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Saturday, August 26, 2023

"Say Yer Prayers, Varmint!"

"Git yer flea-bitten carcass off'n my real estate!" - Yosemite Sam

It's a fact of nature that when you live near the forest, you will - at least occasionally - have mice in your house.

Generally the black rat snakes out in the woods do a pretty good job at patrolling the perimeter.  But every now and again, an intruder or several will penetrate that defense, and set up shop in the basement.  Maybe the snakes are on vacation.

This round's first evidence of illicit rodent activity:  a peanut in the trees! 
Right below the precarious deck-girder bridge at LaMont...
"What the...?!"  

Most often they (the mice) raid the stack of scrap wood outside Slim's Cooperage in Three Rocks.  Plus of course some collateral disruption - and yeah, some extra "coal lumps" along the right-of-way.

But most recently, they committed acts of larceny so novel I almost had to admire their resourcefulness, if it weren't so infuriating: 

👉  They destroyed my smoke, man.  👈  

The Basin refinery in St. Amour has a mirror behind it, which doubles its apparent size.  And the mirror has (well, had) cotton smoke plumes concealing the top edge of it.  And these little 𝄳@§+@𝅘𝅥𝅮$ actually climbed tanks and scaffolds to tear them down, strip them clean, and abscond with the cotton!  

St. Amour residents may be pleased with the pollution abatement - but the owner is not happy.
Note the stripped smoke plume skeletons left dangling from the flare pipe 
and draped across the refinery complex.

There has to be one dang comfy mouse nest around here someplace - that I'm sure I'll discover someday,
when I least expect it.  Thankfully I had plenty more vitamin-jar cotton wads in stock.

With a little encouragement, the cotton wads naturally contribute some great curling and roiling when stretched out, that seems to animate the smoke plumes even though they're standing still.  

Some spray adhesive both attaches the plume to a wire frame, and, 
puts a "set" on it so that it will hold its shape.    

 Add some gentle shots with the flat black - and a whole bunch of fiddling, fussing, and cussing -  
and the James River Basin Petroleum Corp. is back in production, filling all those JBAX tank cars.  

The varmints, for their part, have been forcibly removed.  

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!  What have critters done to your layout?  


  1. For the adhesive, I find the 3M #77 works better for this purpose than the #45.  It's stronger, yes, but what goes with that is that it tends to dry more completely, and loses its "tack", which helps it resist cobwebs, etc., better.
  2. The wire is just some #22 hookup, stripped bare.  You're looking for strength enough to give the cotton some spine to suspend the plume, but not so much that you destroy the puffiness trying to adjust the overall shape. 
  3. The flare pipe is powered by an Evans Design LED flame module.  They have two styles - the smaller "Fire" version, which I used in the still over in Mineshaft Gap, and the "Flickering Fire" version, which alternately flashes two orange and one red LED.  I chose the latter for the more spirited inferno you expect from a flare pipe, and added another LED to it, too - a slow-flash yellow.  It's a pretty cool effect I have to say - the surging flame combined with the roiling smoke really does make it hard to believe nothing's moving.  But what it does best, though, is totally distract the eye from the fact that there's a giant mirror across the scene.