ZEB AND TINA




A Winter Home

"Oh dear me, fall is here, oh me oh my," Tina field mouse said as her husband Zeb entered the burrow with a large green pea pod that smelled so sweet and good. Did you notice that the water is beginning to freeze and a lot of plants are starting to dry up?"

"Yes my bones tell me that fall is here and all too soon it will be winter time," replied the slightly gray field mouse. He dragged the large pea pod over to the dining area where he and Tina immediately said a quick prayer and started to nibble on the pea pod.

"Oh Zeb this is the best one I can remember, where did you find it anyhow?" Tina spoke in a soft, low voice, making sure to enunciate because Zeb hated slang and eliders.

"Yes this one is exceptionally good, I found it out next to the road, it seems some man had a flat tire and the rumbling of the flat made him lose some of his sweet peas. Thanks up there, if I hurry, I can get three more." Zeb would if he said he would, and that is just like it is.

"Well, if you are going for the peas, I will scout around and see if I can find us a nice warm winter home around the barn where we lived the past two years," Tina said as she finished eating and immediately began to clean her face and polish her long whiskers.

Zeb finished eating and noted that there was still nearly half of the pea pod left. "I do hop you find us a nice warm and dry place close to some food, oh tis a pity they moved that old lumber pile where we used to winter." With that Zeb was up, kissed his wife and was gone.

As Tina came out of the burrow, oh it was such a lovely fall day, warm but not hot, and cool but not cold, just a beautiful sunshiny day. As she scurried across the road and into the Buffalo grass, which covered the field, she saw Estelle and her twelve young ones. "Oh Estelle, my how they have grown." "Oh hi Tina, I have wanted to come visiting but as you know with twelve young ones, you don't go far."

Smiling and remembering Tina quickly thought, about if for she had only had three this past time and one of them old big claws had gotten and already the other two were out on their own. "Yes Estelle, to be quite open and frank, I do not miss all the work of taking care of such a large litter, but then you are so young and healthy." Tina scurried faster toward the little barn, which they had wintered behind since she and Zeb had been married.

"Why hi Tina, what is Zeb doing sleeping?"

Tina looked up on the fence and there sat Mrs. Robin dozing in the sun. "Hi Mrs. Robin, guess you and Ed will be heading South real soon if this weather gets much cooler," Tina liked Mrs. Robin; that was one neat thing, they were friends and not enemies. "No, Zeb found some fresh green pea pods over by the road, and are they delicious. He is trying to get us a couple more."

The she went to the north side of the little barn and abruptly stopped, for there was no pile of old lumber and trash, it was all clean and mown. "How dare they," Tina thought as she stopped, ran up on the bank and looked around. She immediately went around to the East end of the barn where there was a shed with some lumber and some baskets, which were partially grown over. "Oh no!" For the shed was gone and the area had been cleaned. And oh my there was a great big almond colored building on the East side of the barn. About this time she heard Zeb call her name.

"Tina, I got three more and they are in the burrow," Zeb said as he caught up with his wife. "Gosh this place has really changed since the spring when we left,"

Just then Tina saw something and scurried toward it. "Look Zeb, Look here," she said as she raced down to a big pile of wood chip much in the corner next to a big wood box. Immediately she ran to the edge and tasted one of the chips, "Zeb this is red wood, good soft redwood, ok look it will make such a nice winter home for us."

"Yes it will be warm and keep us dry, then if we really get hungry there is redwood and all sorts of bushes and shrubs ground up in here." Zeb took a small piece of Boxelder maple and began to chew on it. "Someone shredded a lot of stuff here." Immediately both Tina and Zeb started to burrow, wow it was fun.

"Oh Zeb this will be the best and warmest winter home we ever had."

"Yes Tina, it will be and it offers a quick and good escape route in under the wood in the bin." They burrowed for about an hour then determined they were hungry again. Or rather maybe it was that they both remembered the sweet tender pea pods they had in the burrow over on the other side of the road. "Oh I am full, so full," Zeb said as he stretched out on his nice soft bed of grass.

Tina snuggled close to her mate and replied, "ooooooh I am tired and sleepy," as her eyes slowly closed and both Tina and Zeb went off to napper's town.

The following week it snowed and turned cold and so they moved into their new winter home, a burrow under a large pile of mulched redwood and branches. Things went great and they were so warm, but then by the end of the week the weather had warmed back up.

"Tina, I will be back in a few minutes for the man puts out peanuts for the Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Blue Jay, heck he won't miss a couple for Mr. And Mrs. Zeb Field Mouse," as he quickly raced from their home up over the top, onto the fence and over to the big flat bird feeder which was hooked to the to of a tall cinderblock fence. Grabbing two small peanuts and storing them in his jaws, Zeb started home.

"Morning Mr. Robin," Zeb yelled as he dashed across the top of the fence.

"Dog in the corral, dog in the corral Mr. Robin yelled as Zeb jumped from the fence onto the top of the mulch pile. But Red dog, the big Chesapeake Retriever had seen Zeb and his eyes lit up.

"Woof, woof, mouse," Red dog barked as he headed for the mulch pile. Zeb ran into their home.

"Oh my, we haven't had peanuts for ages, and I do like peanuts," Tina said as she and Zeb began to eat. "What is that noise?"

"Oh Red dog saw me, that young whelp," Zeb said as he rolled a peanut out of the shell which he had just finished opening. "He will quit I a minute, dogs are not determined."

"Woof, woof, mouse, mouse," Red dog said as he began to dig and scratch at the mulch pile as hard and as fast as he could.

"Oh my, the house is shaking and he is getting nearer," Tina said to Zeb.

"Yes that Red dog is not giving up," Zeb said as the southern tunnel collapsed. "Tina grab you other nut and to the wood box."

Immediately just as the whole house collapsed with the Red dog's nose poking into what was their living room.

As the startled couple found a nice soft spot under the wood pile, Tina looked at Zeb and said, "Heck and it was such a good house, let us finish our peanuts." By this time Red dog found that his prey had disappeared under the woodpile, and he heard his master whistling, so he laughed as he headed home. Within a few minutes Tina and Zeb were napping having forgotten about their intruder. Tomorrow they would find a new winter home.

Tina & Zeb Find A New Home

"Zeb wake up, we have to find a new home, come on Zeb, wake up," Tina field mouse said as she shook her husband.

"Aw shucks Tina why is it you always wake me or I get roused when I am dreaming about getting a giant Edam cheese and just gnawing through that red wax coating?"

With that Zeb moves a little and falls back asleep.

"Zeb I am not spending another night under this wood pile," Tina nudged Zeb really hard, and Zeb knew when she did that all he could do was get up and get with it.

Zeb and Tina scampered up through the wood thrown into the bin and soon were on the top of the pile, looking down at there torn up home. Boy old Red dog had really done a number on that pile of mulch.

"Look Zeb there is a crack in the door of that barn," Tina told her spouse.

Zeb looked and then replied, "Yes they used to have three horses in there, Brud mouse told me, and all the field mice lived in the hay and ate the horse's oats each winter." Zeb shook his head, for he had heard about those days that is till they got the cats.

"Let's go check it out," Tina said as she scampered down the wood pile and soon Zeb and Tina were in the barn.

"Oh my watch out and don't eat anything." Zeb said as he grabbed his wife. "There is Dcon everywhere."

The two scurried about then all at once from the Northwest corner of the store room Zeb called to Tina, "Come quick I have found the place."

Tina rushed to her husband and there she found a dream come true. "Oh Zeb what a nice place, we could live here all the time, but can we get outside?"

"Sure we can," Zeb replied as the two mice climbed up on top of the cinderblock foundation, which the barn's walls were set. Then down through a small gap in the two by fours, which was the base for the wall.

"It is so large, and warm and dry," Tina said as they descended to the base of the foundation. For what Zeb had found was a concrete foundation with the space in the blocks not filled which made a good dry and secure place for them to live. They found some oats and hay seeds in the space and soon they had their stomach's full.

"Think I will go explore while you nap," Zeb said as he started climbing in and out and up and down through the holes in the cinderblocks. About a half hour later he was back, breathless and excited.

Tina saw her husband come scampering back and immediately asked, "What did you find, huh huh, what did you find?" "Tina, we can traverse the whole foundation, and there are lots of places where we can go outside from our new fort home."

"Really?" Were his wife's words.

"And there is enough food down in here to last forever," Zeb was excited. "Welcome to your new home Tina, welcome to the cinderblock fort."

Within a week the two had explored every inch of the foundation and the inside of the barn. The new person had no animals and had all sorts of junk, none of which was good to eat or even gnaw on.

"Zeb, what if some other field mice find this place, what if they move in?" Tina was a worry wart mouse. "And if more move in the person will try to get rid of us all.

"I have been thinking about that and if we seal all the exits except the one which is quite well hidden, then we can keep them out."

And before long Tina had three new little ones and they had a ball scampering around in the barn and in the foundation. Then it seemed like no time till they little ones were big enough to go out on their own.

"Zeb, I have been thinking, the person has not put out anymore Dcon and is leaving us alone."

"Yes Tina, it seems that way, but just wait till the kids get old and the two girls become mothers."

"That made me think, our children have always been taught to go out and to make it on their own." Tina was deep in thought.

"Yes, we have, and if I say so myself it seems we have done a good job."

Tina smiled, for she had Zeb where she wanted him. "What if we just make sure we teach our kids and then send them away from here out into the big fields, then we can visit them yet only you and I will continue to live here in the luxury of our Cinderblock castle?"

Realizing he had been set up, Zeb just smiled, looked at his wise wife and replied, "some may think it mean but if we continue to raise them as we have they will have a better life out on their own." And so it was that the children of Tina and Zeb were told how bad and mean the person was and that when ready they should seek their life out in the big field and over in the houses down the road. And the two did spend from the middle of May till the first of September visiting their offsprings and telling what a mean person owned the barn.

One day Tina came up into the barn and saw an old man sitting on a box fixing something. Not being overly shy Tina looked at the old man there working and in her loudest field mouse voice yelled, "Howdy mister person, nice weather is it not?"

The old man looked to the left, then to the right, then he looked up and then looked down. Then he sat still with a quizzical look on his face wondering from where this little high-pitched voice came. "I hear you oh small one, but where are you?" The old man continued to look.

"Oh over here in the Northwest corner," Tina waved her small gingham bonnet at the man. "Oh mister person, I am a small field mouse."

The old man looked to the corner and there was a small field mouse waving the smallest little gingham bonnet he had ever seen. "Why hi there mouse, shucks I didn't know mice could talk."

"Oh they can't and I don't know how but you are the first person with whom I have talked." Then Tina did a little curtsey and replaced her bonnet on her small head. "Oh don't get alarmed, for only my husband Zeb and I live in your barn." The she quickly added, "Oh I am Tina, Tina Field mouse."

The old man just beamed and he surely did not look dangerous as he sat there with the big smile on his face. "Well hi Tina, I am tom, old tom Wyo, how do you do?"

"Glad to make your acquaintance mister tom WYO."

"You say there are just you and your husband?" The old man closed his pocketknife, pulled out his red bandanna handkerchief, cleaned his glasses, put them back on and leaned forward as he looked down at his small newfound friend. "I knew there were mice here abouts, but none ate the Dcon I put out.

"Oh no, no sir, that would zonk us really quick." Tina smiled then added, "But it is a good deterrent against others sharing our cinderblock castle."

"Your cinderblock castle," a funny look came over the old man's face, then he laughed, "Oh OK, so you live in the open spaces in the cinderblock foundation?"

"Oh yes and it is so dry, warm and there is a lot of food down there."

About that time Zeb heard his wife making these funny noises so he went up to see what was happening." He scampered up and as soon as he saw the old man he grabbed his wife and yelled, "quick hide afore he gets us!"

"Hi Zeb, I am not mousing today so you may relax," the old man laughed.

Then a funny, well heck not funny but a strange thing happened, as Zeb looked at the old man and spoke, "Huh, you are not going to try and kill us?" Zeb was shocked for he made the funny noises and besides that he understood what the old man had said to him. "Tina, what is happening, we are talking to a person and a person is talking with us?"

About that time there was another loud voice from the distance, "Ooops the boss is calling, talk with you later," the old man rose, turned out the light and left the barn. Later that night Tina went up into the room and found two small chunks of cheddar cheese and two slices of apple beside the hole

It wasn't long until Tina and Zeb would sit on the old man's knee and chat. On those cold and snowy days, the old man would build a fire in the little wood stove he had in there and they would spend the afternoons chatting and telling stories. Heck the old man could make up some good stories. Two or three times a week, Tina and Zeb would find some little goodies to eat beside the hole and heck one day there was two small pads beside the hole. The small cushions just so happened to be of a size, which allowed Tina, and Zeb to lie all stretched out.

"Old man are you really getting six cats to rid this place of those infernal mice?" Zeb asked as he ran up the old man's leg and sat down on his knee?

"Sure going to get me some good ratters to keep you vermin in your hole," the old man said as he lightly ran his index finger over Zeb's back. About that time Tina came scampering up and sat on the other knee. "Zeb mighty fine looking lady you have, reckon I would have a chance with her?"

Keep it up old man and we will bring in all of our kids and we will have a big war." Zeb squeaked with delight for in the warmth of the room, the three had become the best of friends and so the long winter went until spring when the old man started to work and didn't have much time to chat, and then it was time for Tina and Zeb to visit their children and grandchildren. "See you two in the fall."

"And don't you work." too hard, oh person friend of ours," both Tina and Zeb chimed as one.





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