It was a quiet week in Hope Valley

Raccoon from 1849 illustration by M. Charles D’Orbigny

Saturday, 04:23 pm.  My neighbor out back is home.  I can tell by the surging roar of his power washer.  It must be at least 100,000 psi.  I expect to see one of his wall studs to come flying overhead any moment now.  The neighbor to the right was home about two hours ago.  His fairly even chug-chug signature combined with fleeting sightings through the trees of some green and yellow creature makes me suspect that he was harvesting the hay … sorry, mowing the lawn … with his John Deere DIA-9000 lawn tractor.  Neighbor left, Ed, was creating an even gasoline-generated hum at around 10:00 am, immediately after I treated the entire neighborhood to an hour-long Honda-powered lawn mower serenade.  Eventually Ed came up the driveway, fully engaged power blower in hand, for a visit.  He kindly blew away from the driveway the evidence of my recent lawn manicure.  This was occasion for a couple of beers on the deck while we enjoyed some relaxing conversation.  That was Saturday.  Now Thursday was a different matter.

This is relatively clean compared to before I washed it. The new accumulation took one day.

I started Thursday morning well enough. I used the computer to apply for a job (the third such application for the week) even before I went downstairs for morning coffee and breakfast.  Next followed the daily walk up the drive to the mailbox where I deposited the latest Netflix movie that we had watched the night before.  The driveway was a powdery green hue mixed with raggedy orange clumps, the result of pine tree pollen and oak tree flowers.  Out came the big broom for a swift and vigorous sweep that eventually revealed that the driveway indeed still retained its original black color.  Just when I thought all outside was well I spotted my truck.  It was cloaked in a mass of oak florets that adhered to my burgundy paint finish by way of numerous pine sap droplets.  There was only one thing to do but wash the truck.  This included standing in the bed and brushing the roof, pulling out the 60- pound rubber bed liner, and brushing and flushing every inch of the vehicle.  A clean truck must be driven to be appreciated so I took a quick jaunt into town and purchased some 100 grit and 150 grit sandpaper.  The sandpaper was for the next project, finishing the old 1920’s speaker cabinet that is on my workbench in the basement.  That job, which went well, naturally flowed into working on my ham radio antenna mount.  Two pressure treated 2 x 4’s, one 2 x 6, and a 10 foot 1-1/4” galvanized pipe were spread out on the basement floor where I had left them the previous week.  I consulted my drawings and marked off all the cut and bore points on the material.  It took a while to get it right but I did succeed.  The actual cutting and assembly was left for Friday (yes, I did complete most of it on Friday).  Right around this time my stomach told me that it was past 11:30 am and thus time for lunch.  Lunch was followed by rest time, otherwise known as reading a library book on the iPad. You can imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang at around 2:30.  Picture this: We live in the middle of nowhere!  Almost nobody comes to our house unless they are wearing a brown uniform and carrying an electronic invoice pad.  We were not expecting any mail order merchandise (not this week, anyways). I told my wife that I would answer the door (I get to do all the neat stuff).  It was a young man of about 12 years old.  He had left his mom sitting in the SUV that was now parked in the middle of our driveway (glad I swept today!).  I was all prepared to donate to the local Pop Warner Baseball League or purchase some school band giant candy bars (I love those things!).  The last time a kid came to the door it was getting dark outside and he was lost and in tears … we had to go get his mom that time.  This was going to be different.

“You have a sick raccoon walking through your yard” he blurted out.  Introductions were not necessary, it was an emergency.  My wife and I went out to meet the young man’s mom and she affirmed that a sickly raccoon was making a random and slow traverse of the neighborhood.  She was afraid that it might be rabid (a very valid concern in this area) and wanted to alert us.  My wife and I went out and joined the crowd at the street.  There were now two moms, one grandmother, and at least 6 assorted children (mostly inside SUV’s) clustered around our curbside mailbox.  If you add in my wife and me, it was a regular convention.  We had no idea there were so many people in our neighborhood!  Names and greetings were exchanged while we all watched the wandering raccoon.  He was at least a 25 pounder.  His movement was that of a drunk, swaying first to the left for a few feet and then making a course correction off to the right for another random 25 feet or so.  First he was in the street and then in the yard of my neighbor across the street.  Then he was back on our side again.  911 had already been called and we were awaiting the arrival of the police (DEM does not respond to such an event and apparently the local animal officer was not available… small town).  As the clock moved along so did the raccoon.  We were now afraid that we might lose sight of him.  That would not be good.  I got a milk crate to bag him with.  I then decided that it was severely undersized.  My next choice was a large green paper recycling bin (all paper and cardboard are suitable, pizza boxes excepted).  As the animal was moving into the woods I approached him quickly with the bin.  He suddenly turned towards me when I neared his back.  It was either pounce or be bitten.  I rammed the bin home on top of him and sat on it.  The bin shook enough to tell me that there was no way I could let go and walk away.  Two of the kids retrieved large rocks from my yard (the 30-pound variety; strong kids!) and I placed these on top of the bin.  The police officer arrived a few minutes later.  He said that he was it.  No animal officer or DEM person to be expected.  As I removed the bin the officer took aim with his 22 Marlin rifle.  The raccoon seemed to revive a bit and took off faster than expected.  It took two shots to bring him down.  Our crowd dispersed, all of us now a little more like a neighborhood because we had helped each other.  I had to promise to do the burial right away and to avoid touching any blood.  This I did.  It just so happened that this was the first day it was over 75 degrees in months and so I enjoyed some more exercise for the day.

Before everyone went home one of the young men volunteered that this incident was not all that uncommon on our street.  Two years earlier, almost to the week, one of the boys that was in the SUV had been attacked on the way to the bus stop by a fisher cat.  He was only six years old at the time.  The quick intervention of his mother, a fellow student, and another neighbor resulted in his getting away with scratches, bites, and eventually several stitches on his leg.  That was not a quiet day either.  Before we all broke up my neighbor from across the street volunteered that one of the two or so bear sightings in Rhode Island happened in her yard when her now adult son was approached by a mother bear guarding her cub.  My wife did not believe me when I later told her of that incident.  Now we listen more carefully to the sounds coming from the woods at night.  And yes, we are getting to know and like our new neighbors.  It is going to be an interesting summer.

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