Hooligans Hit West End Home

This is a Backyard Bliss column that I couldn’t post on the other site. So here it is…

They’re getting bolder. They don’t just come for the compost-buffet anymore. The one or two raccoons that live in my neighborhood have become a growing family of four or five young-uns and a couple adults. The pack has been visiting our backyard most nights for a while now, but they have begun to wear on my nerves.

It’s not just my water garden that they mangled. Despite a chicken wire cover on the barrel, the hooligans have managed to grab every specimen of water plant and munch it to bits. The lily pond is virtually denuded of its flora, which means no pretty water hyacinths blooming this fall. And the mosquito fish have no place to hide, which means sushi for the raccoons.

It’s not just the dumping of the birdbaths every night, nor the random tossing of the pretty marbles I keep in the birdbaths to attract birds. It’s not just the senseless digging in every potted plant, or my daily cleaning of the cats’ water dish after dirty coon-paws have swished in it. All of these I have lived with for two years and shrugged off.

But it’s getting serious. The family of raccoons started dumping the gray garbage can out in front every night a few weeks ago, and that cleanup is not one I want to deal with every day. It looks like our Tahoe vacation cabin when the bears have been by. Trash everywhere – and no, they don’t clean up after themselves.

Then they discovered my clothesline. I hang our clothes to dry in the sun, and if I hang them out late in the afternoon, the clothes might not be dry by sunset. So I’ve left them out all night, to finish drying in morning sunshine. I also have a cute little striped canvas bag in which to keep my clothespins.

This is a fantastic reuse story – it used to store our folded-up hammock, but too many teens in the hammock this summer ripped the hammock, and it has now become a picnic-table-cloth. The storage bag became my clothespin bag, and is especially helpful with its handy clip to keep it within reach on the clothesline.

Well, the raccoons saw that nice striped bag and obviously said, “I must have that chic purse.” I began to see bite marks in the bag, and find it pulled to the ground. Within days I discovered the clothespins dumped in the grass and the bag gone. I found it a few houses away on the lawn. Apparently the stripes clashed with the raccoon’s ring-tails. Not fashionable, clearly. At least I got my clothespin bag back. But every few days I find it on the ground or with fresh teeth-marks.

Then they discovered the laundry. How soft it is. How nice and clean it is. How sweet it smells. How lovely to wipe your hands and face upon after eating. Sun-dried towels are especially crunchy. The down comforter is perfect for blotting your whiskers. And the teens’ clothing is worth stealing altogether. Somewhere at Alameda Point there are some very well-dressed raccoons — if you like saggy pants, rude T-shirts, loud boxers and a gold lame bikini. Watch for them.

When we had that heat spell last week, our house was warm – well, hot – inside, and we left our upstairs windows open for the night breeze. Mr. Husband and I went to bed early Thursday night and left the teens watching TV. Then they went to bed and forgot to close the back door.
When I came down in the morning, I was so annoyed. Darned teens never clean up after themselves. They leave food out, knock over the trash, spill stuff and don’t even clean it up. They – huh? Eat all the cat food? Wash their little hands in the water dish and then touch everything, leaving telltale paw prints? Those darned teens!

Truly, I didn’t need CSI to tell me what had happened. The raccoons had held a party in my kitchen (and ate up all the wasabi peas). And then I couldn’t find one of my daughters. Perhaps they’d kidnapped her to be their queen! (Turned out Daughter had left early for school.)
I quickly looked for the car keys – raccoons can drive, you know – but I saw the cars outside. I checked the safe and found my stash of gold bricks intact, next to Mr. Husband’s collection of “Early Taco Bell” Pepsi glass collection and several of my wedding dresses. Too smart for the raccoons! Maybe…

Needless to say, we no longer leave the laundry hanging out overnight, and we definitely double-check the doors. I keep an eye on my car keys and count my clothespins in the morning.
The raccoons have opposable thumbs. It’s only a matter of time before they pick the lock. Before they learn how to use the computer and the espresso maker, the cell phone and the Wii. I’ll be forced to listen to Guitar Hero and Project Runway full-blast, pick up their discarded laundry and plates, wait on them hand and foot…hmm, just like teenagers.

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