better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Along with many people,
I've often repeated this Emerson quote; it applies to many areas of
discussion, especially to the magic of capitalism, which rewards
Just found out, though,
that this is not what Emerson said. Here is the real quote:
"If a man has good corn
or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or
knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find
a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods."
Some say that he later
updated this to:
"If a man can write a
better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than
his neighbor," etc.
But this variation
first showed up seven years after his death, so someone probably
just used his famous name for the update. People do this all the
time on the Internet, attributing their own political thoughts to
someone famous — often Andy Rooney or Bill Cosby — to give the
thoughts more credibility. This makes me crazy, as many people who
send me these things have learned. I see it as a kind of identity
theft, even if, as my correspondents tell me, the famous person
could or should have said this.
But that's not what I
set out to write about today. I just wanted to write a better column
about a better mousetrap, in case you need one, and to share the
happy reminder that better things are being invented all the time.
Like many of my life's
stories, this one starts with the books I read as a child.
Cinderella made friends with two mice, Jacques and Gus-Gus, at her
hearthside. I think they were in the original Disney movie, too.
(Guys may be more familiar with the smart mouse in the "Tom and
I'm sure I'm not the
only woman who, having read "Cinderella," can't kill a mouse in the
house. However, for some reason I didn't develop an antipathy toward
the big cat (Lucifer) that didn’t get along with Jacques and
Gus-Gus; I now have such a cat. He practices "catch and release" —
bringing mice through two kitty doors, one onto the screened porch,
then one into the living room. After he releases them, they scamper
off into some unreachable corner of my cluttered house.
I'm not going into what
happens when that unreachable corner is my gas range or the
refrigerator, and the mouse dies there. Usually little Jacques isn't
injured, but lives behind a piece of furniture until I can coax him
into a wastebasket and take him back outside. This doesn't work
often enough to qualify as "a better mousetrap" though.
Last month, the latest
mouse found his way to the basement, which the cat often visits, so
I had to keep the cellar door tightly closed. Then every night I
filled a little water dish and set out some of the peanuts that I
feed the squirrels. In the morning, the nuts would be gone, so I
knew Gus-Gus was still in residence.
When the weather turned
warm, I opened the bulkhead door at night, placed a loose screen
inside it so the skunk (Bambi's friend Flower); rabbit (Bambi's
friend Thumper, Uncle Wiggly or Peter from Mr. McGregor's garden);
possum (no sentimental attachment); and other nightlife that visit
our yard couldn't enter. All I need is a raccoon or coyote in the
I think the mouse
probably did go out, but then of course came back to where he'd
gotten peanuts. This really wasn't a problem, I thought, until
someone told me about the damage he could do if he got into my
Chip Ford, who lives
next door, offered me one of his snappy mousetraps. Geez, if I
wanted a dead Jacques or Jerry, I'd let the cat into the basement,
where there are few places for a mouse to hide.
So Chip brought me a
"live trap" that he found at Ace Hardware. It was this little, gray,
plastic box with a hood that would gently close behind any mouse
that went in after the cheese it contained.
I doubted that my mouse
was that dumb. But I set the trap with a small chunk of
imported-from-Ireland Red Leicester cheddar, left over from St.
Patrick's Day; and to my astonishment, Gus-Gus was inside the next
morning! At first glance, I saw a tiny tail near the air gate, but
when I took the trap outside and opened it, he had turned around and
was looking at me with big frightened eyes.
I released him in a
wooded corner of the yard, left some water and peanuts nearby, and
now assume he is living happily ever after somewhere the cat can't
reach, because he hasn't been returned to the living room.
So, Mr. Emerson or
whoever: Someone did build a better mousetrap. The Live Catch! brand
is manufactured by Victor, and I for one (and Gus-Gus, for another)
hope the world is beating a path to Victor's door.