Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Another Wednesday - a Tale of Rabid Raccoons and Cheetos

There is just no controlling the course of a typical day in the summer around our house. Most of the time, I feel like a cartoon that I once saw of a woman who was hanging onto something for dear life, and she was going so fast that the rest of her body was waving in the air like a flag. You just have to hang on and go with the flow around here.

Late in the afternoon last Wednesday, my son came in the house and announced that our neighbors across the street had a raccoon in their garage. Their teenage girls were getting it out of the garage with a baseball bat. I told my son not to go near the raccoon, and I didn't think anything else of it. About ten minutes later, I heard a commotion in my front yard. I opened the front door to see kids from all over the neighborhood all looking at a raccoon in my driveway.

In a great moment of insanity, the neighborhood kids (mine included) decided that the raccoon looked like he needed something to eat. Someone had strewn Cheetos all over my driveway, and there in the middle of the onlookers, surrounded by Cheetos was Mr. Raccoon.

I noticed something odd immediately. The raccoon was off balance when he would try walking. He would walk toward the kids, who would immediately run away. He sat and looked at me, and white foam was dripping from his jaw. I told the kids to immediately get away and stop feeding it and that it was rabid. The kids just stood there transfixed and not moving. I got the phone and dialed the non-emergency police number for our city. I explained the situation to the dispatcher and was told that I would receive a call back and to stay put. About four minutes later, an officer called. Again, I explained that I was staring at what I believed to be a rabid raccoon who had now sat himself down right in front of the door to my van in my driveway and was staring at the Cheetos. The officer explained that if he came by, the raccoon would likely run away. He couldn't shoot it in the residential neighborhood. And he asked me if my husband had traps or a bow and arrow. I inquired about animal control, and was told that we had no one in charge of animal control, only a small humane society. I explained that I wasn't looking for anyone to adopt the rabid raccoon in large part because it was a danger to a great many children in the area. He laughed.


This was annoying. The small town I grew up in in Central Wisconsin had animal control. Men would come with poles that had nooses on the ends and they would dispose of unwanted critters in cages. No one was ever hurt to my knowledge. You called them and they did their job.

I reiterated to the officer that I was standing in my driveway surrounded by children and across the street from a city park with even more children, and we were in close proximity to a rabid raccoon. I thought surely that would prompt him to get his rear over here and deal with this problem.

He proceeded to tell me how I could buy a trap at Fleet Farm. Then I got annoyed. Through gritted teeth, I explained how I would not be buying a trap. We did not have a bow and arrow. We live in a city, and there is a rabid raccoon in my driveway. The guy was cavalier. He was joking. I hung up on him.

The neighbor across the street came home, got out of his car and assessed the situation. I was standing there with the phone, the kids were standing around with sticks, and there was the raccoon still surrounded by Cheetos. I saw the neighbor blink. He said, "Hey you kids, you should get away from that raccoon." I looked at him and said, "It's foaming at the mouth. It's rabid." He walked in his house. I stayed, surrounded by kids who weren't listening, and no one on the way.

My husband was home. We were getting ready for our son's baseball game. We arranged to have the neighbor across the street take our son along with his own son to the game while we dealt with the raccoon.

What happened next is the stuff that great slapstick comedy is made of. Our daughter became upset and was crying and screaming about the raccoon. The other kids left because it ceased being fun when the raccoon wouldn't eat the Cheetos, I guess. We had to get the raccoon out of our yard. My husband made noise and it would waddle around and try and walk toward him. I was in the yard, and it tried to walk toward me. My hub managed to get in my van and honk the horn, and the raccoon went around to the back of our house. It waddled around while I picked up all the Cheetos that were left in the driveway. I went inside our house and accidentally locked my husband outside with the rabid raccoon. He didn't appreciate that.

I decided I had to contact the neighbors. The next-door neighbors weren't home, so I called and left them a message to keep their kids inside. I called the neighbor in the back, and he got his grandsons in his house. Our other neighbor drove up, and my husband explained the situation. We went to leave for the baseball game, and the raccoon was lying in the middle of the road in front of the park. I told some mothers with small children about it. Then I left for the game. I looked, and I saw Mr. Raccoon heading through my back yard into another neighbor's yard, and then he was gone.

For a split second, I thought about trying to run it over with my van. With my luck, no city workers would come to clean up what would surely be a horrible mess, and I really didn't know if I could kill this poor creature - rabid or not.

The raccoon was the topic of conversation at the ball game that night. The next day, the neighbor in back called and explained how the police had finally come by and shot it twice. Goodnight Mr. Raccoon. My neighbors had received my phone messages about the rabid raccoon and confessed to me that they thought I must have been drinking. Funny stuff.

I feel that I brought this excitement on myself. I believe that you find what you are looking for in the universe. Just that morning, I had been wandering around the grocery store, in the meat department, listening to The Commodores over the store's music system. And suddenly, I felt so blue. It seems like I am always wandering around the grocery store listening to a Commodores song. Aimless and blue. So, I wished for some excitement. Stupid me.

And just as the saying goes, "There's an app for that". There is a Beatles' song for this situation. I'll leave you now with the song "Rocky Raccoon" performed by Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson's music is very soothing which must be why I love him so much.

And, Mr. Raccoon, I'm sorry that your last days were so rotten. Rabies doesn't look like fun. At least you don't have to put up with those kids anymore. And wherever you are now, I hope the food is better than Cheetos. Peace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011


Summer is almost upon us. There will be no smooth transition this year. I've been sick for the last week with a sore throat, coughing and wheezing. This week is going to be frenzied. Record high heat and humidity. Class field trips. Dance dress rehearsals and recital. And a fifth grade farewell.

My daughter is entering adolescence and is taking us all along with her on that roller coaster ride. Tears one minute and laughing the next. She is quite emotional about leaving her elementary school. She's had the good fortune to attend the same school for the last six years. Leaving is going to be hard for her but also for me.

She was given the assignment of writing a memoir about her years at school. Her memoir was so good, that she (and two other students) were asked to read them on the morning announcements. I've heard from four people about what a wonderful memoir Kate wrote. So, I asked her to read it to me. She wrote about being scared on the first day of Kindergarten and then about all of the wonderful things she has gotten to do and the wonderful teachers that she has had over the years. And then, the last paragraph was a little something about each teacher that she had: how her kindergarten teacher's smile, her first grade teacher's laugh, her second grade teacher's hugs, her third grade teacher's soft voice, her fourth grade teacher's encouragement and her fifth grade teacher's strength would all be things that she would lock away in her heart forever so that they would always be with her wherever she went. Memories are pictures that we take with our heart.

I am so proud of that memoir. I know that this will be an emotional week, and I'm dreading it.

As sorry as I am feeling for myself this week, there is one thing that I think about to give myself some perspective. I remember a ten-year-old boy who lived in our town and had an incurable form of cancer which started to take a turn for the worse in the spring of 2007. I followed his Caring Bridge website and read the journal entries of his parents while they were fighting a courageous battle with cancer. They had pulled him out of school at the beginning of 2007 because of seizures. On the very last day of the 2006-2007 school year, the boy wanted to ride the school bus to school and participate in an awards day. His mother rode with him on the bus that morning and she wrote about it in the journal entry for that day. She wrote about the joy on his face and the energy of all the kids on the last day of school. And she wrote about all the conflicting emotions she had and how she knew that this would be the very last time her son would be riding a school bus. Her son continued saying good bye to all the things he loved in this world - he would watch the farm equipment on his family's farm, and he tried to play baseball with his little brother in the outfield right beside him. All of the normal, everyday things that fill our time and that we sometimes complain about were the things that he loved so much.

This journey that I'm on this week with all the craziness and all the transitions are nothing compared to what that boy's mother has gone through. I often think about that little boy. At the local community park there is a climbing ladder that bears his name and is called the "ladder of hope and courage." I sit at the park and watch the little ones climb all over it, enjoying a normal, ordinary day at that park.

I read that the boy's classmates sang the song "Go the Distance" from the movie Hercules at his funeral. There was farm equipment in his funeral procession. And I've never forgotten that family and the journal that documented the strength they had on their journey.

Instead of being tearful and sad this week, I'm going to try my best to celebrate and enjoy this journey and hold on tight to the pictures in my heart.

"But I won't lose hope till I go the distance and my journey is complete. But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part. For a hero's strength is measured by his heart." Lyrics from "Go the Distance" from the Disney movie "Hercules"