In Brief—In a break from politics, religion and other heavy subjects, the author relates the lighter side of his life in days past.
This Ain’t No Joke—
Once upon a time in the faraway land of Southern California where there are only two seasons, Summer and Almost Summer, there were actually lighter moments in my life.
I used to sleep in the nude. I was younger, in the prime of life and living in Southern California. Now, clad in my wrinkled underclothes, I count myself lucky to make it through the night without waking more than twice…but this is about then.
First, a little description is in order. My wife and I returned one night to find a raccoon couple fornicating—that’s “screwing” to my uncensored readers—on our garage roof. Pausing for a moment to complete their romantic liaison, they departed for home in the nearby brushy canyon that led down to the ocean.
Our home was a modest two-story house in a quiet neighborhood that now contains several McMansions that dwarf our house. It had a shingle roof and a small front lawn that was overhung on one side by a prolific avocado tree that we and the local squirrels adored. On the other side stood a tree that shaded our guest bedroom. The back yard contained my pottery studio and a pocket-sized garden that was a playground for the possums that lived in the canyon. That gives you some idea of our home and the wildlife in urban Los Angeles.
About midnight one night, I was awakened by the sound of shingles being torn loose. Knowing that raccoons were nocturnal and often searched for treats in crevices, I sprang from the bed, ran downstairs and into the back yard where I turned the hose on the critter busily searching for bugs on the roof. If he had had a bar of soap, the happy raccoon would have enjoyed a shower. Raccoons love the water, you know. When that didn’t work, I hauled the ladder out, climbed it and proceeded to pursue the critter across the roof.
As I crossed the peak of the roof, I suddenly realized that a full moon was shining and I was in the nude. If any neighbor had seen some naked guy on the roof of our house, I would have been registered as some sort of sex maniac. As I beat a hasty retreat, the raccoon descended the tree and peeked at me around the corner of the house. The next morning we discovered that all our potted plants on the back porch had been turned over. The raccoon’s revenge. Did I mention that raccoons are considered to be the fifth smartest creatures on Earth? Smarter than some voters, that’s for sure.
Every winter, we went to lovely June Lake in the High Sierras for a ski vacation. Some friends who lived there invited us to a party. They had decided they didn’t want children because children were too much trouble…but they had two raccoons as pets. One was a reclusive, seldom-seen European raccoon and one was a domestic American raccoon. Their pets lived in a small attached house that gave them access to both the outdoors and the main house. Every night, part of our friends’ routine was to place all lampshades and decorative items in the bathroom with the door shut. And they didn’t want kids because they were too much trouble.
As I picked nuts out of a bowl on the table, the curious ‘coon stuck his dexterous little hand in my wine glass and felt around for a delectable. At first stunned at his audacity, I figured the alcohol would protect me from any raccoon germs and continued drinking.
Later as I was sitting on the floor, the curious ‘coon climbed on my lap and started to extract a $5 bill from my shirt pocket. Rather than allow my pocket to be picked, I placed the bill in my tight jeans pocket. My furry companion watched this and, putting his butt in my face, tried mightily but unsuccessfully to get the bill. Failing, he wandered off.
Jim related the time when he sat reading the paper, and the ‘coon entered the kitchen where some work was being done. A few seconds later, Jim heard a ZAP, a yelp and laughed at what must have happened. The shocked and angry raccoon emerged from the kitchen, stalked across to Jim and bit him before disappearing into his house not emerging untll the next day. Carl Safina, the scientist who wrote “Beyond Words,” would agree that raccoons are smart as a whip. I’ll certainly vouch for them.
So what’s your smart creature story?