By Jon Robertson
I have a gripe about certain individuals who party in my yard at night.
You wouldn't know we have such a problem as you drive by the house. You might see a duck or two, though you won't see any females these days. You could count between four to eight males, depending on who our resident drakes invited over for free corn. The females have all been dispatched to the bushes to hatch ducklings, as the drakes strut around proudly, having done their macho duty in acts from which I have had to turn my head. I can only conclude that many of the females who took to the bushes are faking it.
These, however, are not the parties to which I refer. We have groundhogs: Granddad Pibb and his offspring, the Drain Pipe Pibbs, but they're pretty quiet. The rabbits have their habits, otherwise we wouldn't have 12 now from the four we had last year. A pushy pair of crows holler outside the kitchen window for crusts, but that rude squawking sounds more like a political party than a social one.
The truly offending varmints are certain disreputable raccoons that visit in the night. I may be a hopeless city boy in the ways of the country, and a transplanted Yankee to boot, but it only took a single lesson to keep a tight lid on my trash can. I also made an alarming discovery: those bandits are doing more than scavenging for food in your trash can. They thoroughly read your discarded correspondence, old bills, love letters (if any), and receipts, and I, for one, wish to know to which government agency they make their covert reports.
But my gripe reaches far beyond raccoon espionage, even further past the fact that they steal every last morsel of cat food on the deck. In addition to feeding a trio of indoor cats, we also leave food out for Jason, a feral cat that local legend holds was born in an oak tree, and his youngish trophy wife Margaret. The masked thieves blacken the cats' water with dirty paws then lick clean any empty cans they find. They're licked so clean, you could use them for leftovers in the fridge, if you wanted to, at least if it weren't for the tooth holes bitten right through the metal.
Not long ago, Woodstock residents were issued sturdy blue boxes to use for recycling. OK, I admit it took me a year to get around to actually using mine, though I hope the reason is understandable. My first try, the box quickly filled to the top with empty wine bottles. I was embarrassed to leave it at the curb, as people on their way to work might conclude, rightly or wrongly, that I am some type of exotic wino. So, the box remained on the deck until I could muster the courage to reveal the inner me.
One morning when I went out to get the paper, I found conclusive evidence that a world-class party had occurred the night before. The blue box lay on its side, and the bottles lay strewn all over the deck. Nearly every bottle had been drained of its last few drops. Corks had been dug out and even the screw-tops chewed off.
Anxiety set in as I beheld the scene. Empty wine bottles on the deck and empty cat food cans in the yard led me to imagine an alfresco late-night dining event that probably will be talked about for generations of raccoons to come.
But some very serious questions arose: why didn't the raid awaken us? Why had we heard no rattling bottles, boisterous political arguments, fights, fish stories, or strains of Molly Malone being sung in drunken harmony? A line dance should certainly have roused us, no doubt a Texas four-step in cut time.
Once sloshed, did the raccoons weave their way home, paws on each other's shoulders, drawling "On the Road Again?"
I wish the questions stopped there, but they don't. Why do raccoons prefer the labels with kangaroos over those with penguins? The merlot and cab bottles were empty and dry. Are we to believe these go best with cat food? Drops remained in the chardonnays. Was this a slam against my taste in white wine? Was it some veiled criticism that only a dweeb would pair chardonnay with tuna chunks and kibble, and that cheap chard would never touch a certain someone's raccoon lips?
And how to grapple with the most egregious slight of all: why, as the unwitting host of this shindig, wasn't I invited? I'm thinking these country critters that eat dead fish heads and wash stolen duck eggs in the creek just don't deserve to be quite so high and mighty. That's all I wanted to say.
Jon Robertson is a writer, editor, and publisher who contemplates the mysteries of country life in Woodstock. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org