When the sun sets on the Would-Be Farm, the local population gets a little wilder and more lively.
Mice wake up and start scampering about.
Skunks and porcupines saunter through the camp.
Coyotes slope along, sniffing at the traces of our dinner.
Deer graze their way through, and raccoons ––well, the raccoons are kind of freaking me out.
Eventually, Mr. Linton or I will have had Just About Enough and shout at the intruders. Angry-Daddo-Voice invective, which sometimes works, but does require warning the other person. ("Hey, I'm going to yell." "All right." "GERRROUT OF IT!")
Scamper scamper scamper.
If I can manage to get the door open and the flashlight on (assuming the game camera is NOT likely to catch the maniacal image) I sometimes burst out onto the porch and chase the raccoons.
But they tend to hear me coming and vanish into the underbrush before I have the satisfaction of frightening them.
As it happens, raccoons are determined creatures with pretty good memories.
They had a single night of access into the cooler last spring when someone (me) failed to fully snap the lid closure.
For the rest of the season, they proved quite willing to chew their way back in.
We ended up putting one cooler on top of another and setting out an array of hair-trigger mousetraps to dissuade them.
We kept them from destroying the cooler, but they haven't yet given up.
As Jeff put it: they ate a whole LOAF of suet.
Naturally, they knocked a bird feeder over and emptied it also.
I'm as judgmental as the next person. Probably more (said she, snortling in a juvenile way at the irony.)
I do make a moral judgement about "good birds" and "bad birds" at my bird feeder, and without the shadow of moral doubt, raccoons are no-good birds.
I decided on a new routine: every evening, I stow the feeders out of reach of raccoons (as well as beyond the stretch of bears, rats, the neighbor's cat, squirrels, et cetera).
But I didn't think about the large glass pickle-jar that holds the seed before it's dispensed to birds good or bad.
The first morning, I found the jar tipped over, the lid unscrewed and a small, tidy spill of seeds on the porch.
Huh, I thought. I better tighten that lid.
The next night I heard the jar tip over.
Wakeful under my cozy quilt, I gloated over the thought of the raccoon. He'd be bent over the jar, tiny ebony hand spread flat on the metal lid, a grimace and a grunt accompanying the futile effort to unscrew the lid.
Hope he busts a gut, I thought.
Then I thought, I sure hope he doesn't bust a jar. Damnit.
Mr. Linton has a somewhat alarming way of striding off vigorously early in the morning at the Farm. Coffee is nothing to him, giving him a considerable head start on the day.
As is his wont, he strode back presently, asking without preamble, "Do you know what I found halfway up the hill?!"
I turned to look, and lo, he was carrying the jar –– blessedly intact –– full of birdseed.
"They got it nearly all the way UP the hill," he reiterated, annoyance at war with disbelief.
"Heading for their lair."
We gazed at the object.
Raccoons hadn't learned yet how to break the glass. They hadn't gotten the lid off with their odd little hands or their sharp teeth.
But who could say what resources they had back at Raccoon Headquarters?
You'd think, anyhow.
When the light slants just right, a distinct handprint can be seen on the window that looks into the sleeping nook at Base Camp. Maybe two inches across, the little handprint is smeared on the window that stands a good three feet off the ground.
I try not to imagine why a raccoon climbed up and appears to have pushed –– pushed!–– on the window that looks into our sleeping quarters.
- an electric fence,
- a wider perimeter of hair-trigger mouse-trips
- –– rat-traps even! ––
- the lend of a noisy dog,
- buckets of water and Rube Goldbergian trip-lines,
- noise-making contraptions,
- preemptive strikes,
- becoming the new sheriff with a fast draw ("Names Spackler, Carl Spackler, ma'm.")
I'll start by making it prohibitively difficult for them to get satisfaction around Base Camp before taking lethal steps. Muah ha ha.