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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Unexpected Dinner Guest

Whoof, what a few weeks!

I know it wasn't much of a hiatus, only ten days, but I haven't written a single thing at all since the 10th, and even then, it was just a comic that I'd written previously and scheduled... I had good reason though.

Daughter 1 of 2 turned 6 on the first of July, and 2 of 2 turns 2 on the 26th of August, and we had a big cookout on the 16th.

The summer officially kicked off with the weekend of the 4th, at least for us. When I was a kid, I made friends with a neighboor, and his family quickly became a second family to me. They own a cottage on a lake up in New Hampshire, and I'd spent many a weekend (and some school vacations) up there with them.

It was easily my favorite place to be. I swam, I fished, I hiked (which anyone who knows me understands how strange that sounds...) and there was a girl of whom we do not speak. I won't get into all the details... suffice to say, the place and the folks had a lot to do with my life from the age of 11 to 17.

Now, the place is a little different to me than it once was, but no less special, and I get to share it with my kids. 2 of 2 doesn't much care what her surroundings are, being only almost-2-years old, but 1 of 2 had the time of her life. She was given her first fishing rod, a couple bobbers, some hooks, a lure or two, and a dozen night crawlers. She didn't catch anything, but she enjoyed it.

That weekend started my week's vacation too, I took the whole week off to get the house ready for the bash we'd planned. As far as vacations go, it was certainly not what you'd call relaxing. I, my wife, my nephew, and a friend of ours busted our humps. Painting, mowing, weed whacking, lugging of old concrete from a long-ago busted up walk way, power washing... spending... Oh, the spending...

Anyway, we had maybe 40% of the guests that we'd expected, so we have (still) lots of left over food, and not much fridge space. We'd also planned to have drinking games for the adults after the party, but everyone left, so I find myself with a very substantial amount of light beer.

The work we'd done up until and even through the party was very strenous, so the cleanup is something we've been slacking on... All the food that required refrigeration was put away and everything, but coolers still had cans in them, chairs were still out and about in the yard, bags of chips and buns were still on the tables in the kitchen, etc... We do a little bit every night. Tonight,  I did a significant amount of clean. Stacking the soda cans on the shelves, freezing of extra hot dog buns, moving half-eaten dishes from the big tray to a smaller bowl to reclaim some more fridge space, etc..

The inspiration for this post was as I was finishing the night's cleaning spree. I walked out onto the deck with an empty cooler, which I took to the middle of the deck and left open, so that in tomorrow's ridiculous heat, it would dry out. I put it down, and turned to go back in. "There," I said to myself. (I talk to myself frequently when alone.)

I heard some rustling which my mind wrote off as a cat, since I'd been out on the deck literally a minute before, and threw a chicken salad roll to the two adult cats to fight over. "How's that chic..." I started, only to realize that I'd walked within six feet of a rather large raccoon, gorging itself on the trash bag I had just filled a few minutes before. This thing was perhaps around twenty-five pounds.

"Well, hello..." I said startled. I began considering the fact that I was walking around in shorts, shoeless and shirtless. I was in no position to boot this thing if it decided to charge. My only hope would be (again, IF this thing decided to come after me... which may have been a silly notion, I have no idea what sort of behavior to expect from a raccoon...) to get a fist full of the back of it's neck, and hold it down. ...until... ? I'd have to just pin it down until it died or something... and I don't want anything dying...

I wondered if it was threatened by me. Little known fact: raccoons are members of the bear family, although I don't know what it is that makes them so. I know bears see standing erect as a sign of aggression, but I don't know if raccoons concur. Naturally, I was standing, so if they did, I was sending the wrong signals.

I realized after that little conversation with myself, that I'd been standing there for about forty seconds, and this thing clearly didn't feel like I was much of a problem. It knew I was there, and even looked up from it's dinner to regard me, although it didn't stop chewing. It wasn't tense. It wasn't alarmed. I got the idea it was looking at me, standing there in my shorts, and thinking, "Hey man."

Still, I wanted this thing to go away. Now, I'm not upset that it was eating my trash, I mean... I threw it away, after all, I obviously didn't want it. But, I'd rather my deck wasn't a popular spot for this creature, so I started thinking about how to shoo it away. I do have a bb rifle, but it's old and doesn't work very well. I think the previous owner may have pumped it a bit too much. I considered the broom, and immediately got an image of the big woman chasing Tom (Tom and Jerry) out of the house beating him on the head with the broom yelling "Thomas!" ...no, that's not me...

I thought about the cats, and the fact that several minutes ago they were out here eating... I looked around, and saw the two of them lounging not six feet away from the guest. "Lotta help you two are... " I said.

The dog! I have a beagle, who barks. She barks when strange cars enter the yard. She barks when people come to the door. She barks when strange noises happen. She barks at turtles wandering through our yard. She barks at squirrels and chipmunks. She barked for forty-five minutes one day, at a leaf. If anything could annoy this thing outta here, it would be the dog. I thought it odd, that she wasn't at the door barking as it was.

I went into the house and collected the dog. I didn't have a leash, so I held her. I opened the door, and she wanted nothing more than to go back to her bed. I cupped her face in my left hand, and pointed her head toward the raccoon. Their eyes locked. The raccoon regarded her, chewing contentedly, and the dog resumed her campaign to get down and go back to bed.

"...Really?" I asked her. "What are you two old friends?"

Nothing to do but let it eat it's fill. Turned out it was gone in the next couple minutes, and didn't make much of a mess, so as long as I get everything taken  care of it shouldn't be a habit.

I've posted before about the wildlife that comes through the yard here, but a raccoon isn't really as unusual as a snapping turtle or a flock (gaggle? pack?) of turkeys... Have you got any raccoon-related stories? I've got another, I will post it in a few days, I think.