February 6, 2010

Critters 1, Homeowners 0

This article was published in the Warrick Courier on Friday, January 22, 2010 and is an amalgam of experiences from last year's ice storm.

My parents read me Brown Bear Goes to School when I was a toddler. My favorite character was the elegant Miss Ringy Raccoon, who was the teacher and always brought chocolate cake for her students. That story made me think positively about raccoons, and their elegant little hands.

But within a few weeks after last year’s ice storm, I learned to fear the raccoon.
We heard loud noises in the attic above my husband’s closet.

Fast and furious and uncomfortably loud scurrying.

The frantic scurrying continued all night and stopped early in the morning.

Like some mad female King Lear, I raved and wandered around the house broom in hand, tapping on the ceiling wherever the offending beast made his presence known. My husband implored me to stop banging on the ceiling, for fear of putting a hole in the drywall. Following his request to the letter, I started banging on the walls. (Neither of our cats enjoyed this much.)

A friend who is a home inspector secured a varmint catcher for us.

Said Varmint Roper went up into the attic and came down with the verdict that at least one varmint was sharing our home. Most likely, a raccoon or two was spending evenings with us. Debris left indicated it had been a short visit.

The Varmint Roper found holes in the soffit probably caused by branches falling during the ice storm. He told us he would not repair the soffit until the beast was captured. He educated us about raccoons – telling us that late winter is mating season for raccoons. He said raccoons have a four or five mile range, so the beast may have several “hotels.”

He put an ominous looking metal trap on our roof, baited it with canned cat food of all things, and told us to wait.

Wait we did. For ten days, nothing happened. The Varmint Roper decided to duct-tape (the Handyman’s Friend) the suspected soffit opening, knowing that Yon Varmint might just rip through the tape. We could not tell whether the Beast was in or out.
C’mon out you wascally waccoon.

I was beginning to feel like Elmer Fudd stalking Bugs Bunny. Though my gun was a broom, and I didn’t have Elmer’s cheeky red hunting outfit, I felt like I was sparring with a creature smarter than me.

OFFSIDE ANNOUNCER: “In the Match of the Century, it’s RACCOON versus post-menopausal, wild-eyed angry suburban mom. And the raccoon appears to be winning handily this game of wits.”

On his next visit, the Critter Roper discovered that the raccoon had managed to get the canned food out of the trap and eat it. And just to slight us, he left the can just sitting there on the roof.

My husband advised that I should hard-boil an egg and put it in the trap. Would the egg be more difficult to retrieve? Should I make the raccoon Eggs in a Basket like at Cracker Barrel? Things were getting way out of control. I had just recently lost my job, and I was becoming obsessed and manic with catching this tormentor of my soul.

As weeks passed, my husband, me, and the Critter Roper all began to fear that the raccoon was here to stay. The Roper told me he just didn’t understand it, “This was his most sensitive trap.” Well this was one mighty smart beast. I didn’t want to sound elitist, but I didn’t want the Varmint or his kind here. We were hoping there were no raccoon babies, and that this beast could move on to a Singles Pad for raccoons, far, far away.

On March 19 after numerous visits from the Critter Roper and much angst on my part, the beast was captured. At 2 a.m. I heard an incredible racket up on the rooftop, and no it wasn’t Santa and his eight reindeer. I had to wake my husband, he was sleeping peacefully through it all. We went outside, and my husband shined his Mag-Lite toward the trap, and two shiny, beady, yellow eyes stared back. Raccoons are pretty adorable and cute with those tiny hands (in your attic, not mine). This one was neither elegant nor cute.

I named him “Scott Farkas” after the yellow-eyed boy in A Christmas Story. When the Critter Roper came later that morning, we learned that indeed the raccoon was male and that name stuck.

“Scott Farkas” was relocated to a Raccoon Witness Protection Program, probably to a woods somewhere in Kentucky. The Critter Roper fixed the soffit and assured us no more critters could check into our attic motel. Quoth the raven.