Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Are Raccoons Part Of The Food Chain?

This is one of the few stories I’ve included here that I actually remember
EXACTLY when I wrote it. It’s off a letter to Chaosia, written when we were
dating, and I included the date on the letter… 3/29/93.

It happened at work. It was somewhere between one and two A.M., and I'd
called for relief. It was late, and I wanted a smoke break. When my position
was filled, I stepped outside the side door and lit up.

Raccoons are cute, but irritating; furry, bumbling little critters leading the
good life out of the dumpsters across from the cafeteria. They've learned that
plastic bags left on dorm porches often contain good things to eat, left over
from the meal trays brought out for the disciplinary cases. I understand that
some urban coons, when captured and given medical checks, have
developed some rather human medical problems: high blood pressure,
clogged arteries, and even a few cases of diabetes.

Here's my point:
Raccoons have an ugly sense of humor, and at night, when I go from one
building to another, I stay clear of the thickets and the main treeline; get too
close and an unseen 'coon may well decide to make a noise like Godzilla
getting kneed in the crotch, just to watch you jump.

I stood and smoked and watched a good-sized buck eat the lawn; for some
reason, the grounds out where I work are infested with deer; a night hardly
goes by where I don't see several, and when I have to go up the hill to do the
Xeroxing, I practically have to kick 'em out of the way... they're durn near
tame, too. When you walk towards them, they look at you as if to ask "I beg
your pardon? Can I help you?" in a persnickety tone of voice.

This particular one apparently felt safe enough fifty feet from me, but kept
giving me suspicious looks. It was a beautiful, serene moment, which
apparently bothered the 'coon hiding somewhere in the trees -- or perhaps
the little fellow was just having a personal problem. At any rate, he cut loose
with a shriek that would have done any horror movie actress proud.

The deer and I jumped a total of about ten feet in the air; the deer, apparently
having decided that I was the source of the offending sound, landed running,
pointed dead away from me. I laughed, partly because of the humor of the
situation, and partly to discharge the tension of having had the crap startled
out of me.

The deer had almost made it to the treeline when the 'coon did it again.
Perhaps he didn't like the buck charging at him. If so, it worked; the buck
jumped again, spun in midair, and landed running again ... this time pointed
right at my face.

It took me a few seconds to absorb the situation; by this time, the deer had
cut the distance to about forty feet and closing, and had lowered his head.
Bucks have antlers, you know, and rather pointy ones at that, and they can
move real fast when they wanna.

For a second, I was merely nonplussed --"Wait just a minute there, Mr. Deer, you've obviously forgotten our respective positions in the food chain," -- when it hit me: if I didn't do
something, I was going to wind up like a cocktail shrimp on a fork.

Absurdly, the first thing that ran through my mind was the Basic Procedures
; unfortunately, the chapter on "Personnel Safety: Policies And
Procedures For Physical Holds, Take-Downs, Seclusions, and Disciplinary
Procedures" didn't have word one on pissed-off creatures of the forest, as far
as I could remember. It did occur to me that deer look real pretty when they

Shit! What would Davy Crockett do in this situation?

Well, he probably wouldn't step inside and close the door, but I did.

The deer rammed it going full-tilt, making a sound not unlike a sack of dirty
laundry and bowling balls dropped onto a wood floor from a height.

Then silence.

It then occurred to me that I wasn't yet out of the woods, so to speak. What
was I supposed to do now? If I opened the door, he could be waiting outside,
and I could just see myself calling the Center Supervisory Office to report an
enraged ungulate roaming the halls.

On the other hand, I could just lock the door and do nothing, but the morning relief staff might be alarmed to arrive to find an unconscious or dead deer lying outside the door, and I'd be
responsible for explaining ... and either way, I'd end up as the butt of endless Bambi jokes from the C.S.O.

Then I noticed: I still had a lit cigarette in my hand. That clinched it: I had to
at least open the door a crack and get rid of the thing; the smoke alarms out
there are so sensitive they'll go off if you even lose your temper.

I leaned down and popped out the door brace; it'd keep the door from
opening more than a few inches, no matter what. Then I cracked the door,
flicked the butt out, and peeked.

The buck was several yards from the door, staggering unsteadily away. From
off and beyond the treeline, I heard a chittering sound that very much
resembled raucous raccoon laughter.

My memory buzzed and spat out a fragment of narration from Marlin Perkins' old Wild Kingdom TV show: "Man is, by far, the most dangerous animal in the forest."

Mentally, I added a footnote: don't bet on it.

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