it’s restorative powers. Not to the body but to the mind.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 041814 HUXFORD PAT.jpg Overcoming symptoms

    Even when he was in grade school, it was obvious Justin Huxford was a special kid.
    He was the first at Rio Grande Elementary School to walk 100 miles around the school grounds over the school year, one of just a handful of kids to meet the goal.

    April 20, 2014 3 Photos

  • MET 042014 POWELL EASTER.jpg Answering the call

    Static was the only thing on TV or radio. People were on their knees as they prayed. It was, as if for three whole days, the world stood still.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • TH wins 8th Tree City USA ‘Growth’ award

    Terre Haute was named a 2013 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management.

    April 20, 2014

  • ISU hosts Ukraine panel today

    In Ruth Fairbanks’ morning commute to work recently, she heard two news stories on the radio about Ukraine. Considering her drive-time is just five minutes, it demonstrates how unstable — and newsworthy — Eastern Europe is these days.

    April 20, 2014

  • MET041714 harvest hands.jpg Their dream rises: Mother-daughter duo team up to expand eastside bakery

    As she gently formed a round sourdough, Marta Shelton seemed to hold her dreams in the palm of her hands.

    April 20, 2014 3 Photos

  • MET041814church medina cut.jpg Church resurrected: Prairie Creek church that burned in the midst of a winter storm ready for rebirth

    From the ashes of a devastating winter fire comes out a church reborn.

    April 19, 2014 4 Photos

  • Vigo School Board to approve central pool bond resolution

    On Monday, the Vigo County School Board will receive an update on a planned, $9.8 million aquatics center that will be built in Voorhees Park.

    April 19, 2014

  • Kokomo Tornado 02.JPG Inconsistent help: FEMA’s disaster decisions frustrate state, local leaders

    Pamela Jackson thought she was lucky to escape harm as a tornado bore down on her neighborhood last November. She huddled in a bathroom with her two disabled sons, critically ill husband and six other family members as the twister blew out windows and tore the roof off her house. Hers was one of scores of homes and businesses in Howard County that were damaged or demolished by the storm.

    April 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • MET 041814 ROBOT BRUBAKER.jpg Gearing up

    A team of Vigo County high school students — and its robot — are gearing up to compete against 127 teams from throughout the world in an upcoming international robotics competition.

    April 18, 2014 5 Photos

  • MET041714 little library.jpg VCPL to install free ‘little libraries’

    Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: A Little Free Library.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Flaws in new ed standards ‘too substantial’

    A State Board of Education member formally requested Friday that an education panel abandon a proposed overhaul of Indiana’s education standards and instead recommend that the state’s previous benchmarks be reinstated in classrooms this fall.

    April 18, 2014

  • Spike in mumps cases reported across Illinois

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Public health officials are investigating a sharp increase in the number of mumps cases recorded in central Illinois.

    April 18, 2014

  • Police: Fatal fire began with dropped cigarette

    SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — State police say a fatal house fire in a southern Indiana town began when a disabled woman dropped a cigarette.

    April 18, 2014

  • Board member asks for old Indiana school standards

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A State Board of Education member is calling for a proposed overhaul of Indiana’s education standards to be ditched and that the state’s old benchmarks be reinstated in classrooms this fall.

    April 18, 2014

  • MET 041714 BOOKS OUABACHE.jpg A real page turner

    Victory was sweet for the Franklin Elementary teammates, who won their first ever Battle of the Books competition Thursday at Meadows Elementary.

    April 17, 2014 6 Photos

  • MET041714 bucshon.jpg Rep. Bucshon leads discussion on minority care in Vigo County

    The list of problems seems endless: Lack of health insurance, mental illness, cultural barriers and stigmas about routine medical check ups, to name only a few.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vigo County students, educators recently made a 2-week trip to Terre Haute’s sister city of Tajimi

    Six Vigo County high school students and two educators, including superintendent Dan Tanoos, recently returned from a two-week cultural exchange trip to Tajimi, Japan.

    April 17, 2014

  • tsBennett Tribune-Star columnist named company’s best

    The Tribune-Star’s Mark Bennett has been named CNHI’s Columnist of the Year for 2013 in its large newspaper division.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Clay man arrested on drug charges

    An eight-month investigation by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of Wednesday of a Clay County man on meth-related charges, authorities said.

    April 17, 2014

  • Drug raid leads to arrest of siblings

    Siblings were arrested Thursday after police said they discovered an active meth lab in a Terre Haute home, authorities said.

    April 17, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Obamas Attend Easter Service Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Raw: Easter Morning Delivery for Space Station Raw: Crowds Rally at '420' Celebration in Denver Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Marathoners Celebrate Easter With Tradition Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus
NDN Video
Teen hitchhikes in wheel well of flight from California to Hawaii Celebs Share Their Easter Fun At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Dr. Phil Put In The Hot Seat By His Own Wife Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity