Every man remembers a favorite automobile. Mine was “Old Blue”: a sturdy Chevy sedan with fading paint and worn upholstery. Ignoring the advice of parochial Californians, Old Blue accompanied our family from balmy Santa Barbara to our new home in snowy St. Paul.

As the first fluffy flakes of winter began to fall, a large family of field mice took up residence in Old Blue. While the car’s conversion to a mouse house didn’t bother me, I knew my wife would feel differently. So I kept it to myself.

But not for long. The moment I switched on the heater one cold Sunday morning, the car was filled with angry squeaks and frantic scurrying as a legion of mice dashed around our feet. From that moment on one thing was clear: If Old Blue was to remain in our family, the mice would have to go—immediately.

Our solution was a small electronic device that emitted a high-frequency sound. The annoyed mice soon moved out, and Old Blue bravely went on to face the corruption of moth and rust.

Yes, the best-laid schemes of mice—and men—do go oft astray, as the Scottish bard Robert Burns observed. He, too, had evicted a family of mice from their spacious nest while plowing his field in the fall of 1785. The “wee mousie,” he wrote of in his melancholy poem, was more blessed and fortunate than he, for “the present only toucheth thee.” Unlike the mouse, who was not troubled by painful memories or by bad conscience from the past, Burns complained that for himself, “I backward cast my e’e, on prospects drear.”

Nor, Burns found, was the mouse troubled by the future. Guided by instinct, he made his preparations for the winter without fretting and without dread of what was to come. An envious Burns complained, “An’ forward, tho’ I canna see, I guess an’ fear.” ...

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