Archive for March, 2008

The Raccoon man

March 16, 2008

The Raccoon Man came. He put up a ladder to the canopy roof above my front door. He placed a wire cage on the roof, baited, to trap the persistent raccoon. He’ll drive by every day for a week to see if the raccoon has been stupid enough to go into the trap; and if it was, he’ll take the beastie somewhere else and let her go. If a raccoon has ever been in a trap before, she, he or it will never go in again.

Knock! Knock!

Who’s there?

It’s Raccoon Removal Man. He’s reporting back to me what he found on the roof – there’s an eight inch in diameter hole that has been picked through the Duroid roof shingles. The raccoon has been living in the slope of the roof. Ack!

It is surely a female needing a safe place to nest. I like a good roof over my head. I guess this animal has recognized that I bought into a good one and has just decided to share it with me. If the pest control guy can’t dislodge it “voluntarily” by trapping it or annoying the heck out of it AND if this doesn’t happen by April 1st, Wildlife Conservancy laws dictate that I must keep the sweet pregnant lady and the eventual kittens under my roof until October.

Annoyance to the raccoon comes in the form of bear spray; loud noise; bright lights. There’s a good chance if this ring-eyed Bandit Mother (and squatter, it seems) will take the voluntary option of finding another abode. However, there’s a good chance that she will opt to simply try out the other side of the roof! Sometimes you can’t win.

I’ve known people like this who have moved in and then could not be dislodged. You can’t use bear spray on them and loud noises and light don’t dislodge them. Just ask anyone who has had one of these two legged bandits come to stay and stay and stay. They are more expensive than this critter is to get rid of; and I must say, Bandit Mother is drawing down on my bank account. I wonder what damage she could do if she ever got hold of my credit card! It would all be spent in the decor store. She has better housing instincts than fashion ones. Besides, she seems to have a pretty good fur coat that doesn’t ever need replacing, so I doubt if it would go on clothing..

There are lots of broken roof shingles on the ground beneath Bandit’s new door construction. Poor, naive me. I thought they came off during the windstorm.

Now I just have to wait and see.

I think I’ll just up and go to Fiji for a couple of weeks. Some sun and surf. Palm trees. Aquamarine coloured seas. Wonderful flowers.

Maybe if I close my eyes and wish it away, I won’t have to come back to Bandit Mother.

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More on Critters

March 7, 2008

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Mrs. Stepford comes for dinner on alternate Wednesdays. Mr. Stepford goes to his music lessons. While the cat’s away ….

It’s comedy night on CBC. Kay and Mrs. Stepford watch National Geographic, Little Mosque on the Prairies and Sophie all in a row and chat in between the good parts by muting the television when the ads come on.

Dinners are not a formal affair. It’s whatever one can easily eat in front of the television. Last night Kay made a basic vegetable soup with chicken stock, celery, fresh parsley, onion, salt, pepper and basil with a Wednesday variation adding curry powder, a half head of fresh cauliflower plus a chunkily chopped up piece of chicken breast. Num! A whole meal in a bowl!

Last night, Kay and Mrs. S watched lemurs in Madagascar going through courtship rituals. Good grief! Lemurs are as tortured and twisted as human beings with their “yes-I-will”, “no-I-wont”, well, maybe” “what if she won’t have me” and “Oh no, I can’t ask her. I’m too shy” routines. They are cute as can be with their facial expressions, body language and their black and white tails like graceful flags orchestrating their relationships like a symphonic conductor with his baton.

At exactly ten when the delightful Sophie program signed off , Mrs. Stepford rose and announced she had things to do at home. She was leaving.

When Kay had closed the door on Mrs. Stepford and locked up for the night, she sat back down in her living room comfy chair, cruised for something interesting to watch while she sorted out some presentation books of her watercolours and drawings that she was preparing for the upcoming Art Walk. Frankly, there was nothing worth listening to. She had already heard the news earlier in the day and she found the repetition of it annoying. She didn’t want to watch any blood and guts murder mysteries. Canned laughter palled. The ultimate consumerism programs of how to make your house salable or decorate held no interest for her. Sports – well, she had never been a sports fan – that was out.

After all, there was nothing wrong with silence. It allowed one to think. It provided blessed peace, if one’s mind was clear to roam.

Kay sat with six presentation books scattered about the chair, culling out the watercolours that weren’t good enough or those she hadn’t wanted to sell just yet. Most of her paintings were like a visual diary to her. Some of them she just wasn’t ready to let go yet. The silence was welcome after three hours of engagement both with the television and a visitor. She had become quite a hermit lately.

Now, listening to silence may sound like an oxymoron, but Kay found that it was a delicious thing to do. It was never totally an absence of sound but simply a diminishment. There was still the whir of the refrigerator, the faint hum of the lights.

The transition from an active sound mix of television and conversation to the quiet, meditative hum of electricity operating the house took a few minutes of adjustment.

Kay was slipping out the oddments, taking figure drawings out a mainly landscape portfolio/presentation book or a geometric drawing out of a group of flower drawings, when she became aware of a persistent scratching sound above her head.

Damn raccoon!” she thought. “Cursed critter!” she grumbled. She lept up from her easy chair and ran up the stairs brandishing her flashlight, ready to re-enact her raccoon scaring tactics of the previous night. With a brusque gesture, she raised the blackout blind and swung the flash light from side to side on the small roof below the window looking for the beast, but none was there. She checked the roof on the other side. None there either.

Now slightly puzzled, she stopped again to listen. Yes, the scratching of sharp paws continued in it’s rhythmic pattern, but now it was coming from below. She felt the fine hairs of her ears twitching, turning, casting outwards for the source of the sound.

She checked the closets and around the room, but there was nothing to be seen. Still, the sound continued, a persistently scratching. She returned downstairs to listen from the middle of the living room. Much louder now, the sound continued just up above the lighting.

Disgusted, Kay picked up the phone and dialed.

“Guess what I’ve got” she announced to Mrs. Stepford, only one house away. “Critters inside the house”

“What makes you think that?” asked Mrs. S and Kay proceeded to recount everything that had occurred in the previous twenty minutes.

“Are you sure? Mrs. Stepford asked. “Do you want to have Mr. Stepford come and see?”

“He can come if he wants. There’s nothing to see. It’s just a persistent sound, that’s all. But it just takes the cake!” said Kay rather defiantly. She didn’t need to have her perceptions confirmed; she knew she had a critter up there. But it was very comforting to have a neighbour who would come at ten thirty at night to support her in her tribulations of home ownership.

When Mr. S stood with Kay not five minutes later listening for the sound, the animal was still scrabbling away at his noisy activity. Mr. S. repeated Kay’s investigation, listening intently for the beast’s location. By elimination, the sound certainly was not coming from the roof; it was not coming from the walls; it was not coming from behind the closets. It was loudest in the floor of the bedroom and in the ceiling of the living room. Returning downstairs, they noted that the space between the floor and the ceiling could be no larger than six inches deep. It couldn’t be a raccoon; not the thirty pounder that had stood sassily defiant on the shallow slope of the roof. It must be a rat or a squirrel. Perish the thought for either of them.

“You’re going to have to get a pest control company out to get rid of it,” counseled Mr. S. “But what I can’t figure out is what it’s doing. That doesn’t sound like he’s eating. Anyway, the critter would be full by now if it was eating. It sounds like it’s rolling something across the floor. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“Besides, what could be up there to eat? Fiberglass? And it can’t be building a nest; not with that sound. It’s rolling something. What else could it be?”

Mr. Stepford left after we’d batted all the possibilities around.

“Get Mrs. S to tell you what company she used; You don’t want to call them. They scammed us. They promised to put traps in to capture the critters, insisted on being paid up front and then never came back.”

Kay couldn’t stand listening to the animal scrabbling away and went to the study to play a noisy computer game. It was time for bed but the whole event had unsettled her. How could she sleep if the scrabbling continued on hour after hour into the wee hours of the night? Green dollar signs for Pest Control floated before her eyes. Why did this have to happen now? The beast had to stop sometime. If it was eating, wouldn’t it be full now and want a siesta?

Half an hour later as Kay went back out past the living room to the kitchen for a soothing cup of tea, she listened. There wasn’t a bit of sound. Oh, yes. There was the soothing sound of the refrigerator and the whir of the lights.

The next morning, Kay was sifting through possibilities, trying to apply some sort of Algebraic logic to the problem. The animal had to be a smaller animal to fit between the joists. It couldn’t have been eating, because the scratching had been continuous – there had been no time for stuffing it’s mouth with food. It couldn’t have been eating because it would have become the size of a big balloon had it continued to eat for an hour like that and then it would be wedged in solidly. And that rolling objects sound that came with it, as if it were moving things from side to side: what was that about?

It was while Kay was exercising in the gym, early evening, that the answer came to her. She’d noticed the soft, collapsing holes in the garden. She’d counted the less than dozens of tulips coming up.

The critter was some kind of Animal Kingdom billionaire wanna-be. The winter takings were stored in this very safe vault between floors. She preferred to think it was a squirrel. The idea of rat was just too creepy.

The squirrel was counting it’s wealth:

Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine parrot tulip bulbs.

Stepford Acorns: Sixty, sixty one, sixty two, sixty three, sixty four, sixty five.

Lily bulbs – bigger and rarer – ten, eleven twelve. Well! He thought he had had fifteen of them. “Oh yes, here they are in the walnut pile ” Thirteen. Fourteen Fifteen.

Old Mr. McGregor’s Walnuts; One, Two Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. That makes one pile. Start on another ten. One, Two, Three….

Kay’s Red tulips: One. Two. Three. Four….

Daffodil bulbs: two too many, by mistake. Squirrels don’t like Daffy smells.

Wilson’s Hazelnuts: None left, all consumed. What a mess! All those shells, but they sure had been good.

Conkers: Six.

When he finished his inventory he turned the key in the vault and turned the tumblers; he flicked his tail, fluffing it up with pride. Some haul! The best savings account he had ever had for March of any year, and this winter had been a hard, cold one. Maybe this year he could win Suzie Squirrel over with his March bank account! And he turned his tail on his visible trappings of squirrel wealth and crept quietly out of the squirrel cache, shut the door and headed for a tree.

Night intruder

March 1, 2008

Kay lay awake warm and cozy, listening to the quiet night when she heard an odd, rhythmic sound outside that she could not identify. It was in a low register, regular like a giant heart beat, but with an occasional arrhythmia to it. The more she thought about it, the stranger it was. It seemed to come from the house itself. Was someone trying to get in?

Kay’s ears perked, alert quivering like a deer’s waiting at the first intimation of danger to bound from its present space into the forest. The sound had the regularity of a clock, like a second hand ticking, but it was muffled like the sound of a heavy overflow drip from the eaves trough, or maybe like a… She hesitated. It was so persistent and unidentifiable. Perhaps it was coming from across the street. Or was is on the other side of the house? Sounds traveled so that it was difficult to tell the direction of its source.

Kay groped for her glasses, rose and walked quietly to the window. She took the blackout blind and lifted its fringed edge ever so slightly.

There on the roof, mere feet away, the intruder lifted his head and stared straight at her although there was no way that he could have seen her, so small was the crack she had made by lifting the blind. Adrenaline rushed through her, mounting with her outrage and she rapped her hand loudly at the window, making as much startling noise as she could without breaking it. Damn Raccoons!

The fifty pound raccoon started, then stared, with a look that said, “Oh dammit! Caught again! Blasted humans. What right have they to disturb me at dinner?” and with a sneer of disgust, the raccoon moved away slowly, looking over his shoulder twice before disappearing into the night.

Well, at least it wasn’t a human intruder,” she thought as the adrenaline subsided. Immediately the thought came, “I wonder if they are living inside, under the roof. Now that would be a bummer!” and she stood stalk still to listen for sounds that would tell her where the raccoon had gone, but all she heard were lighter echoes of the same sound, and it was her heart. No, …. She listened intently again. There it was again, …tick, tick tick, … but from the other side. She went to the windows on the south wall, and there was the beast.

Kay rapped the window loudly and it once again moved off.

Now, here was a problem. Raccoons are sassy, intrepid animals. They don’t flee at the sound of a human, nor at their presence. They have lived too long in the urban environment, coming out at dusk to forage for food and to explore. They are curious animals, cute and funny, but they re destructive too. They will fight with cats and small dogs and win. They are known to be vicious and attacking when defending themselves; and they have taken the urban night as their territory. The forests that had been the coon’s domain had been ravaged by the two legged intruder and now their guerrilla warfare was just fair game.

This beast had been using its fine-clawed, strong hand-like paws to lift tiles. It was persistent and determined. How many nights had Kay slept through this night intruder’s work, oblivious that to his work at dismantling the roof?

What was Kay to do?

She remembered Mother’s eightieth birthday when Ron was only seven and Cousin Mary’s children were within a year either way of Ron’s age. It was Thanksgiving weekend but the sun had been particularly warming and the day bright and summery. Afternoon tea had been held on the wide veranda on the west side of the house. The children had run amok through the flower beds and around the lawn, daring each other to get wet (in their Sunday clothes) under the sprinkler, screeching in shrill delight as only young children can. They had picked up my garden stakes, long bamboo rods, and were chasing one another with them, using them as swords and as whips against each other, as they laughed and called to one another with fright and with glee.

“Bring those stakes up here before someone gets hurt!” Kay commanded sharply, and the children’s voices fell of a sudden, and their faces fell with them as they reluctantly brought the stakes to her. She piled them at the end of the porch under her watchful eye and the children returned to the lawn with subdued energy and lowered voices as they fought for position in determining their next activity.

Cousin Marion called her children back with a promise of cake and cola. With admonishions to sit properly, to use their forks, to say thank you, the children settled in a clamor.

“Oh look!” drawled Cousin Mary. “Look at the raccoon!” Where minutes before the children had been playing, a young raccoon, a thirty pounder I’m guessing, older than a kit but younger than an adult, came out from under the spruce tree, curious inspecting the human assembly before him.

“Stay here, children,” directed Cousin Mary. There were always fears of rabies with wild animals. It wouldn’t do to have the children accidentally aggravate the coon and be bitten.

Kay clapped her hands loudly to scare away the beast and shouted an ineffectual “Go away. Git. Git!” The coon listened intently as if the start of a theatrical piece had commenced and it was time to listen up.

When the coon did not budge, Kay threw a garden stake at it; but the coon merely approached the stake and pawed at it. A rain of stakes followed, but the coon did not move. Instead, he lifted a stake in his paw and threw it in the air. And then another and another. Like a child with a new birthday set of Lego, he continued to play with the stakes as if there was not only much fun to be had but explorations that might just possibly satisfy his childlike curiosity.
We watched the raccoon from the safety of the porch and soon after, we all entered the house and closed the door. We wanted no breaching of territorial boundaries between the wild and the urban; nor did we want encounters between the two legged and the four legged if there was the slightest chance of viciousness.

As Kay returned her thoughts to the night intruder and listened for further depredations of her roof, she wondered just what could she do? She was wide awake now. There was no chance of sleep. She went first to the spare guest room to find the emergency flashlight and went back to the window. The darned coon had ripped tiles off the north roof. What was he looking for? Grubs? Or was he looking to gain entry to the attic? A strip of mesh wire from underneath the black asphalt tiles was sticking up. No wonder she had a leak coming into the basement. That was newly done, thought Kay. And then she checked the south roof off the bedroom garret window. It was flat and as well laid as the day it had been put on.

There was nothing for it. She put back the flashlight and turned on the bedroom light; she put on her slippers and headed for the stairs. A coffee would warm her; would make her sleepy perhaps, and she yawned long and hard as her mind whirled and listened.

Just what was there to do?