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Company for Dinner

Raccoon issue? Not a Problem



“Is your dog in the house?” asked my neighbor one evening. My wife and I, our two small children, and our dog had just taken our places at the dining table. The dog was patiently seated close to the children’s chairs where he knew he could catch bits of food that dropped to the floor. 

Four years before, Brigitte and I had tied the knot. Soon after, I started a vegetable garden. As a child I had worked in the family garden as a “responsibility” chore. Now that I had a wife and my own little piece of property, I continued work in the garden but it was no longer a chore. 

The only problem was the raccoons. They were upsetting, but only to a point. While living on my uncle’s farm I loved helping to take care of the vegetables. (I loved, even more, the partaking of the harvest.) The raccoons liked just about all the items I enjoyed, especially the corn. Those pesky little devils always knew, before us humans, exactly when the corn was ready to be eaten. We never trapped or tried to poison the animals but we did find ways to outwit them by putting leftover table scraps on the ground close to the crop of the day. I also discovered that watermelon rind was very appealing to ring-tailed bandits and would keep them at bay—at least until the garden was played out. 

Now I replied to my neighbor, “The dog is right here under the table waiting for food to drop on the floor. Why?”

“Keep him in the house. I’m putting out poison in my yard to get rid of the raccoons,” he declared, then turned and left.

My wife and I looked at each other, our mouths open, speechless. The children started to cry. Once I got my mouth closed, I went outside and removed the tops of our garbage cans. I explained to the kids that the raccoons liked to tip over the cans to get into whatever food we threw out.

The kids were happy. My wife was happy. I doubted that our neighbor was happy. But I am certain the raccoons were happy. They strewed garbage everywhere!

A short time later, the veggies in our garden started to attract the raccoons. To fend them off, we started to put out a tray of leftovers every evening after dinner. They cleaned off the tray and left our garden alone. 

About a month after the neighbor’s upsetting appearance at our door, my wife’s niece and nephew came to visit from Germany for three weeks. On the way back from Kennedy Airport to our home in Connecticut, we got the two children excited with our stories of feeding, not only a raccoon family, but a family of skunks, a couple of opossums, and even a slow-moving porcupine. We rolled into our yard in time for Brigitte to fix up food for our dinner while I lit the outside grill to barbeque hotdogs and hamburgers. 

After finishing the meal, we set out the usual tray of food for our wildlife friends. Brigitte’s niece and nephew and our own children too were soon very disappointed. None of our “pets” showed up that night. In fact, not one of these nocturnal critters made an appearance for the entire three weeks of our young visitor’s stay. We looked for the animals every evening, but no luck. Not even the porcupine or any of the skunks showed up—all of whom had an obvious means of defense at their disposal. The evening we took the children back to Kennedy and waved good-bye, all the wild animals reappeared.

Eventually, I built a solid structure to hold our garbage containers. I had, with our evening community feedings, managed to attract rats to the feast. When the rats started chewing  their way into our house, I decided to halt all cafeteria service to our welfare friends. I was still of a mind to believe that people are smarter than animals—at least some of the time—and I still had to outwit instead of eliminate. I built that shed with cement plaster over double thickness galvanized wire lathe. I used extra strength stucco plaster. That structure deterred all wild life. It has performed its service for nearly 50 years. No poison has ever been necessary, just good Yankee ingenuity.     

Eventually, I discovered electronic pest control devices for the house, and suddenly our furry friends evacuated our house. We are no longer visited by mice or even ants. Occasionally, a disappointed raccoon family will cross through the yard, looking almost dejected, as if recalling tales of the feasts of the good old days their parents and grandparents had told them. 

 

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