Sunday, August 8, 2010

7.30 Strange Noises


I hear a funny coughing-like sound from somewhere overhead. Squirrels? A bird with a noise I haven’t heard before. A turkey with a cold? I look up into the trees and see an enormous beast. Hard to make out what it is, but something has clearly made a nest in a tree. Not my tree, though the two are very close together – twin trunks tangling over the property line – but in a neighbor’s tree directly above the fence line. His tree and our tree are all mixed up together there. The idea of a nest causes me to conjure a whole brood of something. But what?
Eventually I decide that one piece of what I am seeing is a ringed tail. So, conclusion: a ring-tailed raccoon trying to sleep through the day’s heat, upside down as well as I can make out. Anne has taken the camera to work, so no chance of an image.
I forget about him, work. Later in the day when I return to the garden, I see a suggestion of a head, an ear. I’m settling on the notion of just one, large raccoon.
Around six with the neighbors home and Anne on her way, I start staking out the point on the stone path where I have a view – oddly enough the only angle with a clear view – when the beast begins to rouse. I see him moving his head; I see a face.
Larry from next door takes my invitation to come over for a view of the beast.
I am understandably worried by the prospect of a large animal nesting in a tree about twenty feet from my vegetable garden. It occurs to me that when a raccoon rouses himself at night and comes down from the tree to prowl, the reason is because he is hungry.
I have also heard tales, ringed or otherwise, of raccoons visiting a garden and leaving it in a lot worse condition than they found them in. I don’t want that to happen to mine.
To make things worse, we are going away that evening, after Anne gets home, to see her parents in the Berkshires and won’t be back until Sunday night. My response is to work my way systematically through the tomato plants, picking everything that’s red and ripe, or almost ripe, and to take these tempting fruits indoors to spend the weekend quietly in a bowl in my kitchen.
There are other vegetables out there, but these are less ripe for the eating and thus, I hope, less tempting to a beast on hunger prowl. (I have noticed from other predations, such as birds in the berries, that wild animals wait for fruit to become perfectly ripe before stealing them). But the truth is I am fond of all my plants, whether they’re producing anything worth eating or not, and would be upset by their destruction.
So I suggest to Larry that while we are away if he happens to see the raccoon in my garden he should give up his principled opposition to firearms and shoot it.
I wonder what the chances are of calling the police department and requesting extra patrols of my yard to discourage trespassing by a raccoon.
Anne comes home and joins me on my vigil to take a look at the beast. The raccoon is now looking back at us. Am I keeping you awake? Maybe this isn’t the snug berth you had in mind after all?
But if I’m not willing to stand outside my house, just where the blue granite walk meets the patio, and gaze up at a tree all night, there’s really nothing to do. I think about covering all my plants with a glaze of red pepper from a spice jar, but in the flurry of last minute preparations for a visit forget about it. We pack the car and go.
It’s already dark two nights later when we arrive back home. I can’t tell if anything's happened to the garden or not.
In the morning, I look up into the tree. The raccoon is gone. The vegetable garden is untouched.
I ask Larry about our beast the next time I see him. “We never saw him again,” he says.
I think the he took the hint and decided to go find somewhere else to sleep where people didn’t give him the eye.
I think it’s the best thing for us both of us, your know, to just move on and get on with our lives. There’s just no peace and quiet for either party when a raccoon is sacking out over your garden.