Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Battle of Raccoon Hill

So, I’ve been trying to get caught up on some work things lately, since I have been taking time off for Youth Conference, holidays, scout camp, etc. This has required me to stay up rather late.  Late nights have always appealed to me – I guess you could say that I love the night life (I've got to boogie – QUICK! NAME THE SINGER!). Last night, I looked at the clock, which showed 2:30, and decided it was time to quit.

There is something tranquil and wonderful about a sleeping house. Almost every light is off; there is no noise from televisions, computers, or video games; you know the phone or doorbell isn’t about to ring – everything is quiet and predictable.

Part of my nightly routine involves touring the slumbering house to turn off lights, check doors, and enjoy a few seconds of watching my beautiful children sleep. Boris the angry Bulldog invariably accompanies me on this trip, and I invariably am touched by his loyalty to me. Truly, I relish this experience at night – definitely one of my favorite times of the day. And did I mention, it’s predictable? There are never surprises.

This peaceful lamb enjoying an undoubtedly peaceful evening
is a perfect metaphor for how I feel during this process.
So, you can imagine what a shock it was to my system when I opened the garage entryway door, and literally stepped in a CIRCLE of EIGHT CLEARLY-RABID, DEMONIC RACCOONS!

Did you see what I said there? THEY WERE MURDEROUS RACCOONS! AND THERE WERE EIGHT OF THEM! AND THEY WERE POSSESSED OF THE DEVIL! In the blink of an eye, my peaceful, nightly stroll had TURNED INTO ARMAGEDDON!
Dramatic Reenactment!
Some quick back-detail on the story. We have a feral cat that has adopted us. He is a sweet little guy who follows Pax and Goose around the neighborhood when they are out playing or riding bikes, and proudly brings us an occasional decapitated mouse – he’s very protective of the family. Because he is still, by definition, a wild animal, we let him come and go as he pleases. He has a bed and food in the garage, and we leave one of the garage doors open about eight inches, for his convenience. It was through that slightly-open garage door that the DEMONIC, MURDEROUS RACCOONS (THERE WERE EIGHT!) entered the garage.

So, back to my tranquil night. I needed something from the garage before I could climb into my soft, warm, peaceful bed. So, I opened the door from our home into the garage; and as I’ve done thousands of times before, I stepped into the dark garage while I was turning on the light. However, unlike the previous thousands of times I have followed this process, my foot didn’t land predictably on the wooden platform in the garage. No – instead, what my bare leg felt as I stepped into the dark was a vast movement of fur, claws, and whipping, wiry tales. When the light filled the room, Boris – ever present – must have thought that I had arranged a play date with a group of funny-looking new dogs in the neighborhood. Hence, he immediately moved past me into the chaos (and then quickly turned around, when a few of his new friends tried to scratch his eyes out).  Completely caught off guard and freaked out, I exclaimed an array of expletives that made me glad my kids were sound asleep.

The food we keep for the cat is on the top of the steps leading into our house from the garage, so that’s where these angry little demons were – perched in a circle around the bowl like spokes on a wheel. What was absolutely crazy about the situation (and a little off-putting and creepy, even now) is how they had no fear of me. One or two of them scrambled at least to the bottom step into the garage, but none of them actually ran. They all just stopped, stared Boris and me down, bared their teeth, and started growling and hissing. It was almost as if we had stumbled upon them with their kill, and they weren’t intending on sharing it.

Another dramatic reenactment. A poor one, really –
because in reality, THERE WERE EIGHT OF THEM!

And so there we stood for fifteen seconds, or so. Boris had now realized that if this was a play date, it must be with dogs from the doggie juvenile detention center – so he had backed off to stand behind my legs. And, I guess I was just trying to figure out what to do. But Chloe, our nine-pound Yorkie, didn’t need any time to decide; for out of the dark house behind me, she came tearing through my legs, launching herself at two of the growling raccoons.

And that’s when all hell broke proverbially loose. The two raccoons Chloe had attacked took, oh, about three seconds to have her on her back, and about one more second to get their sharp little teeth at her throat. So, Chloe starts screeching like she is dying (which, in fairness, was where her little exchange was heading); the raccoons were growling and screeching; Boris starts doing his concerned bark (which is downright sad and funny, if you ever get a chance to hear it); and I am trying to find something to throw at the ones on Chloe, to break them up. The only thing I could get my hands on was Lucy’s bucket of driveway chalk, so I launched that at the pile of raccoons/Chloe. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to even temper their now full-bodied bloodlust – they just kept at Chloe’s throat. So, without really thinking, I reached down and grabbed the one on top of the pile by the nape, and threw him across the garage; and then I sort of kicked at what was left of the combined pile of one raccoon, Chloe, and little broken bits of driveway chalk. That dislodged the raccoon from Chloe, and Chloe wasted no time to screechingly scamper back into the safety of the house (thanks for your help there, Chloe – you really handled that well). 

Right, Chloe – I’m sure they were terrified of you.
 With Chloe’s exit, there was chaos. The one I had kicked off Chloe was trying to claw and bite my foot, as I kept kicking at him. A couple still perched on the garage steps literally launched themselves at me (and Boris, who was still by my side – love that dumb dog), smacking into my arm and back - I sort of flailed them away, as best I could. The others quickly scampered over and through the porch railing, into the garage. And keep in mind that all of this was now happening with Lucy’s driveway chalk rolling and crunching under our feet – it was like a zany kid’s movie, where the kids throw down marbles to keep the bad guys from being able to catch them.

From that point, I lost track of most of the evil, little incubi – other than a cacophony of their deep, creepy, guttural belly growls. And that’s what was absolutely surreal. They had an open garage door they could have used to escape off into the dark of night. I don’t know if in their panic, they didn’t realize it; if they were still hungry and desirous of finishing their meal; or if they were just sizing me up, talking to each other through their brains (they can do that, you know – they’re the devil) about the best way to collectively attack and murder me. But for whatever reason (although probably the last one I mentioned), they all stayed in various hiding places in the garage.

The logical thing, at this point, would have been to go back inside, turn off the lights, and let them all leave at their leisure. But it was 2:30 AM, and I was feeling startled, protective (even of stupid Chloe, who seems to think she’s about 200 pounds of attack dog), and quite irrational. So, with Boris still by my side, I grabbed an umbrella and a steel garden rake, and I prepared to go full vigilante.

This was the only one I was able to photograph.
 Now, I love animals – really, all animals. I hate to see them hungry or suffering. But in my irrational mind, these demons had turned in their animal cards, and had become vicious killers. I found one in the corner, behind the outdoor Christmas tree light bins. BAM! I hit him with the business end of the rake. I found one under Susan’s car. BAM! (You can’t get a good swing under the car, so I had to use the rake more like a pool cue.) I found one hiding in an old Tupperware container we once used for bird seed. BAM! I found two hiding underneath the wooden steps/porch going into the house. BAM! BAM! Each one of them first got the rake; and if they made the mistake of moving closer to me after getting the rake, they got the umbrella. I walked around the car, and saw a striped tail sticking out from underneath the lawn mower. I smacked the tail with the rake, and then smacked the tail’s owner with the umbrella when he came out. BAM! POW! He made the mistake of defiantly turning around, looking me in the eyes, and hissing at me. I’m quite satisfied to say that the little rodent vastly underestimated how fast I could move with the rake. BAM!

And it was working. I was bravely fighting off the evil attackers. With each swing of the rake, I was sending another one cowardly into the night. I like to imagine them today, regrouping in a sort of triage area they’ve carved out in some scrub oak – bruised and beaten enough to know that they messed with the wrong rake owner. Talking among themselves, they collectively decide to stay clear of my house, the next time they decide to participate in their raccoon gang activity.

Anyway, back to the battlefield. By now, I had made enough noise to have awoken Susan, who came into the garage with wide eyes. I can only imagine how I must have looked – wild, crazy eyes; a rake in one hand, a now-broken umbrella in the other; loudly saying, with interjections of profanity, things like, “You want to go to war? I’ll go to war with you!” Or, “You want some more? I gotta lotta more! Bring it on, baby!” All the while, Boris the angry Bulldog (who by now has decided his master has come up with a REALLY FUN GAME) is bouncing up and down at my feet, barking these excited little yelps, and chasing each new demon raccoon as it retreats into the night.

Finally, the only one that appeared to remain had jumped back into the Tupperware bird seed container. He stared me down – hissing, growling, and spitting – murder in his eyes. With Susan and Boris watching, silently in awe of my courage, I slowly approached, rake drawn – the final battle! But instead of using the rake as a weapon, I used it to flip closed the hinged door on the container. The container became alive with motion, flopping around with the movement of the highly panicked (and fully trapped) raccoon. Holding the door shut with all my strength (lest I lose a finger), I carried the entire container around the side of the house; thumped it with my fist a few times, for good measure; and opened the door. And with that, the last of the army of raccoons retreated onto the golf course.

Not today, murderer!
Not in my town!
Eventually, I went back into the house, restarted the process of locking/shutting everything down, snuggled with Boris the angry Bulldog to reward his loyalty (LOVE that big knucklehead), and climbed into bed – where I lay for a few hours, unable to sleep. This morning, in my tired state, the whole thing seemed almost like a bad dream (although the messy condition of the garage confirms that it wasn’t). Meanwhile, I think I might invest in a BB gun. 

I half expect to find this on a postcard in my mail soon,
Well played, raccoons! Well played!
 Lastly, I leave you with this dramatic scene from the movie "Elf." Evil, little rodents!