Last week, Pops was out on a beautiful fall afternoon ride, saddled up for a mission to ensure the cows were in the right places.

He had been out there for a bit, covering ground, trotting through the fields, when all of the sudden, Pops’ right reign lay limp in his hand, no longer attached to the bit at the horse’s mouth.

“Now this is not good,” he thought to himself.

And it wasn’t. Actually, it was like his brakes and half his steering wheel disappearing as he drove down the open road at 55 mph.

But, no worries. Pops has long-honed cowboy skills. He attempted to maneuver the horse with the remaining left reign, only to find the last half of the steering wheel detached and dragging on the ground as the cowboy sat atop a horse now free to go wherever a horse might want to go.

Which was likely back to the barn where there was a grain bucket waiting for him.

A grain bucket that just a week before was full of seven furry, beady-eyed rodents, just hanging out, having their fill. They were waiting for an innocent and unaware someone like me to come along, discover them, jump 20 feet in the air and proceed to text photos of the creatures to all of the mice-fearing women in my life.

So that’s the story I’m telling here, a story of an epidemic we’re suffering at the ranch.

It goes by the name of “mice.”

Mice who hang out in grain buckets, scurry across boots. Mice who die in inconvenient places, make nests under saddle blankets, but not before chewing through the leather of your Pops’ reigns just enough to trick him into thinking he might actually have control of his horse.

It turns out that incident was just one of the many ways these creatures have been wreaking havoc on the men of the Veeder Ranch this season.

A few weeks ago, I walked into the garage to discover my husband on his hands and knees aiming and shooting his BB gun at invisible targets inside the open stock trailer.

“Mice!” he declared. “There are mice everywhere! Stand guard here, and don’t let them out of this trailer. I have to get more ammo!”

But apparently between his aim and my guard, we let at least one escape to find a new home in the Bobcat, just waiting to run across the toe of my husband’s boot and down into a gap in the floor of the machine he was planning on driving around the ranch all day.

Always a problem solver, my husband assessed the situation. He noted it was possible the mouse could escape the confines of the cab of that machine, but in the likelihood that it could not, he was not OK with the critter crawling up his pant leg while he was strapped in and unable to defend himself.

He figured he could deal with the rodent crawling up the outside of his pant leg, which explains the duct tape Pops found him wearing, wrapped and connecting his boots to his pants, eliminating any possible opening for a frantic mouse.

Despite our best efforts at defense and after replenishing our cat population, it’s become quite apparent that these mice have waged war, and they are winning, multiplying, scurrying and chewing their way to total takeover.

And don’t think you’re safe in town. No. Because the little devils are getting smarter and stronger.

Just ask Pops about the one who caught a ride to town on the windshield of his pickup last week, ears flapping, beady eyes watering, clinging for dear life as the wind whipped through his fur at 65 mph and Pops turned on his wiper fluid.

Yes, hold on to your horses and tape up your pant legs, because we can’t stop them and they’re coming for you.

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