Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Never a dull moment on a farm! There is a reason this old chestnut is still in play. It’s because it’s true. Case in point –
We cut a forest trail using a chain saw and a brush hog. It affords easy hikes through the woods, and per Robert Frost, “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep…” We love our trail. So does our archnemesis - multiflora rose (MFR). How MFR loves to grow along the borders of our trail! Accordingly, I hit the trail early one morning to do battle with it. There’s nothing like avenging yourself on your archnemesis to work up an appetite.
Suddenly, I sensed I was not alone. Glancing around I discovered a young racoon not far off. It was watching me. Racoons are nocturnal, and it was 8:00 in the morning. Something was amiss. It wasn’t aggressive. It didn’t seem sick. Rabies is extremely rare in my neck of the woods, as is distemper. It bore none of the symptoms. I put it down to the fact that it was young. It takes a while for some baby animals to learn a healthy fear of humans. I polished off the MFR and headed back to the farmhouse for breakfast leaving the raccoon behind.
When I went outside half an hour later, the raccoon was sitting at the front door. It had followed me home. Marty, my German Shepherd Dog, would tear it to shreds. “What to do?” I thought desperately. I knew what not to do – call someone. There was really no one to call. There is no animal control around here. Farmers are self-reliant; they handle situations like this on their own. I couldn’t very well call the Warden. The greenhorn from the city calling in the Warden about a baby raccoon who followed her home? That wouldn’t exactly win his respect. “What to do?” I continued to wrack my brains. I tried the old standby, “Shoo!” It was not impactful. Marty, witnessing the drama from the mudroom window, was beyond berserk. He was putting the Hound of the Baskervilles to shame.
Suddenly I lit upon an inspiration or an inspiration lit upon me; what I’ve since coined, “The Plywood Method.” I dragged a dog cage near the raccoon and, using a body sized piece of plywood as a shield after the fashion of a Macedonian soldier, I gently backed the raccoon into the dog cage. I then dragged the dog cage into the wire corn crib where it was protected from the elements (and Marty).
It was only then I noticed it. Something had ripped the racoon’s tail off leaving a fresh, gaping wound. It all made sense. There are endless accounts of wild animals in desperate straits seeking human help. “What do I do?” I asked myself again, desperation returning, Marty’s howls ringing in my ears. I was fresh out of inspirations. I broke down and called a neighbor to solicit his advice. “Shoot it,” he said matter of factly.
I have always gone with my gut. I trust my gut. Having taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I learned that my intuition is off the charts. Think about what intuition is -- It’s a direct confrontation with reality. So it’s right for me to go with my gut. My gut said not to shoot it. As a last resort, perhaps. As a first resort, definitely not.
There are certain animals that certain people are keen to shoot – raccoons, coyotes, opossums, skunks, and even squirrels. To justify their bloodlust, they resort to scare tactics. They pass along dramatic, inflammatory stories about how threatening and dangerous they are. I’ll bet their favorite song is Kill the Beast – “Bring your guns, bring your knives, save your children and your wives, we’ll save our village and our lives! We’ll kill the beast!” Come to think of it, it’s the same attitude so many people adopt regarding those who are different from them. They perpetuate glib stereotypes that deny the individual in favor of the group. But the question persisted, "What to do?" (To be continued...)