Phobias…yes, even I have a great phobia. Mine seems to come in a tiny and furry little package but make no mistake in the depth of my fear. Yes, I realize that God gave humans authority over animals and yet every time I see one of these four legged little creatures I lose all sense of authority along with self control. I resort to a primitive child and believe if it weren’t for a lack of leg I would surely take off running and knock anyone down in my path – Priests included. Hi, my name is Ashly and I am afraid of mice.

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Why be afraid of something so adorable and small? Why not try to work your way up by going to Disney or handling hamsters? Well, I will tell you, hand me a hamster and see what my subconscious truly believes about “not taking revenge on a brother”. I have tried to overcome this phobia but it doesn’t go away any more than my fear of touching dead things. Yes, I have two fears. If it is dead I will not touch it, much to the dismay of elderly family members that have shoved me nearly head-on into caskets at funeral after funeral over the years. Really, I do NOT need to touch a dead person to get closure any more than I need to lick the toilet bowl to know it is clean. Really. But that is a different story.

Growing up my dad wanted to make sure that I learned a healthy sense of responsibility from a young age. He built a chicken coop and got me some chickens and taught me to feed and take care of them. Now I don’t know whether or not Gladware was invented in the 1980’s but for whatever reason there sure as heck weren’t any sealing Rubbermaid containers for my chicken feed. No, we got a trashcan which had been more than likely picked up alongside of the road with a cracked lid that would never shut right no matter how much time a child stood there fooling around in the dark winter (flashlight tucked under one arm). Of course, my Father didn’t agree with this last statement as he repetitively made clear each night before dinner when he would admonish me for (yet again) leaving the lid off the chicken feed. Yet still, I wonder twenty years later why he just didn’t buy a darn Rubbermaid container! Snap-Click. An unquestioning sense of “mission accomplished” that would have saved him so much trouble. And that’s not the worst of it.

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Apparently in the islands, free-range chickens is something altogether different

You would think by looking at a mouse that it would be a dumb animal, one given to no malicious intents or cravings. An animal so primitive that it would only search out food and upon the luck of finding my recycled trash can/chicken feed container it would simply roll up in there like Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web and glutton itself to the point of no return. But I am here to tell you that if you assume this about mice you are wrong. They truly are out to destroy your life.

I would bounce into the chicken house each day after school with my leg on or off or whatever I felt like and then head over to feed my little squawking birds. After a fight with the mama hens that did not want me to gather their eggs and would peck me (and otherwise turn into little demons that encouraged me to forever eat meat) I would turn to the dreaded feed container. By the time I would approach the feeder with my pecked paws I was distracted and battle-worn, simply wishing I could be done and get about my own life of climbing trees or riding ponies, whatever a kid does.   I would take the half-off lid the rest of the way off and look down into the barrel full of golden yellow delight. The smell of the fresh cracked corn and laying mesh would surround my senses with a false sense of safety. After a several minute stare-down of the barrel and seeing no movement I would inadvertently reach my arm down for a scoop of feed. Being a child myself, reaching into a barrel that was not much taller than I required a foot or two leaving the ground and an all-encompassing grovel down into the top for a scoop. And this brings me to the point in the story where I prove to you how deceitful these critters are. Yes, intentionally horrible and preposterous maggots.

Suddenly, with my head and hair and two arms down in the barrel, all light barricaded by my flopping jacket hood, balancing on my stomach right below my ribs, out would jump a four legged critter and start running. Yes, you heard me right, right over my screams and shock! (Reminding myself to close my mouth because hey, that’s an opening!) Sometimes they would burrow back down in the feed and sometimes they would decide that I looked tastier and would attempt to use my arm as a ladder in a food chute! Regardless of their response there is one thing for sure that happened: I was traumatized! It would leave me in various states from running out of the house screaming like a banshee to tripping and falling in chicken crap while flailing about frantically. It was all the same to me. It was awful!

We grew up in a brick and log cabin home built in 1864 and there was more than one occasion that we would open the pantry to see a little fur ball take off towards us running

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The home where I grew up

over my foot (or fake foot) in a mad dash to freedom. Why did they do that? Couldn’t they wait until night time or, I don’t know, the eight hours a day we were in school? No…they knew they had us “by the tail” in fear. They were out to destroy my life!

Fast forward twenty years to when we had just bought our very first home. Oh, so sweet and exciting. My husband’s blood vehemently boils when he hears or finds evidence of a mouse so I felt so confident we were meant to be together forever. He dutifully stocked poison in every loft and corner, nook and cranny. We were safe. Yes. Safe. So one day I went downstairs to the basement to pick up a few items I had just sold online. I circled around the pool table and found myself in a 4×5’ space between the wall and the table, gathering my arms full of antique Pfaltzgraff stoneware items, and a crutch in one arm to use with my fake leg. As I rounded the corner I saw it. Yes, it had me cornered. A mouse, running towards me, falling, and then standing up wobbling as if drunk! It was obviously attempting to come slaughter me. What was I to do? This critter had the ENTIRE basement to go kooky in and it picked the 4 foot space I was in? And someone wants to tell me that these devious monsters aren’t deliberate in their actions?

Well, if you must know, I dropped the Pfaltzgraff. Yes, all of it. Everywhere. And ran the other way around the pool table/over the pool table, who really knows? I was cursing the mouse and thanking God that the basement contained two exits. I ran up the stairs and called my husband, who with no mercy whatsoever told me to go back down and murder the intruder with some sort of shovel or fireplace poker. This would have been fine for me except that other fear I have: dead things. No, no, there would be no murdering done by me. What if it had rabies? I mean clearly something was wrong with it. It seemed that the poison was what was causing such erratic behavior and having one leg I couldn’t really RUN away (in spite of my hop skip and jumps I had just done over the pool table) so what if it would bite me and then I would be poisoned too?! No, no, that just wouldn’t do.

So I did what all counselors tell you to do: “Get to the root of the problem.” Find the start, the beginning, and process it from there. So I called my dad. The man that started this by picking up some cracked-lid, used, brown, trash can to put chicken feed in. The man that

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My Mom, Dad, and myself as a child

thought he was teaching me responsibility and by all means of evidence and spankings received for NOT feeding the chickens it would appear the lesson was half-learned. The man that taught me to fear for my life whenever stumbling upon evidence of “them”. Yes, Dad came to the rescue, and quite cheerfully I might add, he “processed” the unprocessable. (…A wonderful made-up word which could be used again by me in the future.)

So while the fear has only continued to grow from there as I have stumbled across live mice in the shed that try to torture me when I need to mow and dead mice (thanks to all that poison my hubby stuffs) in different places including a cubby-hole and a light fixture (fried mouse, anyone?) I must agree with all counselors. Going back to the root and having that dealt with is vital. Dad’s number will forever maintain the #1 slot on my speed-dial.

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