I had a long day at work Monday. Not that the work I do is difficult, it’s just that I screwed something up. I try not to burden my blog with my primary vocation but, in this instance, it suffices to say, while doing some fairly routine maintenance, I broke a production server in the middle of the day and scrambled to fix the problem before anybody noticed. I barely pulled it off but I’m sure I took minutes off of my life. One of those moments when your heart jumps into your throat, you break out into a sweat and you curse the fates that brought you to the Calypso’s island of the tech world held prisoner in her not unpleasant grip forever but unable to return home. So anyway, enough about my job. It pays the bills while shortening my life, eating away my time and crushing my dreams…yet at the same time, enabling me to continue losing money farming.
In the late afternoon I stopped by my parents house to attempt to answer some questions about their new laptop. I learned first-hand how terrible Windows 8 is. It’s awful. I have no use for “Metro-style” apps. But I can make it work. I click on things, make some configurations, install a printer and my mom looks at me and says, “Do you go this fast when you teach classes in Florida?” Sigh.
Around 8:30 in the evening Aunt Marion called needing a white 18″ zipper, wondering if Julie just happened to have one laying around. She did. Not that Julie is a world-champion seamstress like Aunt Marion, just that when we moved into Grandma’s house there was a bundle of sewing supplies left behind. Julie and I agree that the roads are good enough for her to drive the mile to Aunt Marion’s house and she sets off. Aunt Marion doesn’t seem to sleep. You’ll find her sewing, cooking or checking her stock at any time of the day or night. I guess after 94 years she’s tired of laying in bed. Maybe she’s racing to take advantage of her remaining time. I don’t know. She needs the zipper now or she wouldn’t be calling.
As Julie drives away, I leave the kids playing in the front room to go check something in the back room. The “Family” room (built when mom was in high school and used by grandma for special occasions, now home to our wood stove. I’ll come back to this.). As I’m walking through the kitchen I hear something rattle in the basement. “That’s strange, the light is off and the kids are in the front room.” My phone rings as I walk toward the basement. Just as Julie says the words, “Well, I’m stuck” I put my eyes on a raccoon in our recycle bin. The recycle bin in the basement. “I’m sorry you are stuck, honey. We have a raccoon in the basement.”
Now, in the history of the world, how many times has that conversation happened? A wife stuck in the snow while taking a zipper to an elderly neighbor and a husband finding a furry mammal has invaded the house. It could have been worse. I could have been stuck in the snow when Julie discovered the bandit. I quickly realized how unprepared I was. I was not carrying a gun. Even if I was, I’m not going to shoot a raccoon with a 9mm hollow point bullet in my basement. What a mess that would make! And my 10/22 was put away in the dining room. So I did the only logical thing remaining to me. I froze.
Now, let’s set aside the concern that I might freeze were this a 2-legged invader and I was unarmed. I wouldn’t. Well, I might. Let’s set that concern aside. I saw a furry little monster who could not possibly escape except to run up the stairs past me. He pushed out a broken window to enter the basement, fell 6′ and could not return that way. He chose the only logical option and ran to hide under the bathtub.
You see, when they built the addition that included indoor plumbing and the famous “Family Room” they didn’t include a bath tub. But grandpa wanted a bath tub. So they put one in the basement. I have never known anyone to use said bath tub. It’s just there. It drains directly into a floor drain in the basement. There is a slight partition but no door. Just a tub. We don’t use it. We don’t even look at it. We just use it as a shelf, really. I had never noticed that it sat 10″ from the wall and it was accessable to things small and four-legged…like a raccon.
Did I mention my wife was stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere and not wearing a coat? Oh, she wasn’t wearing a coat. I love my wife. I hate raccoons. But I love my wife. But there’s a raccoon in my basement. And what I really want is to go play video games with my kids.
You should know by now that I love my wife. I find I have little control over my love for her. It came to me reluctantly as I was a particularly stupid 17 year old. But it happened. I love her. I find the intensity of my feelings for her wax and wane over time but persist throughout. Contrast this to my burning hatred for raccoons. I hate them. They eat chickens. My chickens. They dig up plants in my garden. They eat my corn. They jump out at unexpected moments when I can’t swerve my car and break the bumper of my car in their crazy kamakaze road attacks. They, most recently, attempted to (get this) dig a hole in the roof over my kitchen causing a river of water to run off of my roof directly onto my kitchen counter during a night time heavy rain storm. There is no waning of my burning hatred, only persistent intensification. When we first moved to the farm I would feel pity and remorse when a raccoon was caught committing a capital crime. I would aim carefully and pull the trigger reluctantly then bury the animal in the compost bin along with the chicken he was caught eating. That reluctance was quickly burned out of me. I am not eager to do the work. I would rather just leave them alone but there seems to be no end to the raccoon horde constantly testing my defenses, stealing chickens the moment my fence shows weakness and, now BREAKING INTO MY HOME to lick the aluminum foil in the recycle bin! That’s too much. But my wife needs me right now. And I love her. But there is a raccoon in my house. And I hate raccoons.
So I called my father. Now, to be fair, it was 8:45, I suspect he had his robe on and was ready to call it a night but he was…maybe…less than enthusiastic about coming out in the cold again. When his SUV couldn’t pull the van he returned to the house with Julie and asked me to go with him. Since Julie was now home, I handed my oldest son the gun, asking him to guard the stairs while Grandpa and I took the tractor down to the car. We got that sorted out in short order and dad delivered the zipper by tractor. In the dark. In the cold. With the wind blowing. On an open-cab tractor. You can understand his lack of enthusiasm. He stopped by to see what could be done about the raccoon issue, helped me set my live trap and said goodnight.
Live trap. It’s branded “Have-A-Heart”. Yeah. They should rename the brand “We’ll-Hold-’em-Till-You-Bring-A-Gun”. Do you know how unpopular I would become if I relocated every raccoon I could catch to someone else’s farm? Raccoons are territorial anyway. They would either have to fight for new territory or fight to return home. Relocating raccoons is pretty heartless. We set the trap with some leftover buffalo chicken we made for supper then sit at the top of the stairs listening. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I sneak down. Maybe he has moved. Oh, he moved all right. He cleaned out the trap.
I baited the trap with some scrambled egg and peanut butter. He ate it but did not trigger the trap. It was growing late. I was growing desperate. I put a cantaloupe rind under the trap, near the trigger and put a couple of boards and boxes on top of the trap to block him from climbing over the trap to escape. It was 11:00 when we heard the trap close. I offered him a blindfold and a cigarette. My gun jammed.
While all of this is happening I am discovering I am either allergic to something in my basement or, more specifically, to raccoons. I’m hoping to see/hear a raccoon while sitting at the top of the stairs with a gun in my hand and I’m sneezing and wheezing and otherwise ruining the hunt. Are you with me to this point? I blew up a server at work, I failed at teaching my mom how to use her new laptop, my wife got stuck in the snow and I couldn’t help because a raccoon I’m allergic to has invaded my home. At this moment my wife turns to me and says, “We need to remodel the bathroom.”
Honey, let me fix the leaky roof and block the raccoons out first. Then we can talk about remodeling the bathroom.