Aunt Mel’s farm is not very big, just 4 acres or so. The size of the farm is small but the number of animals that live at the farm is great. It’s easy to count the large animals, horses, cats, deer and opossum – one here, two over there. But it’s the little creatures, the spiders, lizards and birds that quietly dominate the farm’s population chart. These obscure bits of life manage day to day mostly unseen. They hunt, eat, sleep, breed and die virtually unnoticed. These little treasures that make Aunt Mel happy on the occasions that their paths cross. Such was the case with the water tub mouse.
The horses spend most of their day in their dry pasture. It’s a small pasture with a walk in barn for shade and shelter. A couple butterfly bushes provide light shade during the hot summer and bare branches to scratch bellies during winter. This pasture is their home, the place where they eat, drink and rest. It’s a safe area for milling about without any cares or concerns.
Aunt Mel works hard to keep the small pasture tidy. Every week she walks the fence and checks the barn boards tapping down loose nails. Sometimes erosion causes broken glass or sharp rocks to rise to the surface. Aunt Mel diligently monitors the grounds so the horses don’t bruise their feet. The barn is kept clean. And every other day the tub is dumped over, scrubbed and refilled with fresh water.
The bottom of the tub is slightly concave making an ideal, dank home for little bugs and worms. Every time Aunt Mel tips over the tub, these dark inhabitants scurry off in all directions. One morning when Aunt Mel tipped the tub, she found a surprise. A tiny nest built from hay and straw. The pieces were carefully woven forming a tidy nest no larger than a baseball. And smack dab in the center blinking its eyes from the assault of sudden sunlight was an ity-bity grey field mouse.
Once it regained its senses, the mouse bolted for the tall grass under the fence. It sat motionless watching Aunt Mel clean the tub then put it back upright. As soon as Aunt Mel left the area, the mouse scrambled back under the tub to its nest. For months the mouse and Aunt Mel repeated this routine. Then sadly one day the mouse was gone. When Aunt Mel tipped over the bucket, the tidy clean nest was dirty and pieces were strewn across the ground. The bugs and worms were crawling through the reminents.
Aunt Mel’s sits in the driveway at night to watch the falling stars. Sometimes she can hear a little critter scurrying past unseen. She imagines it maybe the water tub mouse out for a stroll under the starry sky.