Friday, April 30, 2010

The Raccoon Tale

After reading Schnoodle’s post on the tail-less raccoon that visited her home, I thought it might be time to tell the story of my longago encounter. It’s the kind of adventure that can only happen when you’re young, childless, a new enough homeowner to think the 10-year-plan is going to come to fruition in ten years, and you still have a few stars from the honeymoon in your eyes.

We have a little cat door in the cellar; these days we lock Iki the cat in at night, but when she was young she came and went at will. She *owned* that door and it was her right to use it day and night.

At one point I noticed that she was eating an awful lot without gaining weight – oh, no, could it be worms? Was she sick? She is a grazer so there is always kibble in her bowl, and every morning the bowl was empty. The husband suggested that maybe a stray cat was getting in the house and eating the food every night. So I slept lightly. One night, I heard noises downstairs, so I did the classic wake-up-the-husband-and-make-him-investigate thing. It was a raccoon! It ran right by him when he approached the kitchen, ran down the cellar steps and out the cat door into the night.

Thus the battle began. Every night I’d elbow the husband, and every night he’d sneak downstairs and then charge after the animal as it fled, hoping to scare it enough so it wouldn’t return. No luck, naturally; free food is irresistible to any raccoon.

The husband began sleeping with the cricket bat next to the bed. He developed a routine of tearing downstairs in the night and heaving the bat end-over-end down the cellar stairs after the retreating raccoon. I was always torn between crying and laughing – here was this naked man heaving a cricket bat and bellowing “GET OUTTA MY HOUSE!”

This went on for weeks.

It turned ugly: we’d leave the Hav-A-Heart trap in the kitchen loaded with sweet corn, then with peanut butter on apples (supposedly the guaranteed critter-catcher), the works. We’d empty the cat bowl (which meant the cat yowled when she was hungry during the night) and put some raccoonish delicacy in the trap and go to bed and wait. A few times we even heard the *SNAP!* of the trap; we’d run downstairs, the husband still naked and armed to the teeth with his cricket bat, only to find the trap empty – completely empty. The raccoon knew enough to spring the trap, THEN remove the treats from the side!

By now it was a vendetta; the next stage was to place the trap elsewhere. First we put the trap outside the cat door, blocking his entry, but he was far too smart to be taken in by such an amateur approach. We then put it immediately *inside* the cat door: surely he’d want his nightly appetizer and come bounding through the door, only to find himself locked in our Trap of Doom, ha ha ha! Nope – he skipped entry altogether on those nights. This was a Battle of Wits – the Humans Versus The Rodent! (I know, I know.)
Finally, we came up with the Grand Master Plan. I’m serious now, this is what we did:

1. Find one of the spare doors we’d scavenged and bring it upstairs; set it upright, next to the kitchen doorway (it’s an old house, no one has ever opened the walls so in theory every room can still be closed off).
2. Find a bunch of bungee cords

3. Set the picnic table bench up right beside the cat door, with the trap bungeed down nice and solid.

4. Polish the cricket bat.
That night, we put fresh kibble in the cat’s bowl before going to bed. Finally I heard scritching noises downstairs; I elbowed the husband and tenderly whispered in his ear, “Honey, it’s time. Let’s go get that [expletive deleted].” We snuck downstairs, tippy-toeing all the way. The husband crept outside to set the bench against the cat door and set the Hav-a-Heart, thus making sure that the raccoon’s only escape was a guaranteed trap. While he was doing this I grabbed the extra door and blocked off the kitchen. Hah, weren’t we smart!

You know what they say about never cornering a wild animal? Well, they’re right. The effect was immediate. Silence. I swung the door a bit so I could peek inside: there was that critter, sitting ON MY COUNTER, glaring and baring his teeth at me. Psycho raccoon!

I got mad: I started yelling incoherent things about getting off my appliances and threatening his future offspring – get out of my SINK!!! - as he skittered around the kitchen, GROWLING at me! The husband came tearing back up the stairs (still naked, mind you) to see what had happened. He laughed at me but we still had a serious problem: we’d effectively trapped him IN THE HOUSE. He told me to go outside and scare the raccoon from outside the windows; he would creep behind the door and be ready with the cricket bat to aid its passage down the stairs and to its doom.

I went outside. It was about 3:00am. I was wearing a light cotton nightgown. It was completely silent. No peepers even. It’s a rural neighborhood, and it’s QUIET. I had intended to go out there, stand outside the kitchen window and make a loud, racoon-startling cry. What came out of my mouth was a kind of strangled “woo!” instead. Completely ineffective; I think the raccoon even sneered at me. I tried again – “eeeh.” All those years of Good Girl training completely cowed me – what on Earth would I say if the neighbors asked why I was shrieking like a banshee in my nightie outside the house at 3 am?!? Not yet forgiven, Mom.

You know I’m a Stephen King fan; I decided to psych the little [expletive deleted] out. I started talking to him in a harsh whisper: “COON! Join the Daaahk Side!” [heavy breathing between cupped hands for emphasis]. “In this house, no one will hear you scream.” Nothing. I sang – badly – to it. I threatened Republican rule. Totally unfazed. He moved to my fridge. He was ON TOP of my FRIDGE!

I crept back inside. We had a brief whispered conference, then we both hid behind the spare door, turned out the lights, and hushed. Finally the critter came out of the kitchen. The husband triumphantly chucked the cricket bat down the stairs and the raccoon tore off – straight into the trap.

So there we were – it was 3:30 or 4 by now – the sun thinking about rising and us in various stages of dishabille scowling at the caged raccoon, who was scowling right back. I shrieked at the husband, “SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT NOW!” Understand, please, that I have held a gun, I have disassembled and reassembled a gun, but I have never fired a gun and I do not intend to ever fire a gun. I understand their physical characteristics, I am not abnormally fearful of them, but they offend me at a deep commie-pinko-pacifist level. Understand also that I’d lain awake grinning evilly while picturing his little rodent face pleading for mercy as we put him in a crate and shipped him to Timbuktu. All of a sudden I wanted that rodent dead, and dead NOW. The husband turned to me and, in one of the most shocking statements of our marriage, said:

“I can’t. It wouldn’t be sportsmanlike.”

I blew up. “Was it sportsmanlike when he was sitting on my appliances?!? Do you know how much disinfectant we’re going to go through this week?!? [expletive deleted] your Boy Scout training anyway! Shoot the [expletive deleted]!!”

He wouldn’t do it.

So we went upstairs and got dressed, put on the heaviest gloves we could find, and loaded the trap into the back of the car. We took him for a drive.

We debated where to bring him, and finally decided to go across the River. We figured he probably couldn’t swim across, he would never get across the bridge without being squashed (there is no pedestrian walkway on the bridge) and he certainly didn’t have a pocket in which to carry money for the ferry. So we drove over the bridge, went an addition 10 miles for luck, and let him go near a state park.

When we released the trap door he leapt out, teeth bared, fur askew. He stopped about 15 feet away and turned to give me the most disdainful look I have ever received in my life from man or animal. And he never returned.

p.s. I tried to find a photo that would do our visit justice so I Googled up “psycho raccoon” and came up with this post, which I thought was pretty darned funny and very surprising!


  1. Now that is a great story - I howled.

  2. Hilarious story! Even funnier than your squirrel tale. In the same situation I believe I would have boarded up the cat door and kitty would have become an indoor only cat.

  3. Excellent story - definitely puts my encounter in perspective!

  4. LOL - I read every word and also eery word of the suggested Psycho Raccoon!

    As kids we actually kept young raccoons while they were still cute, but they did not stay that way. They got worse as they got older! Advice for the non-informed ... THEY ARE FEROCIOUS CRITTERS!!!

  5. ha ha ha! Loved this story! Especially the unsportsmanlike bit! Look at it this way, you won a moral victory!!!! te he

  6. Loved re-reading this and it's still funny! I have recounted it numerous times to numerous people and find myself giggling!