Monday, March 28, 2011

Raccoon Wars End with Cease Fire

In the previous blog, I related the tale of the fearless raccoon where the little critter was last seen going under my porch. How many raccoons or other forms of wildlife were under there with it was unknown. The live trap, baited with dog food, was undisturbed. I tried Friskies Seafood Buffet. The next morning, the trap was sprung; the door firmly in place, the buffet platter clean as a whistle, but no raccoon. ????

If I had known about the blog Straight From the Padded Cell , I would have used Twinkies as bait. Yes, Twinkies. Seems raccoons love Twinkies. Who knew?

That afternoon, I am driving across town when the cell phone rings. It’s the Missus.

“That raccoon is in the backyard again and my dog is out there barking at it.”

This was not good as I suspected the critter might be diseased, possibly rabies. The dog was up to date on his shots but…

The Missus went on to say that at one point, the raccoon had rolled over on its back like a playful puppy before disappearing back to its new prime real estate under my porch. Strange. Was it someone’s pet? Was it the plaything of some poor sickly child somewhere, escaped from its cage, and lost? Was there a little girl crying herself to sleep every night, calling out for her beloved Ricky Raccoon?

I decided to seek expert advice. Not living within the city limits, I called the County Sheriff’s office. No, they did have an animal control department. No, they did not have anyone to deal with it. The dispatcher did put me in touch with the game warden but he was out of town and would be for three days.

“Do you have a gun?” the game warden asks. I did.

“If you shoot it, burn the body,” he says, “so that no other animal will scavenge it and become infected.”
Uh, okay.

The raccoon wars had taken an ugly turn.

Two hours later, the raccoon reappears. Decision time. I grab my firearm and ease outside. The animal sees me but instead of running off, it turned and…fell over. That was the clincher. The littler critter had serious health problems, not sure what, but shooting it seemed like the merciful thing to do.

As for following the game warden’s advice to burn the body, that idea was rejected. The land around me is as dry as the proverbial tinder box with highly flammable dead leaves in all directions. I found another solution but that will remain untold.

I just hope the raccoon wasn’t named Ricky.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Raccoon Wars Reignite: Tension escalates

The area in dispute, my own personal Gaza Strip, is once again being threatened by insurgents. Silently they come in the dead of night from secret hiding places, deep in the heart of the forest, wearing masks of anonymity, to raid the avian storage facilities commonly known as bird feeders. Some call them raccoons; I call them thieves, pirates, and sons-a-bitches.

Oh sure, they’re cute all right with their bright and shining eyes, perky ears, and twitchy whiskers. Do not be fooled! The little buggers will rob you of every seed on the farm and grin while they do it. There is a long history of backyard battles here at the humble abode. Every possible means of non-violent persuasion was used to combat the theft of the highly expensive black oil sunflower seed. The following list is of failed attempts to thwart the pillage:

• Squirrel proof feeders with self closing ports.

• The use of tube feeders with collapsing perches.

• The use of “squirrel proof” plastic shields that tilt with any weight.

• Suspension of feeders hung from a cable with a minimum of five feet from feeder to ground.

• The use of 4” PVC pipe on the above mentioned cable after a coonie was observed hanging upside down and going hand over hand, paw over paw, (or is it foot over foot?) directly to his objective.

At long last, a solution was found. I ran across an ad for a fence charger especially designed to keep critters out of gardens. The electrical pulse felt by the animals that came in contact was not lethal but as the ad described, it would be memorable.

Did it work? Oh, yeah. It worked so well, that after one week of use, I unplugged the device, never to be insulted by coonie raids again. Even the squirrels quickly learned that it was in their best interest to leave the territory…until last Saturday.

There, only 30 feet from the backdoor, a coonie was strutting around under the feeders like he owned the place and this in broad daylight, high noon in fact. As I stepped through the door, the brazen little bastard stood his ground and stared at me like “Yeah, what the hell do you want? You want a piece of me? C’mon.”

Well, I must admit to being a little intimidated. A daylight raid, alone, and seemingly unarmed? What matter of intruder was this? A new breed, honed through generations of battle, with a genetic DNA of fearlessness and cunning? We glared at each other for several moments before the coonie flinched and retreated to a tree where he continued to give me the evil eye but from the relative safety of a 15 foot high branch.
I began to wonder about his state of health. Considering the odd hour of his appearance and boldness, could it be rabid? Now I have seen raccoons in the late stages of distemper where they show their teeth and wobble around but this particular animal showed none of the signs as the one pictured below that I found in the woods.
With visions of coon vs. cat battles and the inevitable vet bills, not to mention my own risk of dying a horrible death from rabies, I needed a plan. The problem was, I had no idea how to get a raccoon out of a tree without the use of deadly force and since I wasn’t sure the thing was actually diseased, I watched from the window and thought about it. Two hours later, it was still up there.

I had wandered off in pursuit of other diversions, when the Missus calls out, “The coon just went under the back deck.” Not good. Not good at all. There is an opening between the earth and the flooring of the deck that the cats love to crawl through and do whatever they do under there. The room beneath the deck now had double occupancy, or so we feared.

But minutes passed with no screams of pain or cries of battle. Perhaps the felines had checked out. As of this writing, that’s where the situation stands, tense but stable. I have set up a live trap just outside the opening where the coonie disappeared and baited it with juicy doggy treats. If and when it is captured, Mr. Raccoon will be relocated to more natural surroundings with woods, a clear stream full of tasty crayfish, and beautiful young female raccoons… or males, depending on which way he swings.

The saga continues.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hear That Lonely Whistle Blow?

For the past few weeks, my sleep cycle has been totally screwed up. I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m under stress, nothing traumatic, no upheavals in my lifestyle. Well, there was almost one when I recently received an e-mail from someone named Anna22 from the United Kingdom. Anna said she had seen my profile on a blog site and thought we had enough things in common to “click”. I was about to get excited thinking that at last, I had found someone with a grandpa fetish and someone to “click” with, whatever that meant. But the very next mail in my inbox was from the blog website apologizing for the spam. The world’s shortest e-mail affair had ended before it began. But I digress.

The sleep interruptions have molded themselves into a predictable cycle starting with the one around 12:30. This one really sucks. When you’ve only been asleep for an hour or so and suddenly find yourself wide awake, you’re looking at a whole night ahead of you staring at a ceiling wondering what the hell just happened to disrupt your dream about Anna22.

Then, like the ghosts of Christmas past, the second interruption comes along right about 3:00 a.m. This one is familiar. It’s the call to the commode. Nothing to worry about here and soon Anna22 is back.

The third wakeup call at 5:30 is the sleep killer. Now it’s only a short time to daylight when the cat population comes alive, demanding to be fed or scratching at the door to be let out. Why? Because some cats I know are too proud to use the litter box and signal their staff to let them out for their own personal call to nature. (Yes, I’m talking about you Brat Cat) At this hour, It’s almost too late to go back to sleep and even though I’m now retired, my body clock is set to seven for the start of the day. But I try for a few more minutes of shuteye anyway. I’m keeping my eyes closed, making my mind blank (never that hard for me), trying not to think about Anna22 when I hear a train whistle. Now the nearest track, as far as I know, is four miles away. You can’t hear a train four miles away (can you?) yet there it is again… and again. After the third or fourth toot, I sense a pattern; two long blasts, then a short, followed by another long. Is it a signal of some kind? Is the engineer blowing secret code to his wife or girlfriend as he passes through town in the dead of night? Is it Anna22?

I give it up and stumble into my makeshift office, home of the computer. As usual, Google has an answer. It is a code but there is nothing personal about it. The sequence of two longs, a short, and a long is required by the railroad at the approach of an intersection. The blasts shall be of a duration no shorter than fifteen seconds and no longer than twenty. Four short blasts? That train is about to back up and you better watch out.

It was disappointing, in a way, to learn that the lonesome whistle in the night had no romantic meaning, no mysterious code to a lover listening from their bed, no lonely woman with a grandfather fetish, not even one from the United Kingdom. My nights just got more boring.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Package

Does UPS stand for Unintended Porch Service? On March 6, I ordered a device from, a company I’ve found to be very reliable and trustworthy. Soon thereafter, I received an e-mail that the device had shipped and should arrive on March 10. A day or so later, another e-mail comes along with a UPS tracking number. But there was something strange about the dates. It stated that the object had shipped on March 7, delivered on February 28, and left on the porch. Huh? Did we somehow slip into the weird world of quantum physics and our normal concepts of time become skewed?

March 10 comes along and when I arrive home around dark, I see no package on the porch. Not a good sign. But then I didn’t check the porch on Feb. 28; I could have missed it—there’s that. I go back to UPS tracking and lo, an update. Now there is no mention of 2/28 but instead lists the original target date of 3/10 as the day of delivery. Problem was, the package had been delivered at 5:04 and left on porch. I conduct a thorough search of the porch. It didn’t take long. There was no package on the porch, in the yard, or in the flower garden. There was no package in the mailbox, on the driveway, or in front of the garage door.

Now pissed and ready to call the CEO of UPS, intending to refer to the canine linage of his ancestry, when I spy my neighbor from across the street heading my way. He is carrying a package. He shrugs and hands it over. No, the address was correct. Yes, the neighbor did share the first two numbers of my house number, but there the similarity ends. Close enough for UPS I guess.

Thinking back on it, I should share the blame. After all, this is Oklahoma where the drawer is full of dull knives. I should have checked all the porches on the street before considering a claim, I can see that now. My bad?

But the story doesn’t end there. The device I ordered? Defective. I’m looking at a return, another shipment, and another tracking number. Remember the movie Groundhog Day where every day was a replay of the last? I’m living it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fishing for Swans

Mr. Arnold had a pond EIEIO,
And on this pond he had a swan EIEIO.

In fact there were three swans. Arnold has a pair of swans that hatched two more swans but one met an early demise, cause unknown. Last night, he almost lost another one.

As any alert reader of this little blog knows, every time Arnold and I get together around water, something bad happens. The Missus and I had accepted an invitation to the Arnold abode for some barbeque and a brewski or two. Somewhere between the beers and the ribs, Arnold suggest that we step outside so that I could check out a couple of his fishing reels; ease of casting, that sort of thing. You see, I was in the market for a new reel as my favorite Bass Pro Special had blown up on me last year at Lake Fork.

Arnold had three reels ready for my observation. Two were identical but with lures of a different weight. The third was the same brand that self destructed right in front of me when I needed it the most. He demonstrated the best way to set the tension to reduce the dreaded backlash, the bird’s nest, my personal nemesis on the water. I honestly think I spend more time picking knots out of the line than I do fishing, thus my interest in a quality reel. Of course, better gear isn’t always the answer. It may be like photography; if only I had a better camera, I could take better photos.

Arnold made a long cast into the wind (always a little tricky) and even though he hadn’t used his thumb to control the speed of the reel, there was zero backlash. I was impressed. He then picked up the reel like I had previously owned, and made the same cast. The line spun up and coiled and looped, a familiar sight to me.

But while Arnold was clearing the reel, the male and the biggest of the swans, swam over to investigate the floating thing in the water. He didn’t try to eat it thank goodness, but  he did manage to snag the lure.

So here’s the scene: A giant white bird is paddling across the pond as best he can with a Rapala Rattletrap hooked in his left leg while a grown man with a glass of beer is trying to reel him in. The rod is bent as Arnold dashes along the shore, hoping to get the bird to the bank with as little physical damage as possible. What a time for a camera. The swan failed to see the humor in this and complained mightily; HONK, HONK, HONK, as he was slowly brought to shore. I tried to help and grabbed the bird by the goozle in a feeble attempt to calm him down. The pressure on his neck turned his HONK into a kind of HINK, a sound I’d never heard a swan make before. In the meantime, Arnold was taking a beating from those huge flapping wings not unlike being in the ring with a white Mike Tyson.

Luckily, the lure was dislodged with a minimum of effort, there was no blood, and the swan lived to swim another day. It was a lot like the old joke about an Okie’s last words.

“Here, hold my beer and watch this.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Take Cover Immediately!

Here we are barely into the first days of March and already, the Silly Season of Weather has been thrust upon us. I saw it coming on the local Fox station before we were even out of February, when the newscast opened with big blazing red letters not unlike the ongoing weekend special at Keystone Chevrolet, proclaiming BREAKING WEATHER! Dear Weatherman, when a line of spring showers has been moving across the state for the last eight hours, it is OLD NEWS. It is not, repeat not, BREAKING WEATHER!

Look, this is Oklahoma, tornado alley, where the wind and rain come sweeping cross the plain every single spring. We live here (some of us reluctantly) and anyone with one good eye and half a brain knows that there will be occasions in the next two or three months when there will be thunderstorms, usually with thunder and lightning. It’s a given fact. It happens every year about this same time. Please, please do not light up our TV screens with angry red blotches for hours at a time. We can see the lightning out the front door. We can hear the thunder. We can watch the rain bounce off our driveways.

Last Sunday, one of the stations had a helicopter in the air to watch a rotating cloud in KANSAS. Kansas for pity sake. It wasn’t even in the state of Oklahoma. The cloud was closer to Wichita than Tulsa. Let the Wichita stations worry about it. But no, our meteorologists follow the bands of red all the way to Missouri, Arkansas, and beyond, probably even to freakin’ Mexico if they could. The thing is, all the stations have invested a lot of money in the latest technology and by golly, and they’re going to show it to you, like it or not. The weather guy following the Wichita cloud, kept apologizing for interrupting Sixty Minutes, but he did it at least six times.

“We have no choice but to stay with a tornado,” he said, the concern etched in his face. The implication being that the FCC or some form of government will dispatch a demolition team to blow up their antenna and yank them off the air unless he continues to babble like a tree ape. Yes you do have a choice Mr. Weatherman. You just cut away a half dozen times. Now cut away again and let’s watch the damn show.

Here’s an idea: designate a channel, a local frequency, just for weather. Each station could take turns, say a week at a time, being in charge of the broadcast. When severe weather approaches, run a crawler along the bottom of the screen directing us to that channel, but only for those that are fascinated by moving red blobs.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, I would like to know if there is a tornado over my house or if chunks of ice the size of grapefruits are about to fall from the sky. In that case, you can interrupt my programming even if they’re airing Miss Nude America. Thank you very much.