Raccoons in the Dark

November 16, 2012

A true story …

We live on a tree-lined street. There are two huge maples on my side that have been forced by the power company’s tree-trimmers to spread their branches over my yard and house on one side, and well past the middle of the street on the other. Then there are two much taller trees on my neighbor’s side of the street.

The four trees drop several truckloads of leaves on the street and so my nightly task from early October to mid-December is to sweep leaves out of the street. I didn’t get home until 8:30 PM tonight, but I still swept leaves for half an hour because the leaves were nice and dry (you get used to counting small blessings like these when you live in Portland) so I was motivated to work hard. Which got me a little warm, so … instead of going inside when the job was done, I opted to do some walking meditation on our Stanton sidewalk.

After pacing the full length of sidewalk for about 10 minutes, I heard some loud rustlings over by my neighbor’s trees. I didn’t see anything at first, but after a minute or two I caught sight of a raccoon crossing the street and coming towards me. I stayed on course and thought about how to scare him off while another part of my mind recalled a woman who had been badly mauled a few months ago when she stepped between her dog and a raccoon.

That’s when I noticed that there already was a big fat raccoon clinging to the side of my tree, just a few feet from me and my sidewalk.

Fortunately, the garage was still open and I could grab the push broom that I had been using to sweep leaves. (I thought about grabbing the pitchfork and decided I didn’t want something that deadly in my hands.) I stopped my pacing and began beating the broom on the ground.

The first raccoon decided that I was threatening it and retreated across the street, but the much closer, bigger one in my tree just lazily crawled up the trunk to a crotch that is located about 8 feet off the ground and stared at me. I kept banging the broom around, which was difficult because I was trying to continue my pacing. It also seemed irrelevant to the fact that there was a large animal with claws and sharp teeth less than two feet above my head, but it must have had some effect because the raccoon eventually turned its back on me and crawled up a tree limb into the darkness.

‘Show’s over,’ or so I hoped, but about 3 minutes later I heard some loud leaf rustling overhead, quickly followed by splat! splat! splat! as 3 or 4 squirrels fell (jumped?) out of the tree and landed on the pavement. I had seen this happen before when a squirrel loses its grip and usually the squirrel is badly stunned (it’s a 20 foot fall from their nest). Some are even killed. But, if the fall stunned these guys, I couldn’t see it. Every one of them immediately ran off the moment they hit the street.

Then there was more rustling and screaming. I know ‘screaming’ isn’t the right word, but what I was hearing was almost certainly the squirrel equivalent of screaming. I felt awful. ironic since I’ve been directing murderous thoughts towards our ‘tree rats’ for over a year. They have been spending part of each winter in our attic and doing a fair amount of damage, but the screaming was awful, and ‘awful’ was how I felt as I listened to the screams which ended a minute or two later.

I paced a bit more, but it wasn’t long before the raccoon came crawling back down out of the tree, crossed the sidewalk that I was pacing on, and casually walked up my back steps towards my house.

As I approached, we began our final face off. Raccoon at top of steps. Me and broom on sidewalk. I banged the broom on the ground and the coon eventually decided to crawl up the new wooden fence that my wife had had built. The coon got to the top, turned, and stared at me. Bang! Bang! Bang! More action with the broom. More disdain from the raccoon. But it finally sauntered along the fence until it got to a large pine tree at the corner of our yard and crawled up into the darkness again.

By this point I decided I had had enough wildlife adventure for one nite and came inside. Moses, our cat, was asleep on the bed.

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