A town mouse in the country

I keep thinking I'll get used to it. I keep thinking I'll acclimate. Generally, perhaps, I have. But every once in awhile there's a day like today when I was going about my ordinary tasks in my ordinary funky little house, and I heard a sound I recognized ... yes... metal groaning, engine louder and softer and louder again ... those guys have some of the heavy machinery running out there ... diesel smoke smell now wafting into the house confirms this ... and then -- what on earth? What is THAT?

It sounded like a huge splash of water - no wait - that's not water - sounds like gravel in a bucket - a really really big bucket. Nothing for it. I have to go look.
Ooooh! Now that makes more sense. One dude in the scooper and one in the dump truck, and the stuff going into the dump truck makes that noise. Oh -- and that's not a big scooper excavator after all. That's just the tractor. Now, that I should have been able to recognize. Judging by the bass vibrations now permeating the walls and floors, the elder bearded young giant is conscious for the day. Must've thought of something while he was sleeping. I've never heard that particular "riff" before. (Is that series of notes technically called a riff?)

I hear a lot of things I never expected these days. I can tell the difference between the buzzing of an insect I could smash if I felt like it and the buzz of an insect that will sting me if it gets any closer. I find that I listen for the sounds of a car coming up the driveway, which sounds differently from a car at the bottom of the driveway where there's a pull out. (Would it stop folks from so much pulling over in that spot if I posted the information that we can hear them talking as clearly as if they were calling up to the house through a pipe?)

The goats yell at us all day - but their yells sound different if their horns are stuck in the fence again. I listen (without realizing I'm doing it) for the pump in the basement to turn off - if it goes too long it burns itself out. That's bad, by the way. That means using water out of the icky well, one icky, smelly, hand-pulled bucket at a time. And yesterday (was it the day before?) there was an extremely odd sound that was reminiscent of a very splashy rainstorm coming through the windows - or ... did the cat have a rodent cornered in the dining room? Neither one. It was the sound of plops of roof moss, and the cracking of the house and popping noises were the guys on the roof. (Usually I hear them going up there and am then not confused by the strange sounds that follow. And of course, I try and try not to listen for the sound of "aaaaah!" followed by a dull thud.)

It's apparently a theme that covers ages and continents -- the town mouse and the country mouse. There are several versions of the story here. My favorite is the one from Norway - where it's not "country" to live in a "house"!

The House Mouse and the Country Mouse


Once upon a time a house mouse met a country mouse on the outskirts of a wood. The country mouse was sitting under a hazel thicket plucking nuts.

"Busy harvesting, I see," said the house mouse. "Who would think of our meeting in this out-of-the-way part of the world?"

"Just so," said the country mouse.

"You are gathering nuts for your winter store?" asked the house mouse.

"I am obliged to do so if we intend having anything to live upon during the winter," said the country mouse.

"The husk is big and the nut full this year, enough to satisfy any hungry body," said the house mouse.

"Yes, you are right there," said the country mouse. And then she related how well she lived and how comfortable she was at home.

The house mouse maintained that she was the better off, but the country mouse said that nowhere could one be so well off as in the woods and hills. The house mouse, however, declared she was best off. And as they could not agree on this point they promised to visit one another at Christmas, then they could see for themselves which was really the most comfortable.

The first visit was to be paid by the house mouse.

Now, although the country mouse had moved down form the mountains for the winter, the road was long and tiring, and one had to travel up hill and down dale. The snow lay thick and deep, so the house mouse found it hard work to get on, and she became both tired and hungry before she reached the end of her journey.

"How nice it will be to get some food," she thought.

The country mouse had scraped together the best she had. There were nut kernels, polypoly and other sorts of roots, and many other good things which grow in woods and fields. She kept it all in a hole far under the ground, so the frost could not reach it, and close by was a running spring, open all the winter, so she could drink as much water as she liked. There was an abundance of all she had, and they ate both well and heartily. But the house mouse thought it was very poor fare indeed.

"One can, of course, keep body and soul together on this," said she, "but I don't think much of it. Now you must be good enough to visit me and taste what we have."

Yes, that she would, and before long she set out. The house mouse had gathered together all the scraps from the Christmas fare which the woman of the house had dropped on the floor during the holidays -- bits of cheese, butter and tallow ends, cake crumbs, pastry, and many other good things. In the dish under the ale tap she had drink enough. In fact, the place was full of all kinds of dainties.

They ate and fared well. The country mouse seemed never to have had enough. She had never tasted such delicacies. But then she became thirsty, for she found the food both strong and rich, and now she wanted something to drink.

"We haven't far to go for the beer we shall drink," said the house mouse, and jumped upon the edge of the dish and drank until she was no longer thirsty. She did not drink too much, for she knew the Christmas beer was strong. The country mouse, however, thought the beer a splendid drink. She had never tasted anything but water, so she took one sip after another, but as she could not stand strong drink she became tipsy before she left the dish.

The drink got into her head and down into her toes, and she began running and jumping about from one beer barrel to the other, and to dance and tumble about on the shelves among the cups and mugs. She squeaked and screeched as if she were both drunk and mad. About her being drunk there was very little doubt.

"You must not carry on as if you had just come from the backwoods and make such a row and noise," said the house mouse. "The master of the house is a bailiff, and he is very strict indeed," she added.

The country mouse said she didn't care either for bailiffs or beggars. But the cat sat at the top of the cellar steps, lying in wait, and heard all the chatter and noise. When the woman of the house went down to draw some beer and lifted the trapdoor, the cat slipped by into the cellar and struck its claws into the country mouse. Then there was quite another sort of dance.

The house mouse slid back into her hole and sat in safety looking on, while the country mouse suddenly became sober, when she felt the claws of the cat in her back.

"Oh, my dear bailiff, oh dearest bailiff, be merciful and spare my life, and I will tell you a fairy tale," she said.

"Well, go on," said the cat.

"Once upon a time there were two little mice," said the country mouse, squeaking slowly and pitifully, for she wanted to make the story last as long as she could.

"Then they were not lonely," said the cat dryly and curtly.

"And they had a steak which they were going to fry."

"Then they could not starve," said the cat.

"And they put it out on the roof to cool," said the country mouse.

"Then they did not burn themselves," said the cat.

"But there came a fox and a crow and ate it all up," said the country mouse.

"Then I'll eat you," said the cat.

But just at that moment the woman shut the trapdoor with a slam, which so startled the cat that she let go her hold of the mouse. One bound and the country mouse found herself in the hole with the house mouse. From there a passage led out into the snow, and you may be sure the country mouse did not wait long before she set out homeward.

"And this is what you call living well and being best off," she said to the house mouse. "Heaven preserve me from having such a fine place and such a master! Why I only just got away with my life!"

(Clever Norwegians live in the country, apparently.)

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