RICHARD ORD: ‘I’m a murderer’ – the sad tale of Jerry the vole

Field Vole (Microtus agrestis)
Field Vole (Microtus agrestis)

HOW quickly fate can play its part in changing your life. One morning I was just an ordinary Joe, a nondescript dad-of-two serving up breakfast to my boys, by the following afternoon I was the Whitley Bay Vole Murderer.

Life can deal some cruel hands. In the case of Jerry the vole, who ventured into our garden, those cruel hands were mine, and they dealt him mousetraps.

“If when you died, we chucked you in the wheelie bin?” In a strange way, it sounded quite appealing.

I know, I know, mousetraps are not everyone’s cup of tea. Normally I’d reach for a more humane rodent repellent, but I’d lent my 2lb rubber mallet to the neighbours some weeks back.

It all started so peacefully. I spotted what at first I thought was a mouse jumping up in front of our pet rabbit’s cage. “Look at this,” I beckoned to our eldest, Bradley, aged 14, at breakfast. “Isn’t it cute.”

Cue bedlam. Our Bradley was convinced the vole was a baby rat and was about to bring the plague upon his beloved Rockta (that’s the name of the rabbit).

My wife, who hadn’t seen the vole, was concerned about fleas and ordered mousetraps to be set. Her dad delivered them the following day.

After nearly losing my fingers setting the vicious contraptions with that well-known mouse bait of McVitie’s chocolate digestives, I placed them under the rabbit’s hutch. The boys (Bradley and Isaac, 11) were warned not to let the rabbit out until the vole/mouse/baby Black Death carrier was caught.

We left the traps out and continued on our merry way to work and school. But we had all forgotten about my mother, who was popping over to make the boys’ teas and who always lets the rabbit out!

Bradley remembered. I took the frantic text. I then rang my mother who was shopping in town. And, aargh, she hadn’t noticed the mousetraps and had let the rabbit out!

Who says modern life is boring? This was turning out to be a high-octane race-against-time thriller in the same vein as Liam Neeson in Taken or Sandra Bullock’s Gravity, only without the spaceships and car chases, but with more voles.

Mother dashed back and, thankfully, was not greeted with a bloodied mass of mousetrap and rabbit parts, but the sight of Jerry nibbling a carrot.

For the record, it was my mother who christened the vole Jerry. It’s important to attach loveable human characteristics to non-human entities before they meet a gruesome end, don’t you think? (I’d named the carrot Bernard, and look at his grisly demise).

Anyway, with Rockta safely back in his hutch I, on the advice of my wife, smothered a section of Bernard in honey and used that as bait.

Our Isaac asked if, when the vole was caught, he could bury it in the garden. He said that when he was an adult and had a house, he would keep loads of animals in the garden and bury them all there. “It’ll be like a cemetery,” he said, “but full of animals.”

I worry about that kid sometimes. His weird thoughts strangely gave me pangs of guilt. Why couldn’t I just catch the vole and set it free in a wood somewhere? I couldn’t for the simple reason that while I was contemplating Jerry’s mousetrap-free future frolicking with mother nature … he got snared.

It was a mercifully painless end. Though not a dignified burial, I chucked him in the wheelie bin.

“How would you like it,” moaned our Isaac, “if when you died, we chucked you in the wheelie bin?”

In a strange way, it sounded quite appealing.

•As a footnote, Vole-gate did prove educational. When looking up some vole facts, as you do, I discovered that there is something known as the Vole Clock.

It has been heralded as one of the wonders of modern science (and I’m not making this stuff up).

The vole’s teeth are used by scientists to date archaeological rock strata from millions of years ago. Apparently, vole’s teeth are near-indestructible and are always turning up at things like Stone Age digs.

When Jerry’s teeth are uncovered in a million years time, they will be used by future scientists to pinpoint what will, no doubt, be known as the Year of the Whitley Bay Vole Murderer.