Mice in the Ceiling of Lower D
Christa Yez, Class of 1994
I came to Eureka in the fall of 1990. I was assigned to live on Lower D in Alumni Court. That same fall, the college began construction on the baseball field behind Alumni Court. The baseball team didn’t have a home field, so the new field was great for them. Unfortunately, the field’s construction created a major inconvenience for the ladies living in Lower D that year. The area behind Lower D has been farmland, and to build the baseball field, the farmland was plowed under. Once the farm was plowed under, the mice that had lived in that field needed a new home. Lucky for us, many of them found a comfy spot to live in the ceilings above our rooms.
I don’t remember how long it took us to realize that we had mice in our ceiling, but some of the girls heard the mice scurrying above our heads while others saw them in the lounge at night. So, we called Facilities and told them we had mice in our ceiling. Facilities responded by bringing a bag of old-fashioned mouse traps to Lower D for us to use. After dropping off the traps, Facilities left us on our own to to bait the traps, place them in the ceiling, retrieve them after the mice had been killed, and dispose of the mouse carcasses. To my recollection, they never once came to check on the traps or to find out if the mice problem had gone away.
As I think about it now, I’m amazed that we didn’t raise a fuss about the vermin above our heads as we slept or having to be responsible for doing our own mouse hunting. But at the time, after our initial incredulity, we simply accepted the situation, and made the most of it. We baited out mouse traps with peanut butter, and placed them in the ceilings of our rooms. We even created a silly ritual to go along with the capture and removal of each mouse.
The ritual started shortly after we set the traps for the very first time. I remember it was a rainy Wednesday morning. It was about 10:30, during the weekly convocation hour, so no one had classes. Most of the girls were in their rooms or in the Lower D lounge, and soon we heard a trap snapping shut. We all knew that meant we had caught a mouse. We hadn’t really thought about how we were going to get the mice out of the ceiling, but we had to figure it out.
My roommate, Jen Neubauer, was the tallest girl on the floor, so she had the unenviable task of fishing out the mouse trap from the ceiling. She would wrap two grocery bags around her arms, open the ceiling tile, and reach around until she found the mouse. Once she did, she’d pull the trap out of the ceiling, remove the mouse from the trap, and then tie the bag shut with the mouse in it. She was always careful never to touch the mouse with her bare hands.
With the mouse bagged up, Jen would hand the mouse off for “memorializing” and “burial.” We memorialized each mouse by naming it and writing the name on a blue sheet of construction paper that we hung on the lounge wall. As for the burial, two people would be in charge of taking the bag out to the dumpster. I was usually on the burial team. The reason two of us went was because on that first Wednesday, it was raining. So, one person had to hold the umbrella (a black one, of course), and the other one would carry the mouse bag and toss it into the dumpster. As we dumped the mice, we would always say a few words about the mouse. I don’t remember what we said, but I’m sure we didn’t say, “We’ll miss you.”
The first Wednesday, we caught about four mice within an hour or so. We caught the most mice that fall as the weather started to turn cold, but over time, we caught less and less. We caught over twenty mice, and each time, we followed up with our mouse-disposal ritual. Luckily, none of the women on Lower D caught any mouse-borne diseases.
The Perfect Day at EC
I had many wonderful days at Eureka College, but there is one that stands out in my memory as the perfect day. Actually, it was more like the perfect two hours. These perfect two hours happened during the spring of 1994, my senior year. I was working for Dr. Nancy Perkins in the Writing Center as her student assistant/writing tutor. Our office was on the fourth floor of Venuum-Binkley. It was quite a climb up those stairs every day, so usually once we got up there, we wanted to stay put for awhile. But this day was one of the first days of the year that didn’t require a coat. It was a sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky. Everything on campus was bright green with new growth and the world just felt fresh. The Writing Center wasn’t busy that day; I don’t think we had any visitors at all. None of the tutors wanted to be working that day; we all wanted to be outside, instead.
Dr. Perkins must have known we didn’t want to be cooped up, because she soon began sending us out of the Writing Center. Since I was also her student assistant, she often asked me to run errands for her. First, she sent me across campus for her mail. Normally, I’d hustle over to the mail room and back to Venuum-Binkley, but not this day. As I walked across campus, it seemed that everyone who wasn’t in class was outside walking around. The campus was gorgeous, and everyone I met on my walk was in the best mood. That trip to get the mail would normally take ten minutes, but that day I stretched it to about twenty minutes. I met so many people I knew, and I had to take at least a minute to talk to everyone I met.
I came back with Dr. Perkins’ mail and she kindly sent me on another errand. Altogether, I think she sent me out at least three or four times. Now, normally doing those four flights of stairs three or four times over a two hour would have been cause for revolt. Looking back on those two perfect hours, I would have gone up and down four more times just to be outside on a beautiful Eureka day. There really is no better time at Eureka than spring.
Like everyone at Eureka, I had many different faculty and staff members that were memorable and had an impact on my life. The three that stand out most in my mind are Coach Joe Barth, Dr. Nancy Perkins, and Dr. Loren Logsdon.
I was a four-year member of the swim team and Joe Barth was our coach. I had a number of coaches throughout my swimming career, but Coach Barth was the only one that I addressed as “Coach.” I swam competitively throughout grade school and high school, but I wasn’t all that good. Coach Barth was actually the only college swim coach who called to ask me to swim for him. I didn’t choose Eureka because I could swim, but that was a nice bonus.
Coach Barth had a realistic view of our team. We were a small team, so he was never obsessed about us winning races or meets. Instead, he wanted each of us to improve throughout the season and develop a love for exercise that we could take with us for the rest of our lives. Before every meet he always said the same things to us. First, before we ever got to the pool, he’d look at us and tell us: “Don’t do anything to embarrass yourselves, your coach, or your college.” Second, just before the meet, he’d tell us to have “good starts, good strokes, good turns, good finishes.” Those were his pep talks.
Before he came to Eureka, Coach had been a math teacher, and every once in awhile, he’d pull out some math for us. I was a distance swimmer, and apparently, I had a habit of swimming from corner to corner rather than straight down the middle of the lane. One day at practice, he showed me this geometry problem he had done to let me know how many extra yards I did per race by not swimming straight. I don’t remember if I swam any straighter after that lesson, but I do remember the geometry problem. I could write pages with the many stories I remember about Coach, but I think all these stories can be summed up by saying that he looked out for his swimmers, had fun coaching us, and managed to get the best swimming out of us with positive support, encouragement, and a few bad jokes along the way.
My junior and senior year, I worked for Dr. Nancy Perkins, and over time she became a mentor and a friend. I was her student assistant and helped her put together the manuscript for Echoes from Eureka’s Past, volume 2 for the printer. Neither one of us were very good with computers yet, so our work, at times, was ‘adventures in word processing’ and figuring out how to fix whatever we had done wrong.
The summer after junior year, I stayed on campus, so Dr. Perkins asked me to help her with some of the rehabbing she was doing on her house. After my campus job was complete, I’d go over to her house and spackle and sand the ceiling in one of her bedrooms for a couple hours. The best part was when I’d take a break or be done for the day, and then Dr. Perkins and I would just visit for awhile.
Dr. Perkins was also a great teacher. I took Advanced Composition with her and wrote my own chapter for the Echoes book. As an English major, I loved literature, but until the Advanced Comp class with Dr. Perkins, I found writing to be a chore. Somehow, her enthusiasm for writing and her patient guidance throughout the class helped me to become a better writer as well as discover that I actually enjoyed writing-who knew?
Dr. Loren Logsdon was one of my favorite professors at Eureka, and I know I am not alone in saying how much I enjoyed taking classes with him. His passion for teaching, his students, literature, and Eureka College were always apparent. In each of his courses, he would have quizzes every week or so, and my favorite thing about his quizzes were the bonus questions at the end of each quiz. They never had anything to do with what we read; instead, they were about Gilligan’s Island, or baseball, or something else that interested him. You could only get one bonus point per quiz, but I always tried to answer all of the bonus questions, just to see if I knew the answers.