When the Cat's Away. . . .
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

When the Cat's Away. . . .

Hello, everyone.  I'm back, after a week or so of traveling. Lovely to be home, even if it's only for a few days. We had an interesting trip through Ohio and Pennsylvania, even though it turned very cold.  It made me happy to be a transplanted Southerner!

I didn't do a single bit of writing, but I've been thinking about mice in preparation for finishing off "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese" by the end of the month. First came a few memories of mice I've known. (Road trips are wonderful for letting your thoughts go wherever they will.) 

One of my favorite mice lived in a fancy Chinese restaurant in downtown London. The food was outstanding, the decor exquisite, service impeccable, and the floor was kept clean by a scurrying little mouse. We had visited this restaurant every time we traveled to England, with nothing but wonderful memories. But this night (and it was Christmas Eve) was different. A slight movement caught my eye, and I watched as a tiny mouse darted across the aisle between banquettes and under a table. I was almost convinced I had imagined him, when here he came again, headed for another table. No one else paid any attention, but I whispered to my husband, and as we watched, he made several more trips.

Finally, when a waiter asked if everything was satisfactory, I asked him in return if he knew there was a mouse in the room. "Oh, yes," he said, "he cleans up the crumbs under the table." Dumbfounded, I just started to laugh. Then he went on to say that after Christmas they would be closed for a remodeling project, and the mouse would find his way out during that time. When we were ready to leave, the owner came by our table and thanked us for not making a scene by giving me a lovely illustrated Chinese cook book. Maybe on another occasion I would have made more of a fuss, but on Christmas Eve it seemed fitting that the little mouse have his feast, too.

Another cheeky little fellow lived in our garage for a while. We had installed a bird feeder outside the breakfast nook window to keep our indoor cats entertained. The extra seed for the feeder was in a large plastic tub in the garage.  One day I found the top ajar and peered in, only to meet the stare of a chubby little mouse, sitting on his haunches eating a sunflower seed.  I tried to explain to him that we were cat people, and that there were four predators just on the other side of the door, but it didn't worry him.  He lived in that seed bin for several days before he got bored and left.

I was still thinking about mice when we arrived at my cousin's daughter's family Amish market. It was like stepping back in time -- no canned goods and packaged meals. Fresh wheels of cheese made on the premises; produce still in the baskets from local fields; canning jars full of jellies, pickles, sauerkraut, and chowchow made from a family recipe; a flour mill; bulk herbs; and a peanut butter grinder all reminded us of what food can really taste like.  And the mice? Well, they were there, too.  Not live ones, but  catnip mice, hand-sewn by my cousin's Amish neighbor. The cousin runs a cat rescue shelter (cat-lover genes definitely run in our family), and they sell the mice to support the shelter. Before we left there, we had made arrangements to sell both the cheese and the wonderful mice on the website I'll be building for "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese."

After a wonderful visit with long-lost family members, we went on to the Military Writers Society  of America Conference in Pittsburgh -- where I learned first hand what it is like to be a mouse! It was a great conference, welcoming, and informative. Still I felt like a bit of a mouse, sneaking around the outskirts of this assembly of military veterans and widely published authors. I could only nibble at their experience and knowledge, and I felt honored  to be presented with a bronze medal from them for my own Civil War book. So thank  ou to all of them for welcoming the mouse-like me.  I learned a lot from these writers, not the least of which is an understanding of how a mouse feels.

Back soon with some columns that will be going into the mouse book.