It was the night before we were to leave for what looked to be one of the most physically arduous and psychologically challenging weeks in my wife's recent memory.
We had dropped the girl's off at my in-laws and were flourishing the final checks on a myriad of leaving-for-a-week-and-camping-out-on-the-road check lists (house, garden, garage, car, camp stuff, cycling, video equipment, etc.)
A few ticks after the witching hour we felt confident enough in our trip preparation schematics and execution to retire, knowing we had an early morning drive followed by S doing a short 38-mile Day 0 ride from the start town (Marrieta, OK) to the Texas border and back -- see, it wouldn't be a true Texas to Kansas bike ride unless you actually started in Texas).
Enter the mouse's tail.
For some reason around wheat harvest time, the neighborhood cats are either overwhelmed by the sheer number of field mice running around town, or succumb to the heat and humidity in the atmosphere, as we always manage to shelter one or two mice during the running of the combines.
Past experience with what I've labeled, the "Cut Wheat Ralph Run" - named sympathetically for the infamous Mouse on a Motorcycle, Ralph S. Mouse has forced me to maintain vigil over a few traps set around the house, baited with peanut butter and cheese.
In the past three years, my varmint mini-WMD's have netted approximately 3 scores in the X column.
However, while we blissfully slept that pre-FreeWheel night, my snores drowning out the glass shattering winds buffeting our bedroom window while S dreamt of long downhills, 15 mph southeasterly tailwinds and endless water bottles filled with beef jerky flavored Gatorade (her two favorite road energy snacks), a fateful transaction was taking place at a mouse hole nearby.
The snap of the trap springing was barely enough to stir us from rem sleep. Nay, fear not for it was the systematic click-click-clatter-clatter sound that was organically motoring from one point to the next along the hardwood bedroom floor that finally aroused the sleeping giants from within.
When the unmistakable sound of the wooden and metal mouse trap being dragged along the floor finally ceased, only to be replaced by a periodic thunk --- thunk --- thunk --- thunk, that repeated with the regularity of a hard drives actuator arm stuck on a back disc sector, I knew our little visitor was stuck for good and ready to meet the master.
While S cowered under the covers...um, I mean fell back asleep to the soothing sounds of her husband politely evicting an unwanted tenant, it took me no time at all to find the subject of this weeks Ralph Run -- or at least I found the mouse trap being futilely pulled through a small hole beneath our bedroom's westerly pocket door.
Think large square peg in a small round hole. In this case, the square peg had snagged the middle of a mouse's tail.
As much as the girls would have loved to have kept this particular Ralph as a pet, I felt a more naturalistic demonstration of disposal to be appropriate, to which I donned my flip flops, carried trap and mouse outside, and promptly released the late night visitor in the tall grassy field at the end of the alley -- where the neighborhood feral cat gang regularly conduct their nightly furrapalooza.
Back in bed and looking at an alarm clock set to buzz a mere 20 minutes from that moment, I pondered the cruel hand of fate dealt to the field mouse, chased from the safety of the wheat fields and forced to seek shelter in the walls of my 113-year old house, only to find his favorite appendage snagged in the jaws of a spring loaded wooden and metal wonder, then released in the turf of his most rivaled gang.
I gave him 1 in 100.
Post-mortem of sorts, none of the traps we rigged were tripped upon our return from FreeWheel, so perhaps we've seen the end of this years "Cut Wheat Ralph Run." I am ever vigil.