All is not well in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. We’ve found our little piece of heaven comes with unintended consequences.
As the area around us began to build up as others decided to carve out their own little pieces of heaven, we made the decision to turn ours into a wilderness preserve. Ninety acres of mixed forest, rolling hills (that’s a lie perpetuated by a realtor, more like small mountains), and wildlife galore.
We can live in harmony with most but some of the wildlife are…well…quite brazen. The bear that periodically tears down my fence and scatters the trash comes to mind or the deer that samples my Hosta. The brood of chipmunks who make me laugh until they dig into the flower pots and seed bag. I can live with them. It is we who are encroaching on them. I can pick up the trash and the Hosta grows back. The chain link I don’t like anyway.
Our latest issue is a raccoon. Brazen little…. He began raiding my suet cakes until I acted. He is not a happy camper. Tonight, he stood upright looking through the window into our sunken den. My bride was enthralled and tried to snap a picture. I knew this wasn’t going to end well.
“Oh, he’s hungry. What can we feed him?”
“Nothing, he’s a wild animal and besides, there are berries everywhere.”
“We have that old dogfood, do you think….”
In a very conservative friend’s voice I thought but didn’t say, “He needs to get off his ass and go to work. See what free handouts get you?” Believe me it was my friends voice, not mine. I have not problems with handouts for the needy. I didn’t say it because my bride had already walked out the door with dry dogfood. I hope Rocky Raccoon doesn’t have a family.
I fully expect this little bandit to knock on the door and ask, “When is supper served? Should I bring a red or a white?”
I now bring the suet cakes in at night and if he figures out how to reach the bird feeders, I’m sure I’ll have to bring them in too. He doesn’t seem to like sunflower seeds. Lord help us if he figures out the door handles. I see him rifling through the fridge and writing out a shopping list.
As the morning dawned, I stood in front of the kitchen sink playing the previous evening’s festivities over in my mind. Dawn was just breaking, and I turned off the light to get a better view of the flat and creek behind the house. Colors were still mostly muted blues and gray with a hint of green but light enough for me to see.
I caught movement from the corner of my eye and saw a possum waddling by. He was inside of the fence, a fresh corncob from my compost bin was held in his mouth. The possum paused looking up at the fence as if to say, “A preposition is anything a possum with a corncob in his mouth can do to a fence. Go over it, around it, under it, or through it.” My fourth or fifth grade English teacher should be proud but he won’t go through it with the corn cob.
I tapped on the windowpane and the possum turned toward the noise, dropped the cob, and grinned. “Like a possum eating persimmons”, I thought despite the fact we are months from ripe persimmons. When I tapped again, he grabbed his booty and slowly made his way over the fence before disappearing into the Tiger lilies.
I fell into a warm memory. Warm now, not so much then. My beautiful puppies, Mattie and Tilly, would bring me gifts in the form of possums they had caught climbing down from the persimmon tree. Caught but in most cases not killed. It is called playing possum for a reason.
I can see them clearly in my mind’s eye, sitting and puppy dog smiling, tails wagging as they waited for their “good puppy” treat. A possum laying at their feet as if sacrificed to their puppy dog god. Damn, I miss those puppies.
One possum revived itself and tried to make an escape through our dining room door causing a scene from the “Keystone Cops” to play out as we attempted to chase her into a pasteboard box. Success was attained but it was a near thing.
Another worried us to death because of the eight babies latched onto her back. Worried until the critter opened an eye and winked. Not to fear, she wandered off after being deposited outside of the fence, the babies hanging on for dear life.
Many is the time I have said prayers of thanks that their gifts were possums and not skunks. I’m sure we have them too, but sometimes good fortune can’t be explained.
Sometimes all it takes to brighten a day is a grinning possum with a corncob.
Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2L-7MYr7YwIZvXAu4uKWCZ-MWUeCQ3hBRpraJcjGpH8yJ7KPVmbMgPVRI