Dad and the Raccoons…

    Years ago when my little nephew misplaced his hamster we were worried that it might have gotten between the walls in that old house on Clifton.  We looked all over and listened intently to the walls . We had previously been in denial about noises in the walls due to infestations of Squirrel, Raccoons, Chipmunks you name it. I figured if this poor tiny thing got in between the walls in this house the rush hour alone would kill him.

    Sometimes late at night it was all you could do to fall asleep amidst the partying that these families of animals in the walls could make. You’d lie there thinking, hmmm …that must be at least a 30 pounder…bam,bam,bam,scuffle,scuffle,scuffle.  Just waiting there breathless, watching the plaster ceilings knowing that in two seconds you could be the main event smackdown on “Wild Kingdom” should one of the really big ones fall through. Trust me, camping now held no fears. I swear they were practicing Irish Step dancing up there. Forget about Ghosts, you would wish for a little lightweight company. 

      We didn’t need to make up noises that went bump in the night when I was a girl. My Father had tried a multitude of ways to trick the wildlife out of our walls. Unfortunately, all his plans backfired and it was as if there was a big neon “Eat at Bill’s” sign glowing on the roof.  I think my Father is still legend among the Raccoons of the Rocky River Reservation. I’m sure in times of famine little Raccoons are told of a time when in a house on Clifton you could swing  by nightly and catch a floor show and be fed all the peanut butter and bread you could want. Then be treated to a luxurious ride home.  All courtesy of the designated driver, Bill.

   Dad believed in the catch and release program. He would catch them in a huge cage and then drive them back to the the Metroparks Reservation and release them. He had a regular routine. So did they. In fact one time he asked me to accompany him to the release. I did… and he hit that trap release only to see me leap to the top of that car as fast as humanly possible. I don’t know who laughed more at my attempts to get on top of that car… my Dad or his fellow conspirators the professional Irish dancing Raccoons. Ever hear a Raccoon laugh?…not pretty.

   I should have realized this was a serious relationship for Father. It should have been a high sign when he dismissed the Wildlife Wrangler and bought that huge cage so he could do this right, once and for all. What happened was an ongoing relationship of 30+ years. He went through various stages..he greased the waterspout with the thick black grease…so they couldn’t climb up but would slide back down. I can still remember the scary application of that black grease to the downspouts around the house. Dad climbing 2 and 1/2 stories with a bucket of black grease hanging off the ladder trying to wipe it completely around the pipe. I’m sure if an Insurance Company was giving odds that day it was on Dad’s demise not the Raccoons. Then when that failed he hauled out the same huge ladder and placed a large metal collar over the top of each of these drainspouts thinking ok let them climb up only to be stuck unable to pass the huge metal collar he had fashioned and then slide down.  Like a cartoon…Well, they just climbed the trees and dropped onto the roof. Poor Dad, he would bait those cages with bread and peanut butter laid on thick…even I thought it looked pretty good. He would then climb up all the stairs to the attic. Baited cage in hand, he would open the scary crawl space door and creep back there under the furthest eave all with that little “Snidely Whiplash” chuckle (he had a mustache at the time).

   I don’t think the Raccoons thought entertainment like this was to be had anywhere else. I think my Dad and his actions were showstoppers among the nocturnal crowd, They loved him and his entertainment and they came in droves. I don’t know if it was a bait and release program so much as the neighbors gathered outside after dusk with flashlights pointed at the roof. They made it look  like opening night at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theatre searchlights and all, ready to watch the parade of Raccoons into the peanut butter stash. All the while taking bets on size.   

So after living in denial about noises it was pretty hard to pick up on little hamster noises, but soon after he went missing Michael’s hamster was found rattling away in a drain catch basin in the basement, he had rolled his little hamster ball into the lowest area of the basement …the drain for the washer and I’m sure had periodically gone through what Noah had. That poor little thing was very clean and alive and more than happy to be returned to his little hammy habitat.

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