The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Irish Setters’

HOW NOT TO CATCH A MOUSE

 

I came home one night, late from a long day at the office. Finney my Irish Setter was more than ready for his evening walk and I prepared to take him out – but first I turned the stove on as I planned on re-heating some leftovers that were going to be my dinner.

We did our little tour of the neighborhood, ran into one of his friends, a wonderful Airedale named Ginger and took care of all those little affairs that our companion animals need to take care of on these outings. Both of us were hungry and once I had taken off his collar I proceeded directly into the kitchen to get both of our meals ready.

As I walked down the long hallway to the kitchen I smelled gas. Apparently the stove’s pilot light had failed to operate. I opened the outside back door and the kitchen window and went from room to room opening all the windows to air the house out. Ten minutes later I thought it was safe, so I lit the stove and prepared Finney’s dinner while I waited for the stove to heat.

Watching Finney eat was always a joy – though a brief one. He attacked his food as though it were a bowl of dust and he was the mightiest in the line of Hoover vacuum cleaners. He simply made it all disappear – and very quickly.

As I had assembled my leftovers on a dinner plate and covered it with aluminum foil, I noticed a strange odor. It smelled like burning hair. I couldn’t figure out the source of this smell and looked all around the kitchen and the pantry. There was no sight of anything burning. So I again opened the back porch door and the kitchen window to try to air the place out. Then I opened the oven door. There was the source of the smell.

Apparently a mouse had found its way into the stove and had been knocked unconscious or killed by the gas. And when I lit the stove, I had managed to do a fairly good job of cremating the poor creature. I removed the remains of this little animal and disposed of it, replaced my covered dinner plate in the refrigerator, called to order a pizza and began applying Easy-Off to the oven when it had cooled sufficiently.

All was fine (other than for the deceased mouse) for about a week. I began checking the oven each time I turned it on to make sure that the pilot light was doing it’s job. And then one day I went into the pantry to pour myself a bowl of granola for breakfast.

As I picked up the box, some of the contents spilled on the floor. I saw that a portion of the bottom of the box had been gnawed off. Well – where there is one mouse there are probably more – and they had invited themselves into our little home.

I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with this situation. If you’ve followed the blog you know that Finney was blind, so I was reluctant to set traps into which he, rather than the intended victim might walk. For the reason that Finney had both a hearty appetite and a lot of curiosity I was afraid to set out poison to eliminate the little rodents.

I really didn’t want to kill them if I could avoid it. But I couldn’t find any lawyers who would assist in serving them with eviction notices.

After a great deal of thought – and with a suggestion from one of my employees – I found myself that following Saturday at a pet shop in Old Town. This pet shop had all your normal pets and pet supplies – but their specialty was reptiles.

I admit to having an aversion to snakes. That began when I stepped on a small rattle snake when my folks and I were visiting Woodstock, NY when I was a child. (Woodstock is the only mountain in the Catskills that has rattle snakes – though they are far smaller than the ones found out west).

Although the snake didn’t strike me and I was rescued safely from the encounter, this experience left a mark. It even affected my willingness to handle garter and milk snakes which I had formerly played with quite comfortably.

So here I was in the midst of the snake pit. As I walked further into the vipers’ den I saw that one of the shop’s employees had a rather large boa constrictor hanging over his shoulders, the snake’s head reaching down to his knee. I shuddered at the thought of what I was about to do.

I explained my problem and wondered if the store had any snakes that had a special fondness for mouse flesh. He suggested that I needed a rat snake – guaranteed to make me mouse-free in almost no time.

I purchased the snake and took it home in a glass terrarium, not completely comfortable with this creature sitting next to me in the passenger seat of my car. Although I didn’t know if it were a male or female in order to soften my unease I named the snake, Gloria.

That night (conveniently rat snakes are nocturnal hunters which was when my mice did their foraging), I released Gloria from her glass cage and let her loose in the kitchen. I barricaded the entry to the kitchen with a couple of large cardboard boxes. In the interest of safety, I also barricaded Finney and myself behind the closed doors of my bedroom.

The next morning I got up and without bothering to attend to bathroom duties went first into the kitchen to see whether Gloria had done her job. Indeed she had. I noticed that there was a lump about one quarter of the way back from her head which hadn’t been there the night before. So I picked Gloria up and put her back in her glass enclosure. Of course, having just eaten, she was going to require about a week to digest the meal. I just hoped that mice didn’t breed faster than she could digest their progeny.

I continued to release Gloria every night hoping that she might have a higher metabolic rate than others of her species but it did seem to take about a week for her to get back to business. Then a second lump appeared. Gloria was back at work.

This continued for about six weeks. Then I noticed that Gloria was lumpless. But I thought I would give it a few more days. That was until the day when I went to put her back in her terrarium and I couldn’t find her. I panicked. There was a rat snake named Gloria loose somewhere in my apartment.

I had to leave for work and I had to unblock my kitchen because that’s where I kept Finney’s water bowl. Because of his blindness I couldn’t move it.

All day at work I had this vision of coming home and finding Gloria with a very large lump in her and no Irish Setter. I realized that was probably anatomically impossible – but I couldn’t get the vision out of my head.

 I finished my day and went home – fearful of what I might find (or not find) when I opened my front door. Thankfully, Finney greeted me with his usual enthusiasm. I let out a great sigh of relief and immediately took him for his walk.

When I returned to the apartment I found Gloria. She had nestled comfortably behind the kitchen radiator and was soundly sleeping when I picked her up. I put her back in her terrarium, told Finney I would be right back and Gloria and I headed back to the pet shop in Old Town.

When I walked in the same employee who had sold her to me was there – still wearing his boa constrictor. I explained that Gloria had done just as he had promised she would and that I would like to return her and the terrarium which I had purchased. After a quick examination and noting that she was well fed and healthy, the pet shop agreed to refund twenty-five percent of my purchase price. (I would have settled for nothing).

And that’s how I dealt with my mouse problem. I’m not sure that I would recommend it to you if you ever have to deal with the same situation.

 

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THE CART

Like all large cities, Chicago had many great restaurants. One of my favorites was located in the Hotel Harrison. It was called The Cart. It was special to me for several reasons – one of them being that it was the place my dad took mom on their first date.

Mom and dad were working for competitors and had met at the Chicago Gift Show. Dad said that it was love at first sight. Mom said she needed to see the show a couple of times before she knew for sure. But dad’s taking her to The Cart for dinner did help soften her attitude.

The restaurant was a Chicago landmark. It’s signature dish was roast beef – served from a very large silver domed serving cart – sliced to each diner’s exact order.

The roast beef was available in three sizes – “Regular”, “Queen-Size” and “Fit For A King.” Each was accompanied by a huge baked potato and served with the house salad. The Cart had a unique dressing for this salad. It was a creamed Roquefort with just a hint of anchovy. It’s the only place I have ever found it – and it was as wonderful as the roast beef.

When dad took mom there on their date the wait staff consisted entirely of women. My parents’ waitress that night was a lady named Stella. Her career there lasted for nearly thirty years and dad always requested her whenever he dined at the restaurant. A dinner at The Cart was always on his agenda when he was in Chicago.

Dad introduced me to this wonderful restaurant when he came to Chicago for the Lamp Show at the Palmer House. It was the spring of my first year in school. I welcomed a break from the dorm cafeteria whose output only vaguely resembled food.

I was anxious to see dad as well as try one of his favorite places. It was on this visit that I found out that The Cart was the site of my parents’ first date. And I didn’t hear it from dad – I heard it from Stella.

She came over to our table – without a note pad – and dad introduced her to me. She looked at me and said, “You know that I’m the reason that you’re having dinner here tonight.” I didn’t quite know what to say or where she was going with this comment. She said, “It was my wonderful service and our fantastic roast beef that was the reason your folks got married.”

Without missing a beat or waiting for me to say anything she said, “Your usual Mr. D? An Old Fashioned, easy ice and two maraschino cherries, orange slice – the Queen medium rare, regular baked, and the salad with the house dressing?” Dad smiled and nodded at her. I said, “Make that two – except for the Old Fashioned.”

By the way, though dad had patronized the restaurant for almost twenty years – he only came in twice a year – when the shows were in town. Stella had an amazing memory and a wonderful winning way. She made you feel happy that you had chosen to dine with her.

I believe that the reason Stella remembered dad so well was that he always treated the wait staff wherever he ate with respect for them as professionals – rather than looking down on them as the hired help. He was outgoing and genuinely a nice guy and would take time to chat.

I went to The Cart many times over many years. It was only a once or twice a year experience but, like dad I always requested Stella. When I started going there by myself I had a small family of my own – that being my Irish Setter, Finney. So one night when Stella was asking if I wanted the “Queen” medium rare I changed to the larger size. Stella looked at me and said, “What are you trying to do – put on weight?” I explained that I would take the leftover roast beef home for my dog.

She left and put my order in with the carver at the cart and returned with my salad and my dinner shortly thereafter. As soon as I saw the immense amount of beef on my plate I realized that Finney was going to be one very happy Irish Setter.

I finished dinner and asked if Stella would please wrap my unfinished beef so I could take it home. She returned with my check, my leftover meal and a shopping bag full of neatly wrapped packages that she had assembled in the kitchen – the remains of other diners’ unfinished dinners. She looked at me and said, “I hope Finney enjoys his dinner!” Stella was a dog lover. And she did the same thing every time that I returned to dine with her after that.

The south end of the Loop began a long period of decline before it was finally rejuvenated. But by that time, the seedy neighborhood had exacted its toll on the businesses that were located there – and that included The Cart.

I went there one night for dinner only to discover that it had been transformed into an Indian restaurant. I remember a feeling of incredible sadness that this Chicago icon had passed into the pages of the history books.

I miss The Cart and I miss Stella. They both provided some wonderful and warm memories. And, if Stella was right – and I think that she may have been – The Cart and she are the only reasons that I am here to share this story with you.

 

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