Feb 28

Nudity, Raccoons and Moonlight

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.

Ain't he cute!

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?

REMINDER— Next week, starting on March 6, readers will find out why Mary Sidney is the person who most likely wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare.

P.S.  I goofed in the original by saying it was the 3rd. Note that it is Sunday, March 6!


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  1. I certainly remember that house, Don. And, my sons still remember the annual Christmas parties there in. That party was a much anticipated event by not just the children. The visitation by Santa was a highlight of the evening with the jolly old boy bearing a strange resemblance to our host, who always seemed to miss the visit, even though we looked for him high and low.
    I’m a TV home improvement show junky and was surprised and pleased to see that very house featured several years back on one of them. It was being remodeled by a women who now calls it home.

    Here in my part of Colorado the racoon is not as visible as the deer or the bear or the bobcat, either. The deer far outnumber the rest and have become so human aware that they seem to ignore we two legged creatures, roaming the neighborhood and going about the business of destroying our gardens without concern. We, never the less, replant those gardens every Spring without concern.
    I have a huge battle scared buck who has chosen my front planted area as his personal place of repose. He returns every year. He is not phased by my car coming up the drive, nor will he budge even though I might approach on foot only within a few feet from him. He glances back at me as if to say, “Really?….you think I care about you?”….and he doesn’t. His harem is usually close by and will be ready to bolt if I move in a threatening manner, but not him. My guess is that the many scares that he wears are proof that he has earned his fearlessness.

      • Don Bay on February 29, 2016 at 09:39

      That house and that woman, Kaye Kittrell, are still there notwithstanding the McMansions on both sides. She has turned our front yard into a first-class vegetable garden. Check out her blog, LateBloomerShow.com. You’ll learn more than you ever thought about raising your own tasty veggies.

      As for the old buck deer in your front yard, he recognizes that you are a kind person who’s not a threat to him. Animals are much smarter than we are willing to give them credit for. It comes with old age and paying attention.

    • Moorhouse Katharine on February 29, 2016 at 05:39

    Well… sort of a creature story, but more related to the nudity. My partner Steve was car camping alone up in Yosemite years back one summer. He parked his car and just laid out a sleeping bag on the ground for the night and crawled in (nude). In the middle of the night he heard the sound of breaking glass, waking him up from a deep sleep. He saw what he thought to be a small gang of thugs breaking into a car parked nearby. He got up and yelled at them, then thew a couple of rocks trying to scare them away, with that the small troop disappeared into the trees.

    The next moment I guy calls out “What the F**K are you doing? And there stands Steve stark naked holding rocks in his hands, the neighbor’s car windows are broken and the thugs (a mom Black Bear and a couple of yearlings I suppose) have hi-tailed it away. He had some s’plaining to do. I laugh every time he tells the story, he is a great raconteur. Just the picture alone makes me smile.

      • Don Bay on February 29, 2016 at 07:12

      Funny story! I’ll bet Steve paid through the nose on that one. I will add that a mother bear with her cubs is not to be messed with.

  2. A family of racoons lives near our backyard in Victoria, and we see them virtually every day. Now our house is rented out and the tenants have had to dig the small fish pond much deeper to keep any fish in it at all because coons are great fishers. And in Victoria you can see as many as 15 deer at a time in a neighbouring yard. They are virtually unafraid of anything. As a boy in Albuquerque I never remember deer in town. Now, as we know, many more “wild” animals of all sorts are frequently seen in towns and cities. I know they can be a nuisance, but I’m partial to animals, and it’s fun to see them on a regular basis.

      • Don Bay on February 29, 2016 at 15:50

      Though raccoons are mischievous, they are smart and active fishers. What’s more, they love the water. I’m betting that your renters will have to dig halfway to China to keep the raccoons from scoring fish from the pond.

      One evening in the neighborhood where our former house is located, I watched a coyote trot toward me as if it were a dog heading homeward. The coyote was utterly unconcerned that I stood watching it and proceeded toward the canyon to catch a snack before retiring. In the middle of the day, a mountain lion hopped over the back wall of some nearby friends and carried off their small family dog.

      There’s not the slightest doubt that our wild animal friends have adapted to the urban environment whether it be Victoria or Los Angeles. And don’t get me started on the numerous wild animals we see where we live in Sweden.

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