On our deck are two large canisters. One is filled with birdseed. The other is filled with black sunflower seeds. These do not represent our emergency supplies for any of the looming disasters that threaten our civilization, such as asteroids, solar storms or Rick Santorum. They are there so that I can conveniently refill the bird feeder Casey’s boyfriend Alex got us for Christmas.
The feeder has become quite popular with a large variety of avian life forms, and I have become very proficient at identifying them. “Look,” I’ll say to our dog Toby, “a red one.” Or “Hey, a blue one!” Like a small child, I am most captivated by bright colors.
For all I know, one of our visitors might be a Dusky Seaside Sparrow, which would be big news among birdwatchers because it is not indigenous to our area and also because it is extinct.* But I wouldn’t notice, because it is (um, was) boringly-hued.
The only birds I can name with any degree of certainty are the ones that also happen to be the logos of Major League baseball teams. And I can also spot the red-tailed hawks who live around here because they have, you know, red tails. And they’re decidedly hawkish.
But this post isn’t about birds. It’s about the racoon who is determined to eat their food.
When the weather is nice as it was this past week, Toby and I like to sit outside in the morning and read (I do most of the reading). When we went out on Wednesday, one of the seed canisters had been moved all the way across the deck to the stairs that lead down to the ground.
“Huh.” I said to Toby, since I was more interested at the moment in drinking my coffee. I put the canister back in its place.
On Thursday morning, the canister was not only across the deck, but toppled onto the first step. There was some gray fur underneath it. “Racoon,” said my wife Barbara.
Now let me just say that this is a large canister. It holds 10 pounds. So it is no small task for a normal-sized racoon to drag it across the deck. Also, it has a lid that screws tight (the canister, not the racoon) and even though Barb points out that racoons can get their little paws around things and turn them, this would be quite a maneuver since the diameter of the canister’s lid is much larger than the reach of the average racoon.
So what do we have here? Gargantu-coon?
But let’s recreate the crime. Racoomongus sneaks onto our deck. He is cleverly wearing a mask so he can’t be identified. He approaches the canister but is disappointed to realize that even his Coonzilla arms aren’t wide enough to open it. So naturally he decides to take the whole friggin’ thing with him. He drags it across the deck with the intent of pushing it down the stairs (which are steep and have a turn). .
But then what? Was he thinking he was going to use explosives to open it? Was he planning on leaping off the deck and landing on it, thus cracking it open with his Frankencoon** body? Perhaps he was going to push it all the way to the nearest highway in the hopes that a huge semi would crash into it. If so, he was going to be very dismayed to discover that the nearest highway is the Merritt Parkway, which doesn’t allow trucks! Hah–stupid racoon!
Back in reality, I move the canister back to its place, but this time I stack one on top of another. And sure enough, that night, Barb hears a crash at about 4:30 and in the morning we find the top canister toppled over on its side.
This meant war!
I’d noticed that this criminal coon kept going after the canister with the black sunflower seeds, even though, according to the canister’s advertising, creatures aren’t supposed to be able to tell that there’s anything edible in there, much less distinguish the contents of one from another. But I restacked the canisters, this time with the sunflower seeds on the bottom.
On Saturday morning, they were undisturbed. Which means either that I out-thought that vicious varmint or that he’s an observant Jew. Or maybe that I’m the one that’s disturbed.
It’s good that it appears to have ended there. Because I was thinking of designing a Rube Goldberg contraption that would be triggered when a canister was moved, setting in motion a series of events that would result in the capturing of the rascally rodent. I figured that if the perpetrator began his operation at about 4:30am, by the time Toby and went out on the deck in the morning, the ball would have fallen through the bathtub, flipping the man off the diving board and bringing the cage down on top of the conniving critter. Toby and I would find him cowering in a clear admission of defeat at the hands of my obviously superior intellect.
I would then show mercy to a worthy adversary, releasing him to the wild with a promise to keep his purloining paws off the bird food.
Alternatively, upon finding the caged coon, Barb and I would run around the deck screaming “What do we do now? What do we do now?” in very high voices until one of us intellectually-superior creatures calmed down enough to call animal control.
Yeah, that’s probably the way it would go.
Besides, if I was to build a trap and it actually worked, with my luck it would happen on a weekend when our daughter Casey was home so that she could take videos of Barb and me dancing around the deck screaming in high voices and then put it on YouTube where it would quickly go viral and we would become known as the Shrieking Idiots and have our 15 minutes of highly embarrassing fame.
Or, worse, the trap would only work when I moved the canister.
See you soon.
*The last Dusky Seaside Sparrow died in 1983 at (and I swear this is true) Walt Disney World. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Dusky Seaside Sparrow Memorial Foundation (but make the ckecks payable to me). The cause of death, by the way, was that the poor bird heard “It’s a Small World After All” one too many times. (You can click the link to play the song, but then you might kill yourself afterward, so be sure to send that check first.)
**Named, of course, after Senator and comedian Al Franken. The picture in your mind of a Frankencoon may now not be as large as it was, but much more horrifying.