Flight of the intruder

OK, it’s true. I’m a total wimp. I know some people may frown upon those of us who are reduced to blubbering, hysterical boobs in the presence of wild animals, but the truth is I’m totally bearanoid. And mountain lionoid and snake-a-phobic. In fact, I’m pretty much leery of just about anything that crawls on the ground and considers human flesh an acceptable meal.

But to be fair to our fang-toothed and nappy-coated neighbors on the food chain, it all started with the raccoons. See, for the last few months, a pack of the large rodents has taken up residence in my yard. (OK, I know, technically they were here first and all that, but until they start contributing to the mortgage and paying property tax, I’m going to consider them on my turf.) Anyway, they were for the most part innocuous until that fateful night when they crossed the line.

My mother was on an extended visit, renting the house next door while the family was on vacation. For several weeks the roving rat pack had been casing her joint, too, and she even had to shoe one off that had been so bold as to try to climb in an open window. Of course, this sort of thing was unheard of in suburban Minnesota, where raccoons were polite, never traveled in gangs and never dreamed of entering someone’s house uninvited.

But out here on the frontier, things are a little different, I tried to tell her, hoping to head off the train wreck.

No such luck. She arrived at my house late one night, distraught and waking me from a peaceful slumber.

“They’re in the house,” she declared.

Still in that half-waking dream state, I tried to clear the fog. “Who is in the house?” I asked.

“The damned raccoons. They’re in the kitchen,” she replied matter of factly.

I turned on the light to see someone nearing the throes of full-blown shock.

“How’d they get in?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“Through the window, but it was only open a crack, to let the cat in,” she pleaded in her defense. “I can’t believe that thing could get through there.”

Apparently, she heard a ruckus, and thinking it was the cat having a late-night rager she went downstairs and flipped on the light. Instead of a furry kitty, she was greeted with a large, vicious rodent doing laps around the kitchen island. From there, the “fight or flight” response kicked in, and she opted for the latter. “I opened the door and ran,” she said before slipping into a post-traumatic catatonic state. Knowing full well that despite the cute, bandit-eyed Disney persona, raccoons are capable of wreaking havoc along the lines of a cracked-out tasmanian devil, I faced a tough decision. Corral the wild rodent or explain to the neighbors why their house looked as if a Category 5 hurricane blew through.

Naturally, I woke the spouseman. Sure, I may be able to change my own bike tire or reach into a garbage disposal full of soggy food scraps to retrieve an errant spoon, but this was man’s work. Not exactly pleased, he dutifully shuffled to his feet, put on appropriate attire and headed for the door.

“Wait,” I called out. “You can’t go over there like that.”

Maybe it was one-too-many viewings of the vorpal bunny scene from Monty Python, but it didn’t seem wise to go unarmed. I mean, I watch Steve Irwin. Those things have razor-sharp teeth; they can rip your face off.

Thus we chose our appropriate weapons – he a snub-nosed shovel, me a broom – and headed into battle, plotting a surprise attack from the front of the house. Tiptoeing across the front yard, weapons cocked, we spied some of the culprits regrouped near a parked car. Thinking I could scare them off, I shined my flashlight and yelled. The ploy worked. Only problem was, they scrammed in the wrong direction, straight back toward the house and under the deck. This complicated plans, since we now would have to cross enemy lines to get to the front door.

Spouseman decided to take one for the family unit, heading into combat first, stealthily taking the front stoop. Unfortunately, we were soon forced to abort the mission. “The f****** front door is locked,” he fumed in a hoarse whisper, fumbling with the door handle in the darkness before beating a hasty retreat.

The only option now was a full-on ambush through the back and into the kitchen. We arrived to find the back door closed but the window still open, making it impossible to tell whether the ransacking raccoon had returned to the wild or was still inside, making a nest of the family heirlooms.

Once again, spouseman took the lead, because, after all, he had the bigger weapon. Inside, the coast was clear, and I bee-lined it for the nearest chair. I’m not sure whether raccoons can fly or jump or what, but I know what they did to Old Yeller. Cute and cuddly, B.S. I once read about a woman getting mauled by a raccoon in her own driveway. It took three men and a crow bar to beat the thing off. And seeing as how I was wearing flip flops, I was practically begging for the little bastard to latch the jaws of death around my ankles.

Unfortunately for my wingman, this meant he had to secure the grounds solo. “I’ll stay here and guard the door,” I offered, “in case it comes running out.”

Of course, I really had no intent of doing anything but standing there like a dummy. Sure, I had a broom to defend myself, but what was I going to do? Swiffer it to death? In fact, it was all I could do to keep from peeing in my pants. Meanwhile, upstairs, I could hear the raccoon hunter making the rounds, room by room. I waited on baited breath to hear the savage screams of a man vs. beast struggle, when Sean returned from his uneventful tour of manly duty.

“Didn’t see anything, I don’t think it’s here,” he shrugged, shovel at ease.

Apparently, the roving rat had shown himself to the exit, and all was clear. We could take the angry animal mob home and call it a night.

OK, so it was a little anti-climactic –nowhere near as dramatic as, say, a run-in with a bear or even a skunk. There was no bloodshed, no gore, not even so much as a cracker crumb out of place. Maybe there wasn’t anything to be so scared of after all. Besides, I hear rabies shots aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be. Nevertheless, when it comes to wildlife, I’ll take no encounter over a close encounter.

– Missy Votel



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