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My Raccoon Encounter

Few things aggravate Honey on a fine summer morning more than discovering that overnight a raccoon has dug the flowers out of her pots on the porch.

“We’ve got a raccoon,” was her morning greeting to me. Her visage was grim, which is never a good thing to see first thing in the morning. “You need to set the live trap,” she said.

I baited our Old Reliable live trap with marshmallows. Old Reliable has a hair trigger and seldom fails to catch its target. Marshmallows will catch anything: possums, groundhogs, even rabbits. Marshmallows are irresistible to raccoons, and raccoons almost always get caught because they are too clever for their own good. To them, the trap is just a food-containing puzzle to be solved, like a garbage can or a bird feeder.

Old Reliable is the most beat-up live trap ever. Every raccoon caught in it tries to destroy it. Holes in the wire cage have been patched innumerable times.

I set Old Reliable the next night and caught a raccoon. The last look on its face was one of remorse. The next night the flower pots were assaulted again. I set Old Reliable and caught another raccoon. The last look on this one’s face was snarling defiance.

But this story isn’t about Old Reliable.

HONEY USUALLY wakes up first, but on Father’s Day Sunday morning I was first out of bed. First one up must go to the kitchen to make coffee and feed the cats.

Fizz and Louie, two of our young adult cats, often refuse to come inside on these warm summer nights. Sure enough, they were there at the kitchen door, hungry. As I let them in, an elderly, scruffy-looking raccoon scooted across the porch, but the wrong way: not toward the steps and freedom, but to the side that overlooks the driveway, with no way out but a 10-foot drop to the bricks.

Not rushing – figuring the raccoon would be gone anyway when I got back – and trying not to be noisy because an overnight guest was sleeping on the living room couch, I fetched our old single-shot .22 caliber rifle and two bullets. To my surprise the raccoon, peeking out from behind the gas grill, was still there when I returned. I had a clear shot of him, but directly behind him in line of sight was my car, and I was not about to put a hole in my car over some old raccoon. I held fire, and he hid again. After waiting in vain for him to show himself on the other side, I crept up to the grill.

Things happened fast from that point.

THE RACCOON was hanging by its front legs from the porch deck. I lifted my gun over the railing to shoot but the raccoon dropped Splat! onto the bricks below, and I fired as it ran toward my car. Past the car it turned right and ran up our front steps, circling our house to get to the woods in back.

In my bare feet, I circled the house the other way, running across the porch and deck, reloading as I went.

I thought I might get a shot as the raccoon veered off to the woods, but as I reached the walkway he was still on it, running straight at me! Aaaaaa! I put on the brakes and got off a wild hipshot, then tried to club him with the rifle barrel as he zoomed past my feet. Taking a step backwards, I stepped off the walkway and toppled over the bank, clonking my head on the end of the deck.?Lying head down and hurting in the day lilies, I realized I had just lost a fight with a senior citizen raccoon. Slowly I sat up and assessed my injuries – scrapes and sprains – then retrieved the gun and limped back into the house to Honey, still-sleeping house guest, and a soothing first cup of coffee.

The raccoon got away, but at least I had a good story to tell.

That evening, as our children, their spouses and grandsons gathered at our house for a Father’s Day dinner, I showed my wounds and told the story, reenacting both my and the raccoon’s parts – the stealthy creep up to the gas grill, the hanging and dropping from the porch, the race around the house, his kamikaze attack, the attempted clubbing, my backwards topple into the lilies and the raccoon’s escape, all with appropriate sound effects.

It was a big hit, especially with the young grandsons.

After dinner, we men and boys went outside for a game.

“Hey, there’s a dead raccoon down here,” The Favorite called from the lawn below the deck.

Sure enough, it was that elderly, ratty-looking raccoon. I turned him over and saw the bullet hole in his side.

“Ha! I got you! You thought you were getting away but I got you!” I yelled. I danced like a primitive warrior around my dead foe.

The boys took up their war chant – “Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!” – and danced with me.

I turned to the woods and yelled as loud as I could. “You raccoons! See what happens when you come here! You die! You come here, I kill you!”

And that’s the story of my raccoon encounter.

(Fred Miller’s new book of stories, “Falling Under Honey’s Spell,” with twice as many stories as his first book and still $10, is now available at Connie’s Kitchen, Davis Bros. Pharmacies, Frank’s Pastries, Giant Eagle Calcutta, Green Marble Coffee, Museum of Ceramics, and Pottery City Antique Mall.)

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