The Lovely Sharon and I have a wonderful backyard. It is large, bordered by a creek, has a nice lawn and dozens of trees. In a portion of the backyard there is a wild area with no lawn. The are large trees, medium size trees and small trees. When I am in the backyard it feels like I am in a park or even a canyon habitat. We have squirrels that are chattering all day and evening, jumping from tree to tree. We are visted often by deer (see http://www.bheadman.com/2011/02/winter-deer.html). We share the yard with hawks, hummingbirds, a pair of Mallard ducks and other birds. We have a hammock tied to two trees that are perfect hammock hanging distance apart. In short, its a special place. But hold on, "Houston we have a problem". For the last few weeks those pesky, smart, devious, midnight marauders, also known as raccoons have been not only visiting the backyard, but have been on the upstairs patio deck and wreaking havoc.
I married the Lovely Sharon some seven years ago and moved in to her house after we were married. She has lived in the house now for more than 25 years. She has had raccoon issues before. One evening before we were married, I was visiting her and she walked me out to my car when I was leaving. We walked through the garage to my car which was parked in the driveway. She had two cars in the garage, her red Mustage convertible and her black Ford Explorer (she has since sold the Explorer). As we walked passed the Mustang we heard a noise under the car. We peered under the car and were surprised by a raccoon that was hiding out under the car. We pleaded, beg and entreated the animal to come out and leave the garage, but to no avail. He stayed put and just stared at us. The Lovely Sharon (this was before she was the Lovely Sharon, she was just Sharon at the time), grabbed a broom and tried to prod the raccoon out from under the car. He refused to budge. She started poking him with the broom. All that did was make him mad. He started grabbing the end of the broom. That is when things got really interesting. Sharon was holding one end of the broom, yelling at the raccoon, he was holding the other end of the broom making whatever sound an irritated raccoon makes and there was a standoff that lasted a couple of minutes. I backed off the action, not wanting to get killed with a stray swipe of the broom or by the teeth or claws of an incensed raccoon. Those of you who know the Lovely Sharon know that she is quiet and by and large a calm person. But I know how tough she can be and I figured she would best the raccoon at some point. I was right, she kept at it and ultimately the raccoon gave up, dropped his end of the broom and fled the garage.
Another time the Lovely Sharon was squirting off the deck and the hot tub building and stuck the garden hose in a space that was under the deck but above the hot tub roof. The space is not more than 18 inches high at the highest point and some three or four feet long. It is open on both ends. Sharon was standing on the patio stairs with her head about the height of the north end of the space. She stuck the hose in the space to squirt out the leaves and cobwebs without looking inside. What she didn't realize was that there was a raccoon relaxing in the shade in the small space. He was probably napping when she stuck the hose in and let the water go. To say the least, the raccoon was very surprised and starting screaming. When he started screaming in the dark space, it scared the Lovely Sharon and she started screaming. I was standing by watching this event (its normal for me to stand around watching the Lovely Sharon work, its my hobby and I am good at it). So there I was watching Sharon jumping around screaming and listening to the raccoon screaming and then the raccoon shot out of the south end of the space (the end away from Sharon). What the raccon failed to take into account was that the south end of the space was about 8 feet or so above the bottom level of the patio. He shot out of the darkened space and found himself in mid-air. Do you remember the Road Runner cartoons with Wiley Coyote? If so, you likely remember that when Wiley Coyote ran off a cliff, he did not immediately fall to Earth. He was suspended in air. That is until he looked down and realized that he was no longer on terra firma but was in open air. As soon as Wiley realized he was in the air with no ground support, that is when he would plummet to Earth. Well that seemed to happen in this case with the raccoon. He shot out of the space and was now 8 feet or so above the bottom patio. He seemed to stay their in mid-air until he looked down. Then he let out even a lowder, more terrifying scream and fell to the patio below. He landed on four feet and ran away.
There have been other raccoon stories with the Lovely Sharon but we have not seen any in the yard for a couple of years. However, recently we seem to have been visited after bed time by one or more raccoons. We bought a new hammock a few weeks ago. We hung it, tried it out and were generally pretty happy with it. It came with a black pillow that was about 4 feet long. One day we walked down to the hammock and the black pillow had scratches and tears on it. We looked the next day and the damage was worse. Then we notice that a red blanket covering an ottoman on our top deck had been damaged. Then we noticed other signs of critters on the deck. Finally Sharon bought a baby gate and installed it to block the intruder's path onto the deck. We have not notice any more signs of the raccoons on the deck. However, each day it seems like another rope on the hammock has been cut with a claw or chewed through. There are probably 6 ropes hanging off of the hammock, dangling straight down to the ground. It actually looks artistic. The two trees holding up a hammock with ropes dangling to the ground. At this point it is too artistic to lay in the hammock. Without the ropes supporting the hammock, one would not want to attempt to relax in it.
The only way for the raccoons to do what they are doing to the hammock, they have to actually be in the hammock. The image of a bunch of raccoons swinging in a hammock late at night going "weeeeeeeee", and chewing ropes and untying ropes is something I would, frankly, like to see. The Lovely Sharon is a little more irritated over recent raccoon actions than I am but she has had more one-on-one fights with the raccoons.
We decided not to get another new hammock this year. I suppose we will reconsider the hammock next spring
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