“This is the alarm company. May I have your name and password?”
As I complied, I grinned in anticipation of the next question: “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, my husband just opened a door to shoo raccoons off the deck and forgot that he’d set the alarm.”
It’s happened before — many, many times — but not lately and, frankly, I’ve missed the excitement. As the siren began wailing and Ray rushed to shut it off, he said in his defense, “At least I had my clothes on this time!” (He did and, trust me, it’s much more exciting when he doesn’t.)
The coons still visit nightly in hope of pilfering the birds’ sunflower seeds, but Ray thinks he may have outwitted them by placing the feeders in a 55-gallon plastic trash can. Oh, the coons know the feeders are in there — the can is riddled with teeth-marks — but to date they haven’t chewed their way to the goodies. Neither have they managed to knock off the locking lid when they tip it over each night.
The first night he secured the feeders in the can, the raccoons were so frustrated that they pulled the pole stabilizing Ray’s prized tree of paradise out of its pot. Then they batted all the oranges off our miniature orange tree. And — while they always leave a few poopy greetings on the deck and railing to show they were there — the next morning, the deck was littered with raccoon poop. I’m convinced they were sending us a message.
Ray has employed every means imaginable — short of shooting them — to outsmart our ring-tailed visitors. Once he did threaten to shoot them, but wasn’t able to follow through on the threat. I think it’s because God made them so darn cute. He trapped several and released them at the river, but I’m pretty sure they were back home before he was.
It’s not that we begrudge the coons sustenance, but they don’t stop at eating a reasonable amount. In only one night, they consumed 5 pounds of sunflower seeds and a brand new suet cake. Until Ray wired it shut, they used to pry open the suet holder; now they dig out the tasty fat with their claws.
As troublesome as coons are, I think Ray might like them if they dispatched venomous snakes. Since learning that possums are impervious to the bites of venomous snakes and often kill and eat them, he has developed friendly feelings for the rat-like animal. Clearly, any enemy of his enemy is a friend of Ray’s.
A possum recently gave him a good laugh when he drove down our long drive to retrieve our newspaper. The sun hadn’t risen, and a mother possum with six babies chose that moment to cross the driveway. When the headlights hit her, she turned so quickly that two of the four babies clinging to her back were thrown off and she knocked over the two walking beside her. Fortunately, Ray avoided running over the four rolling baby possums as well as their mother.
Good thing! I cannot see myself feeding baby possums eyedroppers of milk every two hours as Grams did. She also tried to save their mother who was hit by a car in front of her house, but the possum’s injuries proved fatal. She cruelly bit Grams — possums have more than 50 sharp teeth — before expiring, but Grams raised her babies and released them.
Grams knew that possums, at 75 million years old, are claimed to be the oldest surviving mammal and are very intelligent creatures, as smart as pigs. Raccoons are said to be as smart as primates. Given that possums, like primates, have opposable thumbs (albeit on their back feet), I’m grateful that they don’t have a hankering for sunflower seeds.
I think possums raiding the feeders would push my husband over the edge ... and not even their snake-killing ability would save them from the wrath of Ray.
— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”