Saturday, May 30, 2009

Whatever Happened with the Lawn-Covering Neighbors?


A lot of people have written to ask if we ever figured out what our crazy neighbors were up to with all that lawn-covering. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, or if you want a good laugh, click here. Oh heck, click here, too. That's pretty funny as well.)

I never answered the questions about the neighbors because I didn't want admit to my part in the story. I pretty much come off looking crazier than the neighbors, and that's saying something.

As it turns out, the neighbors technique of covering every inch of their lawn every single night, and leaving out an un-baited live-catch trap payed off. After months, they caught a very angry screaming juvenile raccoon. I don't know if you've ever heard a panicking raccoon. It is not a soothing sound.

Our neighbors didn't seem to have a plan, beyond "cover lawn with linens, set trap, catch wild animal." After much raccoon screaming, and loud arguing in their kitchen (which we could hear, three stories up), dad-next-door crept up to the caged animal, armed with an oven mitt, a flashlight and a spatula.

I'll admit it. I flipped out. I looked up the law regarding handling of wild animals in California by private citizens. (Illegal.)

I pondered the probability that my neighbors would try to kill this animal, and horribly botch the job. (Very likely.)

I went out on our back staircase and confronted the neighbor. This escalated into an ugly screaming fight. I said that the raccoon wasn't harming anyone, and that California raccoons were not rabies-transmitting monsters. I said this loudly and angrily. He disagreed. I pointed out that even if he got rid of this animal, another one would move in to fill the void. I'm sure he could see the veins bulging out in my forehead. I was being a hysterical animal loving crazy woman.

I printed out every website that I could find to back up my assertions. I stormed downstairs, rang his doorbell, and shoved all this through his mail slot.

The raccoon screamed all night. I have no idea what he ended up doing with it. But after that, the neighbors stopped covering the grass with bed sheets.

I never spoke to my neighbor again. We glared at each other until the day that the entire family moved away. I'm not proud of my part in this story.

My grandparents are the people who gave me my love of nature. They lived in a beautiful home in upstate New York, that backed up onto acres of pristine woodlands, and had impressive glacial rocks just outside the back door. My grandmother fed the birds from her back porch and kept the crevices of the rocks filled with fresh clean water for the wildlife. She taught us the names of all the birds at the feeders, as well as the names for all the trees and plants.

The most exciting part about visiting my grandparents were the nocturnal visitors. Every night, My sister and I would sit in my grandparents' darkened dining room, and watch in awe as the skunks and raccoons and 'possums clambered onto the rocks and forage for the treats my grandparents provided. My grandparents fed the local wildlife for years, and had earned the trust of these intelligent, wary animals. They respected their wildness, but understood that as more land was developed for homes and shopping centers and road, animals had fewer places to live and forage. Of course, there were limits. Garbage cans were securely locked, and my grandmother's immaculate gardens were surrounded with electrified deer fences.

My grandparents shared their love of nature with all the local children. I don't think there was anyone who grew up on their street who does not have memories of watching the wildlife through my grandparents' big picture window.

And once in a while, a particularly cheeky raccoon would come up on the back porch, and actually knock on the aluminum screen door. My grandmother had a supply of stale bread that she would give to us, to give to the raccoons.

Raccoons have amazingly human-like hands, and strangely wise eyes. When we kids would hand over our slices of bread, the raccoons would solemnly lock eyes with us, and gently take the bread from our hands. Then they would trundle down the long stairs, and climb up onto the rocks, and then dip the bread into the pools of water in the rocks before settling down for a meal.

When I made eye contact with those raccoons, I made a promise -- to myself and to the animals -- that I would grow up to be a person who looked after wildlife. Sometimes that means moving baby birds off the roads, sometimes it means spending every free moment volunteering to help injured birds, sometimes it means driving quails to hospitals. Sometimes this promise is kept by my planting gardens which provide food for native insects. And sometimes, much to my chagrin, I find myself screaming at my neighbors because they are trying to change the behavior of wild raccoons with bed sheets and spatulas.

I think my grandmother would laugh at me, but she would also be proud of my crazy animal-loving heart.


Contessa Ennui said...


Anonymous said...

When I lived in Vermont, there was a raccoon that used to come to our house for dinner. Sweetest thing ever... Her favorite food...fresh oranges! Mom used to keep a supply on hand and I would dole them out in sections!


Anonymous said...

Lisa, you said that you are not proud of your part in this story, but you should be proud. Someone has to speak up on behalf those who can't speak. -Rose

2007 said...

Your crazy, animal-loving heart is only one of your parts that make we who read your wonderful prose and are privy to your amazing photography proud to call you 'friend'. Next time you 'speak' to your grandmother, thank her for us.

~~Doublesaj & Old Blue~~

crescent 4 said...

As a kid in RI my parents used to bring us to the toll bridge in town to see the racoon family that came each night. I loved going to see the racoons - it was always a treat. The toll operators would feed the racoons. Each year the little family would come back ...
BTW- it was a small bridge with not much traffic.

gollygee said...

That's an amazing photo! Is that you touching the raccoon's hands? I love raccoons. I think many people don't want to do the work of finding a very effectively-locking garbage can or out-of-reach bird feeder. I haven't known raccoons to cause any trouble beyond scavenging for food. And they're so cute and smart! It's hard not to respect how intelligent they are!

Marmalade said...

I appreciate your animal advocacy, but what about the snails? ;)

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

The photos are from the internet. I *wish* I had been the little girl at the table with the animals.

As for the snails....well....I'm not killing them. By tossing them over the fence, I'm offering them other living options. European garden snails are an introduced non-native species, and they don't really fit into the local food chain.

Steve, Christa & Emily said...

The only thing that you may have done wrong is not call the police or animal control so the offending moron could be properly fined for trapping without a license, I am curious what he planned to do with a spatula...

Anonymous said...

If this ever happens again- call The cops and call animal control. Right away.

I think these people did not have a plan, and were probably freaked out that their trap worked to catch the critter.

We set a "have a heart" trap to catch raccoons in Michigan since they were actually crawling up the side of the house we wwere minding, found a hole into the roof and made a god-almighty mess.

Guess what we found one day when we checked the trap? A big old Mama Raccoon was in it with about 3 little babies outside of it screaming. What else could we do? We set her loose with a lot of yelling and they never came back. Thank goodness.

Now let your imaginations run wild when I tell you that my neighbors had a similar problem with their porch and the local skunk population. Hm, they set the trap, the mama was in it, the babies were outside of it, they tried to set mama free and ......

Suffice to say, tomato juice does work well, but you need A LOT of it to get rid of that wonderful smell. And in any of your readers are curious, baby skunks do indeed come "fully loaded".


Syndee said...

Thank you for sharing this story. There is no need for embarassment on YOUR part--shame, shame on your ex-neighors!!! Your story is inspiring and teaches others that they should not be so quick to change what should naturally occur. Poor little raccoon being subjected to those people--good for you for speaking up.

Anonymous said...

A Raccoon Remembers Bandaid

I came out here three years ago,
Escaping Vermont's ice and snow.
I miss the Vermont gal who gave me
Fresh orange slices almost daily.
But still I love these Western lands,
With lots to steal from garbage cans.
Til one night the moon's pale light
Showed me an amazing sight.
A neighbor's lawn, where I explore,
With sheets and blankets covered o'er
My eyes and nose were quickly drawn
To a box upon the lawn.
I poked and grabbed with my front feet
A stick that held a fruity treat,
And sprung the trap against my tail,
Trapping me inside this jail.
But this was not the strangest sight
To greet me on this scarey night.
Out of shadows sprang the man
Who owned the nearby garbage can.
A spatula and flashlight bore,
But stopped when from his neighbor's door
A wild-haired woman, visage grim,
Confronts the man and screams at him.
He gathered up the trap and me
Retreating to his house quickly.
Of his aim there's no debate,
My happy life to terminate.
But cleverly a plot I'd hatch
To use my paws and spring the latch.
Soon from this trap I would be free
And from this neighborhood I'd flee.
I wandered to the railroad track,
Jumped in a car and headed back
To green Vermont which still entices
And to my friend with sweet orange slices.

by Grumpy


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